Evening Bible Study
The people are
being transformed from a band of slaves, to an organized fighting army.
God had ordered Moses to send spies into the Promised Land so the people would know what it
was all about.
The people didn’t like what the spies told them about what was up ahead. They
weren’t willing to trust God to take them into this land.
Their lack of faith resulted in forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
The book of Numbers covers that forty year period of wandering.
Last week we looked at a crisis Moses faced in his leadership. A fellow
named Korah had stirred up some people to rebel against Moses’ leadership. They
thought they could do just as good a job at leading the nation as Moses.
agree with Korah. Fire came from God and burned up Korah and one set of rebels.
Another group was dealt with by the ground opening up and swallowing them. A
third set were killed by a plague.
We are still in that same time period of dealing with the issue of
leadership, in particular, who should have the job of the priesthood?
Aaron’s Budding Rod
:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
:2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each
father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses—twelve
rods. Write each man’s name on his rod.
:3 And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be
one rod for the head of each father’s house.
:3 rod –
matteh – staff, branch
The word is also translated “tribe”, which is a group of people who are led by someone who holds a
These “rods” are going to be symbolic of each of the twelve tribes.
There is going to be a selection process where God is going to pick the
“rod” of the tribe that He wants to serve in the priesthood.
It’s kind of
like drawing straws.
Aaron is from the tribe of Levi. The Levites “rod” has his name on it.
:4 Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the
Testimony, where I meet with you.
:4 the tabernacle
– These rods are going to be placed overnight in front of the Ark of the Covenant that is located in
the “holy of holies”, the back room of the “Tabernacle”.
:5 And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus
I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make
– When we studied the book of Exodus, we looked at the issue of the location of
that the traditional view of Mount Sinai, located in the “Sinai Peninsula”
belonging to Egypt might not be the correct location. (Show “Traditional Sinai” Map clip)
We suggested that perhaps Jabal al Musa, located in Saudi Arabia might be a
better location. (Show
“Sinai” Map clip)
One of the
interesting things about this location is the abundance of almond trees located
around the mountain.
There are no almond trees at the other site.
You’re going to see that at least Aaron’s rod was made from an almond tree.
God’s way of selecting the priestly tribe will be to take the dead wood of
the rod and cause it to blossom.
:6 So Moses
spoke to the children of Israel, and each of their leaders gave him a rod apiece,
for each leader according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods; and the rod of
Aaron was among their rods.
:7 And Moses placed the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.
:8 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle
of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted
and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.
:8 blossoms … ripe
almonds – In one night, Aaron’s rod not only had the little nubs of
“buds”, but had actually produced flowering blossoms and even ripe almonds.
All in one night. (Play
“Rose” time lapse video clip)
:9 Then Moses
brought out all the rods from before the LORD to all the children of Israel;
and they looked, and each man took his rod.
:10 And the LORD said to Moses, “Bring Aaron’s rod back before the
Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their
complaints away from Me, lest they die.”
:11 Thus did Moses; just as the LORD had commanded him, so he did.
:10 before the
The rod of Aaron became one of the three things that were held either next
to the Ark of the Covenant, or actually inside it. In a sense it was kind of
like a safe-deposit box at the bank, where you keep your important records and
treasures. The Ark would hold the two stone tablet containing the Ten Commandments (Exo 25:16), a
jar with a sample of the manna (Exo 16:33-34), and now Aaron’s rod was to be
:5 will blossom
– It’s important in the church that we allow God to have a say in who it is
that serves Him in whatever position.
Some churches have elaborate steps that a person takes, and then they are
placed in the ministry.
As long as anyone is willing to follow those steps, they will get a “job”
in the ministry.
In truth, the best we can do is to recognize that God has chosen a person for
If you are considering going into some sort of ministry, ask yourself the
tough question – Has God called me? How do I know?
The proof is in the fruit
I guess we could have said the proof was in the nuts, and surely some of us
who serve God are just a bit nutty.
Just think of
it, they are going to take twelve dead tree branches, and are going to expect them to sprout and
come to life!
By ourselves, we are nothing more than just deadwood. There’s not a whole
lot in us that can do a whole lot for anyone.
And yet, somehow, when God gets a hold of our lives, he can take these dead
old sticks and infuse them with such life that they not only sprout, but bear
fruit as well.
(Jn 15:5 NKJV) “I am the vine, you are
the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without
Me you can do nothing.
in the Vine will always result in fruit.
Not bearing fruit is evidence of a branch that isn’t
abiding, it’s just a lifeless old stick.
Peter and the disciples saw the difference between when they were working
and when Jesus was working for them.
(Lk 5:4–11 NKJV) —4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into
the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to
Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your
word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a
great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their
partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both
the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down
at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” 9 For
he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they
had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were
partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on
you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they
forsook all and followed Him.
would learn to go after a different kind of “catch”. And they would learn that
it’s not when they go out on their own that they will “catch” anything, but
only when Jesus was leading them.
When God calls
a person to serve Him in a particular capacity, there will be fruit (or
Fruit is the by-product of a growing organism.
If God has called you to be a street
preacher, then the fruit will involve people getting saved and their lives
If God has called you to be a Sunday School
teacher, then there’s lots of things to look for: Salvation for your kids, an
excitement in their lives about the Lord, love for the Bible and prayer, maybe
the way they treat their parents and each other.
If God has called you to a ministry of
intercessory prayer, you’re going to see what? Answered prayers!
If you’re a worship leader, then people are going to be experiencing true
worship (from time to time at least). You’ll be seeing some of the results of
true worship, namely humility, joy, peace, healing, etc.
Sometimes fruit can be measured in “numbers”.
When people come to the Lord, your group will grow in
Sometimes fruit can be measured in depth.
If the lives of the people you minister to are developing,
falling more in love with Jesus, then that is fruit.
I’m not sure it’s just the amount of fruit that counts, but that there is
There were people that God called in the Bible who did not see a lot of
God called Jeremiah to speak for Him, but I don’t recall
Jeremiah having a lot of “converts”.
On the other hand, God also called Jonah, and we all know
how reluctant Jonah was to follow God’s commands.
Yet Jonah probably had one of the biggest “altar calls”
that a preacher ever had – an entire city turned to God.
Both Jeremiah and Jonah were called, but the amount of
“fruit” was different.
If I try to compare my “fruit” with Greg Laurie’s, I could get quite
It’s not the amount of fruit, but the fact of fruit.
When we left the Baptist church, we started a little home
Bible Study. There were four of us (including Deb and myself).
If five years later there were the same four people, and
none of us had really grown in the Lord, then I should ask myself some
If I never see fruit in my ministry, I may need to face some hard questions
about whether or not I’m doing what God has called me to do.
:12 So the children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Surely we die, we
perish, we all perish!
:13 Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD must die. Shall we
all utterly die?”
In the last chapter, the people were complaining that they all wanted to be
Now they are all afraid of getting too close to God.
God has an answer for them.
:1 Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You and your sons and your father’s house
with you shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and you and your
sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood.
:1 bear the
bear – nasa’ – to lift, bear up, carry, take
– ‘avon – perversity, depravity,
guilt or punishment of iniquity
These two words are used together over 30 times in the Old Testament.
Sometimes it is translated “pardon” or “forgive”, the idea of taking sins
away (Ps. 85:2; Mic. 7:18).
Sometimes it seems to be used to talk about taking sins into God’s presence
for the purpose of having the sins forgiven.
(Le 10:17 NKJV) —17 “Why have you not
eaten the sin offering in a holy place, since it is most holy, and God has
given it to you to bear the guilt
of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?
It seems here the best idea that fits the context is that of bearing the
responsibility of handling sin before God.
The people have just learned a huge lesson. It can be
quite dangerous to approach the Living God.
It’s like the danger of handling nitro glycerin. It can be quite explosive.
Now Aaron and the Levites are being given the clear
responsibility to be the ones handling the nitro glycerin.
Specifically, it is the tribe of Levi that will be responsible for the
things of the “sanctuary”, or the Tabernacle.
It is Aaron and his family who will be responsible for the duties of the
:2 Also bring
with you your brethren of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that
they may be joined with you and serve you while you and your sons are with you
before the tabernacle of witness.
:3 They shall attend to your needs and all the needs of the tabernacle; but
they shall not come near the articles of the sanctuary and the altar, lest they
die—they and you also.
:4 They shall be joined with you and attend to the needs of the tabernacle
of meeting, for all the work of the tabernacle; but an outsider shall not come
:5 And you shall attend to the duties of the sanctuary and the duties of
the altar, that there may be no more wrath on the children of Israel.
Again, the idea is that the rest of the nation will be kept “behind the
yellow safety line” while the priests and Levites will be responsible to make
sure they do their ministry correctly.
:6 Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the
children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the LORD, to do the work
of the tabernacle of meeting.
:7 Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for
everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your
priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall
be put to death.”
:7 gift for service
– alternate translations: “a bestowed service” (NAS); “I am giving you the
service of the priesthood as a gift” (NIV)
What God is saying is that Aaron’s position as priest was a gift from God
will look at Aaron’s position as high priest and think that it’s a pretty cool
thing to have such a high position and be paid so well.
I wonder if
Aaron is looking at the dead bodies lying around from Korah’s rebellion and
wondering if this is really a gift he wants.
As a gift, it wasn’t something Aaron had earned or worked hard to attain
to. It was simply a gift.
This calls to mind the New Testament word “charismata”.
“charis” means “grace”, “mata” means “work”, we translate the
word “spiritual gift”
Spiritual gifts are not abilities that a person is naturally endowed with. They
aren’t abilities that a person acquires from a lot of hard work. They are
abilities that are supernaturally given to them from God.
You can take no credit for the spiritual gifts God has given you.
(1 Co 12:7 NKJV) But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
God will take your particular set of gifts and as you use them, they form
Ministries, just as gifts, are given to us by the Lord
God will tell Aaron that he will be paid by the offerings that the people
bring to the Lord…
:12 “All the best of the oil, all the best of the new wine and the grain,
their firstfruits which they offer to the LORD, I have given them to you.
:13 Whatever first ripe fruit is in their land, which they bring to the
LORD, shall be yours. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it.
:13 shall be yours
The priests would not have an inheritance in the Promised Land like the
rest of the people. They would not have “the family farm” to pass on from generation
Instead, God promised to meet their needs by giving to them their support
from the sacrifices and offerings that they participated in.
God takes care of His servants.
Look at how well God does it too!
(Nu 18:12 NKJV) “All the best of the oil, all the best of the new
Paul will use this principle to tell the Corinthians that it is proper for
a person in ministry to be supported financially by his ministry –
(1 Co 9:13–14 NKJV) —13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things
eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of
the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who
preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
:14 “Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours.
– cherem – a thing devoted, thing
Everything that is being given to God is going to be property of the
:15 “Everything that first opens the womb of all flesh, which they bring to
the LORD, whether man or beast, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of
man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall
:15 the firstborn
of man you shall surely redeem
The first-born was to be God’s portion.
To give God His portion, you would sacrifice it.
God didn’t want
people sacrificing their children, so He set up an “exchange” program where you
could “buy back” your children from the Lord.
This is called “redemption”
Unclean animals were to be redeemed because God didn’t want the people
sacrificing unclean things to Him.
:16 And those redeemed of the devoted things you shall redeem when one
month old, according to your valuation, for five shekels of silver, according
to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.
:17 But the firstborn of a cow, the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn
of a goat you shall not redeem; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood
on the altar, and burn their fat as an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma
to the LORD.
:17 you shall
not redeem; they are holy
The clean animals, those acceptable
for sacrifice, could not be redeemed.
They too belonged to God, but since they were acceptable sacrifices
(children were not), God didn’t want to sell them, He wanted them sacrificed.
:18 And their flesh shall be yours, just as the wave breast and the right
thigh are yours.
:19 “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of
Israel offer to the LORD, I have given to you and your sons and daughters with
you as an ordinance forever; it is a covenant of salt forever before the LORD
with you and your descendants with you.”
:19 covenant of
This phrase appears two other places in Scripture (Lev.2:13; 2Chr.13:4-5)
What does this mean?
It seems that salt was looked on as something that lasted, something that
God is making an agreement with the priests that their needs will be met. And
it’s a solid, unchanging promise.
:20 Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their
land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your
inheritance among the children of Israel.
:20 I am
I like the idea that the priests had to rely on God to support them, and
not trust in their possessions.
Where is the treasure?
(Mt 6:19–21 NKJV) —19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where
moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where
thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your
heart will be also.
If our hearts
are focused on earthly treasures, then our heart will be tied to earthly
If our hearts
are focused on God’s treasures, then our heart will be tied to Him.
It’s not that God doesn’t 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 God’s desire is that we learn to make Him our desire first,
and then He promises to take care of our needs.
(Mt 6:33 NKJV) —33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and
all these things shall be added to you.
:21 “Behold, I
have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in
return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.
:21 all the tithes
So the Levites too, just as Aaron’s sons, were to be taken care of out of
the tithes that the people brought into the Lord.
:22 Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of
meeting, lest they bear sin and die.
not come near
This is what prompted this whole chapter, Korah’s rebellion and the people
realizing that God was Holy and Just, and they were Unholy and Deserving of
mean that the ordinary person couldn’t worship God, it meant that they had to go to a priest who
would offer up their sacrifice for them. An intermediary.
(1 Ti 2:5 NKJV) For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man
:23 But the
Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall
bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your
generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
:24 For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a
heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance;
therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no
:25 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
:26 “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the
children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your
inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a
tenth of the tithe.
:26 a tenth of the
Now the question might come up: “If I’m a Levite, and I’ve received the
tithes from other people for the Lord, do I have to pay tithes?” The answer is
Everyone learns to give
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 haven’t learned how to freely give
out of what God has given you, you are missing out on a wealth of spiritual
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
(2 Co 9:6–8 NKJV) —6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap
sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let
each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for
God loves a cheerful giver.
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always
having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good
There is a bit of truth to what the “prosperity teachers”
say about giving, that 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 And your
heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the
threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress.
In other words, in God’s 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 Levites’ income was just as valid as that of the laborer.
:28 Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the LORD from all your
tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the
LORD’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest.
:29 Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the
LORD, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’
:30 Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of
it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the
threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress.
:31 You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your
reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting.
:32 And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the
best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel,
lest you die.’ ”
:32 bear no sin
because 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 you shall not
profane the holy gifts
The “holy gifts” were the sacrifices and offerings that the Israelites
would bring to the Lord.
Sadly, this “polluting” (or, profaning) was done from time to time.
Spoiling the gifts
Eli was the
high priest in the days before there was a king in Israel. He was the priest
that little Samuel learned to hear the voice of God with.
Eli’s sons were evil men.
They used to rip off the people as they came to bring offerings to the
Instead of taking the portion that God allowed for them as
priests, they took as much as they wanted from the people.
To top this off, they also were having sex with the women
who served God at the Tabernacle.
(1 Sa 2:17 NKJV) Therefore the sin of the
young men was very great before the Lord,
for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.
This is what happens when we abuse the things that God has
given to us – people walk away from the Lord.
I wonder if this might not happen today in various ways.
Pastors, men in ministry who abuse the finances of the church.
Our own “gifts” from God – the finances that God has given to each of us.
Even spiritual gifts – not using or even abusing the gifts of God.