Songs and Praise
   

 
 
 

Less 98 THE MAINTENANCE OF THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES

 
Numbers 18:1 32;

Lesson 98 Senior Lessons

MEMORY VERSE:  "The LORD Is the portion of mine Inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot!" (Psalm 16:5).

I The Responsibilities of the Priests and Levites

The priests were to be responsible for God's worship in the sanctuary, to represent the people before God, Numbers 18:1, 2, 5, 7; 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2; 1 Peter 4: 10 The Levites were to be responsible for the Tabernacle itself and were also to assist the priests in certain duties, Numbers 18:2-4, 6, 21 23; 11 Kings 3: 11; Matthew 10: 42; Mark 10: 43, 44

II God's Material Provision for His, Priests and Their Families

The priests were given, for their own personal food, some of the offerings that were not burned, among them being the trespass offerings, certain sin offerings, and portions of the meat offerings, Numbers 18:8 10; Leviticus 2:3, 9, 10; 6:16, 23, 25, 26; 30; 7:5 10; 10:12, 13, 16-20; Deuteronomy 18:3; Matthew 10:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 9:9-14; Galatians 6:6; Philippians 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:18; Ezekiel 44:29 The money brought by the Israelites to redeem the firstborn, because their service was being done by the Levites, was given to the priests, Numbers 3:44-51; 18:15, 16; Exodus 34:20 Restitution money, when the injured party was not living and had no living relatives, was given to the priests, Numbers 5:8-10; II Kings 12:16 Portions of some offerings of animals, the offerings of the firstfruits, the firstborn of all clean animals, and the substitute for the firstborn of all unclean animals, were to be given to the priests to be used as food for their families, Numbers 18:11-14, 17-19; Deuteronomy 18:4, 5; Leviticus 10:14; Ezekiel 44:30, 31 The priests were not to have any property inheritance, God being their inheritance, Numbers 18:20; 26:62; Joshua 13:14; Ezekiel 44:28

III The Provision for the Levites and Their Families

The tithes of the Israelites were paid to the Levites to be used for their support, Numbers 18:21 24; Genesis 14:20; 28:20 22; Leviticus 27:30 33; Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; 26:12-15; 11 Chronicles 31: 4, 5; Nehemiah 12:44; Malachi 3: 10; Matthew 23:23; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 7:5 The Levites were to give a tithe of the tithe to assist the priests in their material needs, Numbers 18:25 29; Nehemiah 10:38, 39 That which was left was for the Levites to use as they desired, as freely as if they had raised it themselves, Numbers 18:30-32 The Levites received no inheritance in Israel, but were allocated certain cities in the Promised Land in which to live that they might carry on God's work throughout the nation, Numbers 35: 1-8; Deuteronomy 10:9; 12:12, 19; 14:27, 29; 18:1, 2; Joshua 13:33

NOTES

Solemn Responsibilities

God had chosen the priests and Levites from the 12 tribes of Israel to serve Him in His holy sanctuary in varying capacities according to His own plan. To the descendants of Aaron He gave the responsible privilege of conducting the worship, of offering the sacrifices, and of appearing before Him in behalf of the people. The Levites were given the responsibility of moving the Tabernacle during the wilderness wanderings. After the Israelites became settled in the Promised Land that duty was no longer necessary, so other tasks in and around the Tabernacle were given to the Levites. They preserved and taught the Law, judged the people, took part in the worship and praise   many of them being musicians and singers   and served in many capacities that we classify as ministerial duties today (Deuteronomy 17:8 12; 24:8; 27:14; 31:9 13, 26; 1 Chronicles 23:27 32; 11 Chronicles 29:34). At one time in the later history of the Israelites certain captive people were put to work drawing water and hewing wood for the tabernacle worship, to relieve the Levites who had been given duties of a more exacting nature.

 

These sacred responsibilities taxed the strength of the priests and Levites and made great demands upon their available time. That they might be free to give their whole time and strength to God's service, it was ordained that they should be supported by the people they served, in the manner set forth In the plan of God. If they had found it necessary to work at secular employment to obtain their material necessities, it would have taken a great portion of their time from God's service. This would have caused the worship of God to fall into decay quickly, because the demands it made were more than could be met unless their whole time was devoted to it.

God Knew Their Needs

The method of providing for their needs was adequate, but at no time was it of such volume as to make them wealthy. However, God had said that He would be their inheritance; and along with each material provision He gave them a spiritual blessing that made their life a joyous one, as long as they faithfully served Him.

 

There is no life that is as blessed as the one that is wholly given to God. There is no happiness that can equal that joy which comes to a person who serves God 'in his sanctuary' or devotes his life to God's work, no matter how humble that work may be. The joy of the Lord became the strength of these devoted men; and because that fact was so fully demonstrated to them, they could go out and teach the people the blessings of the covenant promises, and all would be benefited.

 

   Some of the provisions of the Law gave consideration to the needs of these servants of God during the wanderings in the wilderness, while others were particularly applicable to their needs in the Promised Land, when they were settled in their final locations. But all the provisions were centered in and around the worship of God. The Apostle tells us that the Lord has ordained that those who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. We know that in Israel's history this privileged position was greatly abused by some who used it for their personal gain. These were no longer preaching the Gospel or serving God in spiritual worship, but were serving their own personal gain and fleshly desires instead, causing the people to abhor the worship of God (I Samuel 2:12-17, 22-24).

The Equitable Distribution According to Responsibility

   God gave those dedicated to Him a number of sacrificial gifts, some of which were to be eaten only in the sanctuary by the priests, because of their sacred or expiatory nature. The others could be taken to their homes and eaten in any clean place. Those that were to be eaten only in the sanctuary by the priests included the trespass offerings, some of the sin offerings (where the blood was not taken into the Holy Place and put upon the golden altar), the peace offerings, the sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest, part of the meat offerings, the two loaves brought during the feast of weeks, the shewbread, and olive oil (Leviticus 6:25, 26, 30; 7: 1-10, 31-34; 14:10, 24; 23:10, 17, 19, 20; 24:5-9).

 

     The following could be taken to any clean place in the camp and eaten by the families of the priests: the heave offerings, the wave off erings, parts of the Nazarite's ram, the firstlings of the flocks, and the firstfruits of harvests (Numbers 6:17, 20; 18:11-19).

 

     Certain offerings were exclusive to life in Canaan and were brought to the set apart servants of God as directed by Him: the heave offering of the firstfruits of the regular harvest, the tithes of their increase, the cake of the first of their dough, the first of the fleece; and also certain cities and fields of possession in which to live (Numbers 15:20; 18:12, 28; 35:1-34; Deuteronomy 18:4; Leviticus 22:17-25).

 

   In addition to these offerings other things were designated as belonging to the priests and their families, or the Levites and their families, according to the plan ordained by God. These were given to supply their needs and to be used by them as freely as if they, personally, had raised the produce or tenderly cared for the young animal. These could also be used in every place where they were: gifts of slain animals, the redemption money brought to redeem the firstborn Children of Israel (whose original places were in God's service but who were supplanted by the Levites), the lamb substituted for the firstling of an unclean animal, certain things that were unclaimed, things devoted to God   one of which was the skin of the burnt offering offered in either the morning or evening sacrifice, or other burnt offerings brought for special or seasonal sacrifices,  and restitution money when it was impossible to contact the injured party (Exodus 34:20; Leviticus 7:8; Numbers 5:8; 18:15-19; Deuteronomy 18:3 -5). The flesh of burnt offerings was not given to the priests or Levites, because it was to be entirely consumed on the altar.

 

     God reminded the people, through Moses, that they should never forget the Levites who were separated unto Him and who had no inheritance of real property in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 14:27; 16:11, 14). The people were admonished to treat these separated ones kindly and with a certain reverence and honor, because of the place they filled in God's worship and service.

 

     God spoke of these obligations which He placed upon the Israelites, the keeping of which was essential to the happiness, well being, and security of the nation as a whole as well as of the individual, in the same way as He would speak of a covenant. In fact, He made a covenant with them and called it a 'covenant of salt.' This figure of speech came from the well known fact that salt preserved and kept foods, and especially meats, from decay or corruption. Therefore, a 'covenant of salt' was one that would not change or pass away but would be preserved forever.

 

God's Plan for Us Today

    The days of the kingdom of Israel are examples to us in many ways. We, too, can come to God with our spiritual sacrifices and offerings of the firstfruits to receive definite blessings from Him. But, it must be remembered, the requirements of the Gospel period are no less than the exacting rules of the Law. Obedience is sure to bring great blessing while disobedience will cause divine displeasure and certain judgment.

 

    The payment of the tithes of their increase was a solemn responsibility for all the Israelites and, as we have seen, the main source of support for the Levites and priests. But the payment of tithes was not new with the giving of the Law, for we read that 600 years earlier Abraham observed that practice; and later, Jacob, also. They acknowledged by their acts that tithing was a principle already instituted by God previous to their time. (Read Hebrews 7:1-6; Genesis 28:22.) Therefore, the payment of tithes, like the moral principles of the Law, was not a practice instituted for the Jews alone but is also an obligation for us today.

 

    The Apostle Paul wrote the Christians at Corinth, 'Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him' (I Corinthians 16:2). Jesus not only sanctioned the giving to God of a widow's last two mites but commended her for doing so. Jesus also positively stated that tithing was for the present time when He reproved the scribes and Pharisees by saying, 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone' (Matthew 23:23).

 

   There is great blessing promised to those who obey God's Word. He tells us that He will pour out a blessing upon us that will be greater than our ability to receive, if we honor Him by obeying His Word in this matter. (Read Malachi 3:8-10.) He also said, 'If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.'

 

    Happy are those people, indeed, who keep God's covenants and who walk in His ways! Happy are they who do His will and never fail to honor His Word by keeping every particular of it! Happy are those who dedicate their lives to His service and who trust Him for their daily bread and sustenance, whose strength is the joy of the Lord and whose inheritance is the Lord Himself! There is no joy to compare with theirs, and no satisfaction that can equal that which comes with each day spent entirely in laboring in His vineyard!

QUESTIONS

I Why did God concern Himself with the material maintenance of His servants?
2 What were the responsibilities of the priests?
3 What main responsibilities were given the Levites?
4 Describe how the priests were maintained, particularly in the matter of their food.
5 How did the families of the priests get their food and other necessities?
6 What great provision of God's ordinance took care of the main needs of the Levites?
7 What must the Levites give to the priests before their own personal needs could be satisfied?
8 Tell of the principle of redemption of the firstborn of unclean animals.
9 Why did the firstborn son have to be redeemed and to whom was the redemption money given?
10 What obligation do Christians today have toward the maintenance of God's work?

 
   
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