Series: Thru the Bible
Message – Honor & Authority – Numbers 17-18
Honor & Authority – Thru the Bible
Numbers 17 HCSB
“(1) The LORD instructed Moses: (2) “Speak to the Israelites and take one staff from them for each ancestral house, 12 staffs from all the leaders of their ancestral houses. Write (probably carve or engrave) each man’s name on his staff. (3) Write Aaron’s name on Levi’s staff, because there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral house. (4) Then place them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony where I meet with you. (5) The staff of the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid Myself of the Israelites’ complaints that they have been making about you.” (6) So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and each of their leaders gave him a staff, one for each of the leaders of their ancestral houses, 12 staffs in all. Aaron’s staff was among them. (7) Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the testimony. (8) The next day Moses entered the tent of the testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, representing the house of Levi, had sprouted, formed buds, blossomed, and produced almonds! (9) Moses then brought out all the staffs from the LORD’s presence to all the Israelites. They saw them, and each man took his own staff. (10) The LORD told Moses, “Put Aaron’s rod back in front of the testimony to be kept as a sign for the rebels, so that you may put an end to their complaints before Me, or else they will die.” (11) So Moses did as the LORD commanded him. (12) Then the Israelites declared to Moses, “Look, we’re perishing! We’re lost; we’re all lost! (13) Anyone who comes near the LORD’s tabernacle will die. Will we all perish?”
This all may appear dismal and to be sure there are ways in which it was, but as I have attempted to teach you many times:
There can be many truths you can learn and glean from any event, circumstance or happening as viewed from our human perspective…but Ultimate Truth can come ONLY from ONE perspective, and that if God’s!
Let me illustrate this to you…
The other day I wrote an article and published it on the church website and then on Google + & Facebook about something the Lord was causing me to see in the death of one of our chickens. What He was teaching me was both TRUTH and RELATIVE truth. Meaning…the lessons He taught me were true in and of themselves and some of that truth was true only within certain boundaries making it relative truth. However, none of the things God brought to my attention to place in that article revealed anything about the Ultimate truth concerning the death of living creatures.
You see, God has so designed the world that EVERYTHING in it – every event, every circumstance, every decision (whether good or evil) teaches truth on multiple levels, but ULTIMATE Truth is something which reveals the core and purpose behind things and events.
The truth God brought to my mind to use as an illustration in an article about my chicken – involved not wandering away from the fold. About the very real dangers of allowing little irritations and childish offenses to drive you into solitude and way from the company of God’s people where their is relative safety.
That is a great and relative truth – but is says NOTHING about the great or ULTIMATE truth to be revealed by a creature’s death.
This truth is actually taught to us in Romans 8, where it reveals that all creatures were made subject to death THROUGH MANKIND and not due to any sin of their own. Because mankind, WHO IS THEIR HEAD and IMMEDIATE AUTHORITY fell… so did they…and so suffering and death not only affected mankind but ALL THOSE under their dominion. So every death of every living creature continually reveals the true cost of delegated authority misused.
So do you see the difference between relative truth and ultimate truth?
There is the lesson God taught me OUT of the event of loosing my chicken…but the greater and all encompassing truth is about authority and submission.
So it is here and IN the following chapter.
These people in Israel are convicted of their rebellious nature and know that even in the light of all the current events, they believe in their rebellious nature and are convinced to the point of fear that they will repeat the mistakes of those who rebelled and died.
So far they have witnessed:
- The rebellion of Korah and the subsequent death of those under him a.k.a Kohath, Dathan, and Abiram, along with their 250 followers among the leading men of Israel.
- The censors being hammered out and welded to the side of the altar.
- The plague that killed 14,700 sympathizers of Korah and his followers.
So now that God has given this miraculous confirmation of Aaron’s authority – the people of Israel fear they are next to be judged, which was not at all unreasonable.
This fear did not reveal a heart of repentance, but a slavish fear in their weakness – that they would not be able to keep themselves from rebellion.
THIS IS GOOD!!
The Amplified version translated Philp. 2:12 pointing to this healthy distrust of our own intentions and abilities.
Php. 2:12, “Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).”
While I’m inclined to believe the trembling this verse is pointing to is rooted in a deep and profound respect for God – I do not think it is inappropriate to include a healthy awareness of our own inability to do right apart from His aid. WHICH WE HAVE under the new covenant but they did NOT under the OLD.
This is why this was good! The Israelites were beginning to learn the lessons the Law was inspired to teach them. It was to frustrate their efforts by being a continual reminder of their complete inability to govern their own hearts and actions, which was intended to lead them to Christ.
Gal. 3:24-25 Weymouth “(24) So that the Law has acted the part of a tutor to lead us to Christ, in order that through faith we may be declared to be free from guilt. (25) But now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
So it was quite logical for them to come to the conclusion they stated,
“Look, we’re perishing! We’re lost; we’re all lost! (13) Anyone who comes near the LORD’s tabernacle will die. Will we all perish?”
Num. 18:1-32, HCSB “(1) The LORD said to Aaron, “You, your sons, and your ancestral house will be responsible for sin against the sanctuary. You and your sons will be responsible for sin involving your priesthood.
Here we have delegated authority….
- It’s power – They were in charge in regard to the tabernacle and the sacrifices. Their word was law (so long as it did not step beyond their authority)
- It’s responsibilities – If something goes wrong, the buck stops with them!
So not only their own sins regarding the sanctuary but ANYONE’s sin in regard to the sanctuary the responsibility for it is on them!
We instinctively get this in regard to parents and children, but when dealing with adults, it is harder for many to grasp…but God makes it clear, if there is someone in authority, what they say goes (within the sphere of their authority) and the actions of those under them also points back to their leadership as well.
Now God is NOT unreasonable! If the sin involved something outside their control – that would be different. But if say, someone brought an unholy sacrifice to the altar without being refused, there would be trouble for both the one who brought it AND the Priesthood whose job is was to preside of these things.
God ups the ante
(2) But also bring your brothers with you from the tribe of Levi, your ancestral tribe, so they may join you and serve with you and your sons in front of the tent of the testimony. (3) They are to perform duties for you and for the whole tent. They must not come near the sanctuary equipment or the altar; otherwise, both they and you will die. (4) They are to join you and guard the tent of meeting, doing all the work at the tent, but no unauthorized person may come near you.
God summarizes their responsibilities
(5) “You are to guard the sanctuary and the altar so that wrath may not fall on the Israelites again. (6) Look, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the LORD to work at the tent of meeting.
(7) But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work. I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift, but an unauthorized person who comes near the sanctuary will be put to death.”
This is perhaps one of the first examples of gifts as taught in the New Covenant.
- Gifts can be people – the Levities TO the Priests.
- Gifts can be God’s authority and power delegated to YOU FOR the benefit of others.
The workman deserves to be paid!
This last section is VERY important and we have covered it before, but will do so in brief again tonight.
“(8) Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, “Look, I have put you in charge of the contributions brought to Me. As for all the holy offerings of the Israelites, I have given them to you and your sons as a portion and a perpetual statute.”
So first thing is first….
BECAUSE the authority of the office BELONGS to God and He delegated it to the Levites and Priests – the contributions BELONG TO GOD and to fail to give them is to ROB from God.
Someone read, Mal. 3:8-12,
Mal. 3:8-12 NKJV “(8) “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. (9) You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. (10) Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. (11) “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts; (12) And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts.”
To which people will say – that is old covenant!
Yet it is interesting that God basis this NOT on covenant but His Own character which AS A PRELUDE to these very verses God points out DOES NOT CHANGE.
Read verses 6-7,
“(6) For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. (7) Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’”
As you can see, God doesn’t point to covenants at all – but basis His statements on the fact of His unchanging character. The problem is many today make the mistake of thinking that the New Covenant changed GOD – when in reality it only changes MAN and his ability to relate to the God Who NEVER CHANGES!
Secondly, it is a perpetual statue. It is interesting that Paul under the New Covenant said that giving to New Testament ministers was to take the EXACT FORM as giving to the priests.
1Cor. 9:13-14, HCSB “(13) Do you not know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? (14) In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.”
Let the words, “IN THE SAME WAY” and “JESUS HAS COMMANDED…” settle the issue once and for all in your minds.
These are two VERY STRONG and very telling statements!
It never ceases to amaze me how in today’s world, vast amounts of the Body of Christ question the right for ministers to receive pay or only support it in word, but not in practice! They may offer a “generous’ theological nod in the direction of compensation, but in practice contribute next to nothing.
It is amazing to me how Christians, at least professing ones, who can barely navigate the scriptures ALL OF THE SUDDEN, become Hebrew/Greek scholars who are hyper dispensationalists and legalistic in their understanding of the division between the covenants when it comes to giving. It would be laughable if it weren’t so misled and sad.
I have actually witnessed FIRST HAND people (and I’m not even having to draw my examples from people in this church) but I have witnessed first hand people who claimed they could never give 10%…it just isn’t possible, what with school and housing and food and repairs and medical bills and taxes…etc. Which all sounds real good on paper, but then I have personally witnessed these same people leaving the church and going out to lunch every Sunday. Furthermore, many of them also seem to have plenty of money throughout the week to buy their lunch out rather than packing an economical lunch, they get the coffee every morning at Starbucks, they talk about how many movies they have gone to each month and how much it cost them to go on vacation for two weeks – TWICE A YEAR!
Yet, more than not, Pastors are doing good to go on a vacation of ANY reasonable sort. Some churches go so far as to not allow a pastor to include Sundays in their vacation days which means if they have 2 weeks of vacation, they have to take it CLOSE to home because they cannot miss a Sunday. These are dedicated servants of both God and man and have the same bills and responsibilities of every other person in the body of Christ -except they are NEVER not on call!
Now believe it or not, I’ve actually heard Christian’s whose hearts are so hard as to say, well then if I have to tithe, then every time I buy hamburger at the store I’ll cut a tenth of it off and give it to the preacher on Sunday!
This is an example of the legalistic way in which many practice “grace”. It is both perverse and childish! They do this because in the wilderness, the Levities and Priests received MOST (yet not all) of their provisions in the form of real assets – grain, meat, oil, win…etc. Of course that was because they were largely an agrarian society. That ENDED when they were brought into any of their captivities. The Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Romans ALL had a monetary system and the Priests were told by God (even during the wilderness wanderings) how to convert the value of hard assets into silver or gold according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel.
Beyond this obvious fact, Paul clearly illustrates how to make the transition from the Priestly agrarian based system to a Roman monetary based system in his letters.
1Cor. 9:1-12, HCSB “(1) Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? (2) If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. (3) My defense to those who examine me is this: (4) Don’t we have the right to eat and drink? (5) Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a Christian wife, like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas? (6) Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? (7) Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not drink the milk from the flock? (8) Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the law also say the same thing? (9) For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain. Is God really concerned with oxen? (10) Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop. (11) If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? (12) If others share this authority over you, don’t we even more? However, we have not used this authority; instead we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ.”
So how does this reveal actual “coin” instead of Agrarian goods? Well, think about it…Apostles had to buy food on journeys (they did not have portable coolers). They had to purchase cloths, pay for materials and repairs on equipment, care for their animals and buy new ones from time to time, pay taxes – even road tolls…you cannot do this with a tithe of biscuits and gravy!
Back to Numbers 18:8
“(9) A portion of the holiest offerings kept from the fire will be yours; every one of their offerings that they give Me, whether the grain offering, sin offering, or restitution offering will be most holy for you and your sons. (10) You are to eat it as a most holy offering. Every male may eat it; it is to be holy to you. (11) “The contribution of their gifts also belongs to you. I have given all the Israelites’ presentation offerings to you and to your sons and daughters as a perpetual statute. Every ceremonially clean person in your house may eat it. (12) I am giving you all the best of the fresh olive oil, new wine, and grain, which the Israelites give to the LORD as their firstfruits. (13) The firstfruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to the LORD, belong to you. Every clean person in your house may eat them. (14) “Everything in Israel that is permanently dedicated to the LORD belongs to you. (15) The firstborn of every living thing, man or animal, presented to the LORD belongs to you. But you must certainly redeem the firstborn of man, and redeem the firstborn of an unclean animal. (16) You will pay the redemption price for a month-old male according to your valuation: five shekels of silver by the standard sanctuary shekel, which is 20 gerahs. (17) “However, you must not redeem the firstborn of an ox, a sheep, or a goat; they are holy. You are to sprinkle their blood on the altar and burn their fat as a fire offering for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. (18) But their meat belongs to you. It belongs to you like the breast of the presentation offering and the right thigh. (19) “I give to you and to your sons and daughters all the holy contributions that the Israelites present to the LORD as a perpetual statute. It is a perpetual covenant of salt before the LORD for you as well as your offspring.” (20) The LORD told Aaron, “You will not have an inheritance in their land; there will be no portion among them for you. I am your portion and your inheritance among the Israelites. (21) “Look, I have given the Levites every tenth in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work they do, the work of the tent of meeting. (22) The Israelites must never again come near the tent of meeting, or they will incur guilt and die. (23) The Levites will do the work of the tent of meeting, and they will bear the consequences of their sin. The Levites will not receive an inheritance among the Israelites; this is a perpetual statute throughout your generations. (24) For I have given them the tenth that the Israelites present to the LORD as a contribution for their inheritance. That is why I told them that they would not receive an inheritance among the Israelites.” (25) The LORD instructed Moses, (26) “Speak to the Levites and tell them: When you receive from the Israelites the tenth that I have given you as your inheritance, you must present part of it as an offering to the LORD–a tenth of the tenth. (27) Your offering will be credited to you as if it were your grain from the threshing floor or the full harvest from the winepress. (28) You are to present an offering to the LORD from every tenth you receive from the Israelites. Give some of it to Aaron the priest as an offering to the LORD. (29) You must present the entire offering due the LORD from all your gifts. The best part of the tenth is to be consecrated. (30) “Tell them further: Once you have presented the best part of the tenth, and it is credited to you Levites as the produce of the threshing floor or the winepress, (31) then you and your household may eat it anywhere. It is your wage in return for your work at the tent of meeting. (32) You will not incur guilt because of it once you have presented the best part of it, but you must not defile the Israelites’ holy offerings, so that you will not die.”
I am not unsympathetic to people of low income. I’m a minister so I TOTALLY understand a limited income. However, we get the commands of God backwards. God promises to open heaven and poor out blessings to those who give offerings – NOT so that you CAN give offerings. Obedience comes first – not second which is why it is called walking by faith.
I do not say this in theory alone. This has worked in my life both before and since I have been married. Time and again, when I honored God with our finances – placing Him FIRST, a way was made where there literally seemed to be no way. This was not just with tithes and offerings. One time God told my wife and I to take the money we had barely scraped together to pay our rent and GIVE it to someone. It wasn’t easy because we lived in a duplex and my landlord WAS my immediate neighbor! Nevertheless, we gave it and I’ll admit, my faith was not super high, but at least our obedience was quick. Before I could go to my neighbor and explain, he came knocking on my door and told me God told him to wave my rent that month. I could barely believe it!
So, what I am saying is NOT just cold, uncaring theology! Let me suggest to you, that if God demands it – He will make a way to do it – BUT you cannot blow untold amounts of money, act irresponsible most of the times with money and still have any reason to anticipate that things will not seem too tight to give!
Before service tonight Teri and I looked up some basic statistics concerning giving, some of which were from the Barna Group…but not all. As it turns out, back in 2013, out of the average church goer who self-identified as a Christian, only about 12% actually gave tithes (meaning 10% or more).
In 2017 – on average, Christians gave 2.5% of their income to the church.
Such actions reveal NOT a financial problem but a heart and faith problem.
You see, this is a question of where we place our values. Do we value being fed spiritually and being led into greater intimacy with God highest or do we value food, possessions, vacation time and entertainment most?
If you are wondering where your heart is…follow the money!
We can easily see where God places value – it is on spiritual matters!
12 tribes all giving to one and one giving to one family.
The Levities as a tribe receive 120% of the average income in Israel which consisted of the VERY best they had. They in turn gave a single family 10% of the very best of the best. That was an ENORMOUS amount of provision!
So the Levities lived off of 110% of the average Israelite’s income and it was the very best they had. The Priests, being a single family from that tribe, lived off of 10% of the 120%, making their income the greatest and best of all of Israel.
What was God saying by this?
God places the HIGHEST value on things spiritual, which should make it no wonder why we have a tenancy to do the complete opposite.
Let me go on to suggest that even though the standard God set was VERY high in provision for His spiritual leaders, that only makes it lawful – it does NOT make it always expedient.
Paul SOMETIMES set aside his rights and privileges of his authority in order to not offend against Christ. I believe this is also in order today.
Let me suggest that if you are a minister – especially well known in the world and live in a home worth millions, own and drive multiple expensive cars, planes and yachts…it “might” be lawful, but it is most certainly not expedient!
The beatitudes is a teaching on grace as was ALL of Christ’s teachings. According to Luke 16:16, the law was UNTIL JOHN, but SINCE THEN the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached.
As such we can see that Jesus’ teachings, as well as Paul’s and the other apostles revealed that the standard for morality and godliness did not become more lacks under grace but more stringent.
Jesus said, “(21) You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. (22) But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.” ~ Mat 5:21-22
“(27) You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. (28) But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Mat 5:27-28
and, “(43) You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. (44) But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” ~ Mat. 5:43-45
Paul also carried these same sentiments, “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up.” ~ 1Cor. 10:23
2Cor. 5:11-15, “(11) Knowing, then, the fear of the Lord, we persuade people. We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your consciences as well. (12) We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you may have a reply for those who take pride in the outward appearance rather than in the heart. (13) For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you. (14) For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. (15) And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.”
So may I suggest that while the New Testament does not spell out the need to give 10% to those whose job it is to constantly stand before the Lord on your behalf, it is clear enough to establish is as at least a baseline to BEGIN with.
Under grace the rules for “right and wrong” in terms of morality do not change, only under grace MORE is expected…and why not, under grace God has our hearts!
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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