Numbers 18:20 Ė 32

Sunday Evening Bible Study

February 22, 1998

Introduction

The book of Numbers is the book about the History of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness for forty years. They are in the "in-between-state" of having been delivered from the bondage of Egypt, but have yet to enter into the Promised Land that God has for them.

The people had become transformed from a band of delivered slaves, to an organized fighting army.

Weíve looked at "Korahís Rebellion", where a group of people became dissatisfied with Mosesí leadership, and decided to take things into their own hands. They didnít like the idea that only a select, chosen few were priests, but they wanted whoever wanted to, to become priests. They had a showdown, and Korahís pseudo-priests ended up as ashes, consumed by the fire of God, while Aaron was still standing.

Now, to confirm things, God demonstrated His choice of Aaron by having Aaronís rod "bud".

Numbers 18

:20-24 Compensation for the Levites

:20 I am thy part and thine inheritance

I like the idea that the priests had to rely on God to support them, and not trust in their possessions.

Lesson:

Get wealth or get the Lord.

Godís desire is not that we set our eyes on getting wealth and possessions, but that we set our eyes on Him.

Itís not that God doesnít care about our earthly needs, after all this entire chapter is about meeting the physical needs of the families of the priests and Levites. But Godís desire is that we learn to make Him our desire first, and then He promises to take care of our needs.

The Psalmist writes this:

Ps 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Jesus said,

(Mat 6:33 KJV) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

How do we "delight in the LORD"?

(Isa 58:13-14 KJV) If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: {14} Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Isaiah tells us to give an entire day to God, to stop looking to fulfill our own desires, and instead seek to honor Godís desires.

Is coming to church a chore, or a delight? Is worship something you endure, or you enjoy?

"ride upon the high places of the earth" Ė John Gill says this is "to live above the world, and to have their conversation in heaven; to be in the utmost safety, and enjoy the greatest plenty, especially of spiritual things"

:21 I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel

So the Levites too, just as Aaronís sons, were to be taken care of out of the tithes that the people brought into the Lord.

:22 Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle

This is what prompted this whole chapter, Korahís rebellion and the people realizing that God was Holy and Just, and they were Unholy and Deserving of Judgment.

This didnít mean that the ordinary person couldnít worship God, it meant that they had to go to a priest who would offer up their sacrifice for them. An intermediary like Jesus!

(1 Tim 2:5 KJV) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

:25-32 Levites to tithe also

:26 even a tenth part of the tithe

Now the question might come up: "If Iím a Levite, and Iíve received the tithes from other people for the Lord, do I have to pay tithes?" The answer is YES!

Lesson:

Everyone needs to learn the blessings of giving.

We are in a money-paranoid society. We have been abused so much by people out to fleece the flock, that we become wary of any talk about giving.

But the fact of the matter is, if you havenít learned how to freely give out of what God has given you, you are missing out on a wealth of spiritual blessings.

This is what Paul wrote to the wealthy Corinthians, in trying to get them to have a financial contribution ready to make to the poor church in Jerusalem Ė

2 Cor 9:6-8 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. {7} Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. {8} And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

There is a little truth to what the "prosperity teachers" say about giving, you reap what you sow. Not that you will necessarily reap financial rewards for giving, but that God will make grace abound to you, and take care of your needs.

:27 reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor ...

In other words, in Godís eyes, the tithe that the Levites would pay would be just as valid as if they had earned the sacrifice from being a farmer.

The Levitesí income was just as valid as that of the laborer.

:32 ye shall bear no sin by reason of it

As long as they were faithful to give a tenth back to the Lord, they were free from the sin of abusing what God had given to them.

:32 neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die

The "holy things" were the sacrifices and offerings that the Israelites would bring to the Lord.

Sadly, this "polluting" (or, profaning) was done from time to time.

Eliís sons

1 Sam 2:12-17 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD. {13} And the priests' custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; {14} And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh, unto all the Israelites that came thither. {15} Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. {16} And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. {17} Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

Rather than settling for the portions that were assigned to the priests according to the Law, the sons of Eli demanded to take whatever they wanted from the sacrifices

They would also rob God of His portion by taking from the offering before the fat was burned to God.

The result was that the people grew to despise the offering of the Lord. They didnít want to worship God any longer.

Lesson:

Donít pollute Godís gifts.

I see this as a real concern for us in several ways:

1. Material gifts

Itís important for any church not to be ripping the people off. When pastors give themselves big salaries, drive big cars, buy several houses, etc. the result is that people are turned off to God. I think itís important that we are careful in how the finances of the church are handled, and that things are done properly and above reproach.

2. Spiritual gifts

God wants us to be careful that we donít abuse the spiritual gifts Heís entrusted us with.

We can abuse spiritual gifts two ways:

a. Non-use

In the parable of the "talents" (which is a type of money), Jesus told of a land owner who entrusted his wealth to three different managers. Two of the managers worked with the money and were able to return the money with interest. But one of them didnít do anything with his part of the money Ė

(Mat 25:25 KJV) And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

It was this manager that the owner rebuked and punished.

God has given each of us spiritual gifts, and He expects us to use them. Heís given them to us for the purpose of us using them.

Paul wrote Timothy Ė

(2 Tim 1:6 KJV) Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

When we donít use our gifts, the church suffers.

b. Misuse

The Corinthian church had a lot of things going for them, but one problem they had was the abuse of spiritual gifts. Apparently, whenever they got together, there was a lot of confusion. Some people were real proud that they had the gift of tongues, and in fact, everybody seemed to speak in tongues at the same. Generally, their church service was filled with confusion.

Paul had to give them rules and guidelines for using the gifts, so people would be benefited by the gifts, and not hurt.

We want to be careful that in whatever God has gifted us in, that we find the proper way to use that gift, and use it, donít abuse it.

Itís not impossible for a person with the gift of prophecy to abuse their gift and start telling people what they think they should hear, rather than what God wants to say.

Some people turn gifts of healing and word of knowledge into a big three ring circus. You might as well be selling popcorn in the aisles.

And then thereís simply the use of a gift only to draw attention to ourselves. Feeling like every time youíre in a group of people, you have to be one of the ones who prays. Or feeling like you have to give a prophecy every time we wait on the Lord. I find that sometimes God is actually able to work without me opening my mouth.

Unlike the sons of Eli, we want our own personal ministries to be such that people come to glorify the Lord, rather than become disgusted at the idea of worshipping Him.