THE MAINTENANCE OF THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES

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    [Numbers:18:1-32].

    Lesson No.: 
    98
    Class: 
    Junior
    Memory Verse: 

    "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38).

    Notes: 

    Duties of the Levites
    The Levites had consecrated themselves for special service to God, and He had made a place for them to minister at the House of God. Their duties were to help the priests in the tabernacle worship, besides moving the Tabernacle every time the Israelites journeyed. In later years, after the Children of Israel came into the Promised Land, some families of the tribe of Levi were set apart for the musical service of worship. The sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun became musicians and singers, in great choruses and orchestras, trained by skilled teachers ([1 Chronicles:25:1]; [1 Chronicles:15:16-22]; [2 Chronicles:5:13]).

    Music was an important part of the Israelites' worship of God. We read: "And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished" (II Chronicles:29:27, 28). We notice, too, that many of the Psalms were written by these Levite musicians, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun.

    No Inheritance in Canaan
    The Levites were so much set apart for holy service that they did not receive an inheritance with their brothers in Canaan. They were given cities in which to live, with enough land to take care of their cattle, but they had no way to earn a living, nor did they have any political rights in the nation. All their attention was to be given to the service of God. God took good care of His consecrated people. He said He would be their inheritance. They gave their time and attention to His service, and deserved to be fed by His hand. The Apostle Paul spoke of the support of the ministers when he said, "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they, which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel shall live of the gospel" (I Corinthians:9:13, 14).

    Between the Living and the Dead
    God expects those ministers to bring the words of life to the people to "feed the flock." They must have the love of God in their hearts, and have the Spirit upon their lives to teach the people the way to Heaven. There is a great responsibility upon the minister to stand between the living and the dead and warn people to flee from the judgment that is to come. God told Ezekiel that if the watchman saw the sword coming and did not warn the people, their blood would be required at his hand. God has set His ministers as watchmen, and they must have the Spirit of God on their lives to warn the sinners to repent of their sins and prepare to meet the Lord.

    Spared by Faithfulness of Priests Aaron and his sons, the priests, offered sacrifices for the Israelites when they sinned, or God would have destroyed them. In many cases physical death came upon the sinner almost instantly. One time when the Israelites murmured against Moses and said they were sorry they had left Egypt, God sent serpents to bite the people. Many who were bitten, died. Moses prayed for the smitten people, and God had mercy and told Moses what to do that they might be spared from death (Numbers:21:4 9).

    Another time the Children of Israel murmured because God had destroyed some wicked men for their sins. God wanted to destroy the whole camp of Israel for that sin, but again Moses and Aaron prayed earnestly that God would forgive them. Moses told Aaron to take fire in a censer and go quickly unto the congregation and make atonement for the people because judgment was already falling upon the Israelites in the form of a plague. Aaron ran hurriedly as Moses commanded him but already 14,700 had died. The entire congregation would have died if the priest had not "stood between the dead and the living" (Numbers:16:41 50).

    How grateful we should be for true ministers who are willing to give up their own ways and their personal desires to take care of God's children! "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (I Thessalonians:5:12, 13).

    Those Levites who were in a lower position than the priests also had duties, the neglect of which would let people die. God warned that no strangers must come near the Tabernacle, because they were unclean and He was holy. If any came near they would die. So the Levites camped around the Tabernacle to protect the stranger from death.

    The Tithe of the Israelites
    God wanted the Israelites to appreciate the service of the priests and other Levites; and to show their appreciation they were to bring a tithe of all their crops and of all their flocks and herds to the Levites. Many of these offerings were used as sacrifices; and after they were presented to the Lord, what remained was to be eaten. One tenth of all the increase of the Israelites, the firstfruits and the first born that which was best was to be the inheritance of the Levites.
    From the tithe, which the Levites received they were to select the best for the tithe for the priests. Thus all the Levites and the priests were well taken care of by the portion, which God had provided for them.

    Never were the Levites to be forgotten. God appointed certain feasts and always reminded the Israelites not to forget the Levites and the poor, that they might eat with them and rejoice. "Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth" (Deuteronomy:12:19).

    However, in later years the Israelites did forget the Levites, and drought came upon their land. Because they failed to pay the tithes, which belonged to God, great trouble came upon them. God has promised: "Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine" (Proverbs:3:9, 10). When we obey God's Word, we are sure of His blessing.

    God told the prophet Malachi to tell the people why their nation was cursed and they were hungry and sick. "Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation." How had they robbed Him? "In tithes and offerings." But they did not need to stay in their pitiful state. God showed them how they could again enjoy great prosperity: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi:3:8 10). God made that promise to the Israelites, but we can claim it too, because by faith we are the children of Abraham.

    God's Plan for His Church
    When we look through the Scriptures we see that tithing is God's plan for financing His Church. Some people believe that the law of giving a tenth was only for the Israelites, but we read that more than 600 years before the giving of the Law, Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedec, the priest of the most high God ([Hebrews:7:1-6]).
    Jacob, the father of the Israelites, promised God at Bethel, at the time he dreamed he saw the ladder reaching to Heaven, that he would pay tithes unto the Lord. "And of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee" (Genesis:28:22).

    The plan of tithing was later emphasized to Moses: "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD" (Leviticus:27:30). We notice that the tithe "is the LORD'S.'' It is not yours or mine, but belongs to God. If we do not give Him what belongs to Him, He will not bless our lives. In fact, God called it robbing to withhold tithes from Him. "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings" (Malachi:3:8).

    The Jews were paying tithes when Jesus was on earth, and He told them to continue doing so. But He wanted more from them. They were not serving God because there was any love in their hearts for Him; and Jesus called them hypocrites. "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).
    Tithing, or giving the tenth of what we earn, is fair and just, because those who have more can give more; and those who have only a little, give what they can. "Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee" (Deuteronomy:16:17). The poor woman who cast in two mites was blessed more by Jesus than the rich men who would probably never miss the larger amount they had given ([Mark:12:42-44]).

    With a Willing Mind
    God wants us to give, not because we have to, but out of the abundance of the heart, because we love Him. "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" (II Corinthians:8:12). When we appreciate the love of God to us we will want to give all we can to help others find it, too tithes of love and willing service, tithes of silver and of gold. We will want to spread the news of salvation into all the world by special revival campaigns, by the printed literature, by advertising, by personal visits to the sick and shut ins, the unfortunates who have no other way of hearing the Story. We will want to help the missionaries in foreign lands. In paying our tithes we can help all these activities; and then when we consecrate our lives and pray earnestly that God will bless the seed that is sown, we will win precious souls for Christ's Kingdom.

    Questions: 

    1. What were the duties of the Levites?
    2. What was to be their inheritance?
    3. What more than food did the Levites receive?
    4. How did the Israelites in later years rob God?
    5. What is a tithe?
    6. Who paid tithes before the time of the Israelites? Name two men.
    7. Did Jesus say people should pay tithes?