Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Numbers, let's turn---let's turn to that book, chapter 17 of the book of Numbers. Just before the study I was looking at the opening page and opening chapter of the book of Numbers just to see what my study notes, the Scofield Reference Study Bible, says about the dating of the book. And the book is slated at a date of 1,450 years before Christ. So we're dealing with something that happened 3,500 years ago. When we discuss events 20 years ago, they're already outdated. So why on earth would we study about events that happened 3,500 hundreds years before our time? What on earth could that possibly have to do with us or for us?
Well, there are a few answers to that question: number one, so that we could have a working knowledge of the biblical periods, so that the Bible, the rest of the Bible will make sense to us. Because in other portions of the Scripture, yes, even in the New Testament, they will make reference to events that happened in this period of time in the book of Numbers, so we want to get a working knowledge of those periods of biblical history so that we can make sense of the rest of Scripture. Number two, it helps us understand worship that worship isn't something we can just decide we want to do, when we want to do it, however we feel in our hearts that we want to do it.
But it must be prescribed by God if it's going to be pleasing to God. So in this book we see how worship was prescribed by God through the priesthood, to the people, for the Lord. Jesus spoke about those "worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth." And the "truth" part is given to us in these sections of the Old Testament, so we get a working knowledge of that period of history. It helps us understand worship. The third thing it does, it gives us an understanding of the priesthood. And why is that important? Because our Savior Jesus is called our Great High Priest.
And the priesthood was something that God ordained and God gave to a family, the family of Aaron, Aaron and his sons throughout their generations. Hebrews 5 says, "No man takes this honor unto himself," God gives it to him, and God calls a person as God called Aaron. That's Hebrews, chapter 5. So we want to understand how the priesthood works because we have a High Priest, but not after the order of Aaron. The writer of Hebrews says after a higher order, a better order, an order of priests that predated Aaron, predated the Mosaic Law, "the order of Melchizedek."
We need to know how the priesthood works so that we get a working understanding of how our Priest, our High Priest, Jesus, represents us to the Father. Which brings me to the fourth and final reason we study a Book that's 3,500 years old and events that happened so long ago: so that we can appreciate grace. We're reading about the law, and whenever you read about the law it should make you walk away going, "Oh, how I love God's grace." "The law came by Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ," John makes that distinction.
Because, you see, we don't have to go through the tightly regulated, strict modes and methods of worship without having direct access to God. We can come right before the throne room boldly at any time because our Great High Priest made a way for us. So we're under a different covenant, the covenant of grace. And so here we are once again on our midweek study going through events that happened that long ago, but God is God, and people are people, and we find that these principles transcend time and geography and speak to us right where we're at.
Now, if you remember back in our previous study of this chapter, this area of chapter 16, that Moses was being criticized. He got that a lot. He never liked it. He never really got used to it. He asked that God would have sent somebody else, but he didn't. He complained that people were complaining against him. And it wasn't just once, so far we have seen three times Moses has been criticized. Once by his family, Miriam and Aaron complained like, "Who do you think you are?" Miriam became full of leprosy. Moses prayed for her. God healed that situation, brought health and healing back to Miriam.
So that solved the problem. The family never criticized Moses again. But in chapter 16, the second and third criticisms were leveled against Moses. A guy by the name of Korah; another one by the name of Daythan; a third, Abiram; a fourth, On, O-N, who was way off, [laughter] those four guys plus 250 other tribal leaders criticized Moses. By the end of the chapter, because God dealt with those four and those 250, the entire congregation leveled their complaint against Moses. So it was very difficult because God had to show himself as affirming the priesthood of Aaron and the leadership of Moses by a very, very strict and bombastic kind of a manner.
He incinerated 250 of the leaders. The earth swallowed up the four that complained, the ringleaders. And 15,000 people, almost, by the end of the chapter, fell dead because of a plague. It was very, very dramatic. So for now the complaining has stopped and the instruction goes on. D. L. Moody is somebody that you have heard me speak about. He was a pastor in Chicago in the 1800s, very powerful evangelistic leader. He was the one, some believed, that was the sort of the first forerunner of the altar call. He would call men and women forward to Christ in a service.
Well, D. L. Moody was very powerful and very passionate, but he didn't have the best command of the human language. He made lots of grammatical errors when he spoke. In his congregation was an English teacher who approached D. L. Moody after one of the services and said, "Mr. Moody, I am an English teacher, and I have to say that I'm quite appalled at all of the grammatical errors that I find in your preaching. And, you know, I would think that if someone was preaching to so large a crowd as you that they would learn a better command of the English language and not make so many grammatical errors."
And Moody knew it was true, but didn't really care that much. So he simply said, "Dear lady, I am doing the best that I can with what I have for the Lord. Let me ask you a question, dear woman: are you doing the best for the Lord with what you have?" Because she had a command of the English language and the most she could do was complain against D. L. Moody who didn't. So it was a fair question. "Are you, with all of your grammatical knowledge, are you doing the best for the Lord with what you have?" Criticism is the lot of anybody who steps into public ministry.
Jesus Christ was criticized by religious leaders. They said, "He has a demon." Can you imagine saying that about Jesus Christ? "Yup, Jesus, that Jesus guy, he's demon possessed." His own family at one point---because he was coming and going and not resting like he should. He was just working, working, working, not even taking time to eat. They criticized Jesus, saying, "He's beside himself," or he's gone nuts. Paul the apostle stood in the courtroom at Caesarea before the Roman procurator, the governor, and King Agrippa.
And as he preached of the resurrection those listening to him said, "Paul, your much learning has made you mad!" You are crazy, man. "He said, "I am not mad, most noble Felix, but I give to you words of wisdom and soundness." But it is the lot of those who step into any form of ministry. Some will like it, some won't. You gotta decide who you're pleasing. Are you going to please man or are you going to please God? Paul said, "If I'm going to be a servant of man, I can't be a servant of the Lord." They're mutually exclusive. Why? Because man holds so many diverse opinions, you won't be able to keep up with them all.
I find it's a lot easier to please the Lord; he's much easier to please. So when you can rest with just pleasing the Lord, life is really good. If you listen to the critics, it'll eat you up. But I want to add something to that, because leaders can become or try to become immune from any criticism. You have to allow the Lord to speak to you through the criticism of other people, even if it's not true criticism. If you believe in the sovereignty of God, you have to allow that God in his sovereignty has allowed that critical person, that obnoxious human being to have your ear.
And if you handle criticism correctly, it can become one of God's best shaping tools. Even if what people are is wrong and bogus, it can make you a God-centered, rather than a self-centered person. It's amazing how the Lord can even use it. I read a great book just about criticism some years ago that was just eye-opening about that. It's how it may not be right, it may be wrong, it might get you down, it might make you depressed, but God can use it to knock off the rough edges. Okay, enough said. We need to get into chapter 17.
In chapter 17 following on the heels of those great judgments in chapter 16, God now confirms his choice of Moses, but especially of Aaron the high priest and his family. And he does so by an unusual miracle. Listen carefully---a resurrection. You want to find out who the leaders are in the Old Testament? Look for fruit and look for fruit based upon resurrection. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each of his father's house, all their leaders according to their fathers' houses---twelve rods. Write each man's name on his rod.' "
A rod is a twig, a stick, something that they found out in the desert, a dead stick. They were to take a stick, write their name on it. Now, perhaps, they already had a stick, a twig, a rod at home. Maybe they used it for walking. Maybe, perhaps, since we're dealing with twelve different sticks from representing the tribes and the father's house, that there was sort of a tribal scepter, kind of a crude made, hand-whittled club or stick or stave at home that they had. Maybe some carved it nicely and painted it ornately and put their names on it.
Take those twelve sticks, those dead, dry twigs, "'and you shall write,' " verse 3, " '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. Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. 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 against you.' 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."
So they took the twigs, they took these branches, these sticks, these rods, names were put on them. Among these rods was the rod of Aaron. Just as dead, just as lifeless, just as dormant and dry as all the others. Watch what happened. "Moses placed the rods," verse 7, "before the Lord"---now that's the secret. In God's presence anything is possible. "They placed then before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness. 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 spouted and put forth buds, it had produced blossoms and it yielded ripe almonds."
Can you imagine in one night buds, blossoms, and berries, once a dead stick, now made alive, God showing whom he has chosen by virtue of a resurrection, a miraculous unusual occurrence. No longer a dead twig, now a living branch bearing fruit. It yielded ripe almonds. In the Middle East in the spring of the year the first tree that will send forth blossoms is the almond tree. Because it is the first, it's highly significant to us. Jesus Christ in First Corinthians 15, you remember Paul's writing, says Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of those that awake or rise from the dead, of those that sleep, Jesus is the firstfruits.
So God proves himself through a resurrection even as he proved himself here through a resurrection. Now it is typical, it is significant of Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews, and by the way, Hebrews and Leviticus and Numbers go hand in hand. You really do want to read those books interfacing each other. The writer of the book of Hebrews basically says, "You know, if Jesus would have stayed on earth, he could not have become our Great High Priest. But he died and he rose from the dead," according to First Corinthians 15, "the firstfruits of those who sleep."
"And then he ascended to the right hand of the Father, and he ever lives to make intercession for you and for me." So he's our representative. He's our High Priest. And the writer of Hebrews says, I think in chapter 4, "For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but he was in all points tempted just like we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us come boldly before the throne of grace that we might obtain mercy and grace to help in time of need." Jesus rose from the dead conquering death by resurrection, becoming the firstfruits, proved of God by his resurrection.
And because he's at the right hand of God interceding for you, standing in for you, being your lawyer and my lawyer, if you have a need, be bold. If you're depressed, come boldly. If you're feeling weakened, if there's problems in your life, go boldly before the throne. Don't say, "Lord, here I am. I'm really not worthy to even say anything, so I won't." "Lord, it's me, the sinner. You know I have a need and I'm coming boldly, not because of me, but because of Jesus." And he made the way, and he paid the way, and he rose from the dead, and he's alive at your throne right now, so I'm coming to you not because of my righteousness, but because of his."
And then lay it on the Lord. Tell him what you need. Come boldly before his throne, that you might obtain grace to help in time of need. "Then Moses," verse 9, "brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the children of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod." Now, I just am picturing the looks on their faces as Moses brought these rods out, because all of them came back as they went in, except for one. And to look at that one that wasn't dead but was alive, that had almonds, buds, and blossoms and berries---wow! I bet some of their faces dropped.
Well, let's see what they say and you'll understand. "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.' Thus did Moses; just as the Lord had commanded him, so he did. So the children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, 'Surely we die, we perish, we all perish!' "We're dead meat. "Whoever then comes near the tabernacle of the Lord must die. Shall we all utterly die?' "Now, before I deal with those last two verses, I want you to notice that Moses was instructed by the Lord to keep Aaron's rod that budded.
Now, when we get to the book of Hebrews, as I mentioned just a moment ago, Hebrews, chapter 9, the writer says this. He talks about the tabernacle in chapter 9. He talks about the implements that were in it, the ark of the covenant inside the Holiest of all. Now, this is Hebrews 9 verse 4 I'm reading to you, one verse: "Which had"---the ark of the covenant, "which had the golden censer, the ark of the covenant overlaid all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant."
So inside that box, that ark of the covenant, 4 and a half feet by 2 and three-quarters feet overlaid with gold. Inside that box was kept three things: a copy of the Ten Commandments, tablets of the Law; a pot that had manna in it, right? The Krispy Kreme Doughnuts; [laughter] and Aaron's rod that budded. All three of those things spoke against the children of Israel. The Ten Commandments spoke against them. Moses brought them down from the mountain, as he brought them down they were already breaking God's law. Moses broke the commandments, the physical commandments; they had broken the commandments spiritually, God's dictates, God's laws.
That was to be kept as a testimony: "You have broken God's law." Also inside that box was a pot of manna. What did they do when the manna came down, besides eat it? Complain. "That's all---that's all we have, manna. All we have is Krispy Kreme Doughnuts every day. This is, like, really boring. Where's the coffee? Where's the lattes? Where's the, where's the leeks and the garlic and all the cool stuff. We want burgers and quail and everything else." So they complained against the Lord. That was a testimony of their murmuring. Then there was Aaron's rod that budded.
Again, it testified against them because they were complaining against Moses' and Aaron's leadership. So that was kept there. These three things represented the failures, the faults, the sin, the sorrows of the children of Israel kept in that box. But the good news is that there was something on top of the box that covered it up. A lid, a solid gold lid called the mercy seat that blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, and above the mercy seat the angels, the cherubim. And above that mercy seat God said, "That's the only place I will meet with you." The presence of God was there.
The glory of God, the Shekinah glory of God was above the mercy seat so that the blood of the Lamb covered the failures of the children of Israel. Always those things testified against them, but the blood covered it and God could now meet with them. God didn't meet with them inside the box; God met with them outside the box. You know, that's a saying, people will say, "You gotta think outside the box." Well, God did. And God said, "The only place I can have fellowship with you is outside the box. I'm thinking outside the box, above the mercy seat, that's where I'll hang out, because the blood of the animal is sacrificed."
There has been over the years lots of talk, consideration, guessing, conjecture as to where the ark of the covenant is, a lot of stories and tales where it might be. Some say it was taken to Egypt, others say it's in Ethiopia, others say it was taken to Babylon, some say it's still in Jerusalem underneath the Temple Mount. The truth is nobody knows, except those experts who say they know where it is, but they never really show where it is, they just know it. But anyway, I suppose if one could find the ark of the covenant, it would be the greatest archaeological, most exciting find ever.
I mean, talk about an Indiana Jones movie. I mean, if it was really found, it would make more headlines than a movie could make. As exciting as that would be, I am so thankful to God nobody has found the ark of the covenant. You know why? Because I've been over to Israel, and I've taken many of you with me over to Israel, and any remnant of anything that seems to be authentic from any ancient time period they build some weird church over it, or they fight each other over it, or they kill each other over it, or they worship it. They worship the thing instead of God.
I suppose if we had an ark of the covenant, it would become a tourist attraction. And outside the place where the ark of the covenant was you could buy little arks of the covenants for 150 bucks made out of genuine plastic, [laughter] or little pieces of broken tablets. Or they would have the perpetuity of Aaron's rod: "This is Aaron's rod. It just keeps growing every year. And you have a piece of the authentic rod of Aaron," just like they did with the cross. It is so the nature of man to want to worship some icon or some relic or some vestige of the past that I just assume as nobody ever find the ark of the covenant.
Because, it is symbolic of our failure and God's forgiveness through the blood where he met with God's people on the mercy seat. So we finish out the chapter with those two verses. Moses did what God told him to do. "And the children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, 'Surely we die, we perish, we all perish!' "They're just really bummed out. They just think they are all goners. They will be eventually, but they think it's happening today. "'Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord must die. Shall we all utterly die?' "
Now, keep in mind what they have just seen. They have watched the earth open up and swallow those four men and their families. They watched as the fire from God fell and incinerated 250 leaders. They watched the plague of God spread through the camp and 15,000 people kick over dead. They're paranoid. They're scared to death. And so they cry out in their paranoia, in their fear, and they think they're all going to die, which I find interesting, and I find healthy in one sense. Hear me out. Before chapter 16, just one chapter ago, they were unafraid to walk right up to Moses' face.
They were unafraid to get in his face, and they were unafraid to level complaints at Moses, God's anointed, Aaron, God's anointed, his priests and the priesthood that God set up. They were not afraid at all. They should have been. They should have had a fear of the Lord and a respect of the high priest and Moses. Unafraid. Now the fear is coming back. Fear can be good. Now, fear can be bad if there are irrational fears. But, as parents, you know, when you teach your children when they grow up, you tell them that there's certain things they should be afraid of, certain things that shouldn't be afraid of.
You shouldn't be afraid of the dark. That's unrealistic and an irrational fear. You teach your children not to be afraid of the dark: "You don't have to be afraid that there's monsters in the closet or under the bed. Come on, let's go look and just make sure the monsters are gone. Really, they don't exist so they're not here. They're not in your closet. You don't have anything to worry about." You don't have to worry about going to the doctor: "The doctor loves you. The doctor is going to take care of you. You have nothing to fear." It's an irrational fear.
Getting a haircut: "You don't have to worry about going to the barber. And he's just gonna cut some hair, not going to cut your head off." And so you teach them that there are certain fears they don't need to have. But, on the other hand, there are certain fears they should have: "Don't touch the stove, it's hot. You should be afraid of that stove when mommy's cooking on it." You should be afraid to climb on top of the house and play on the roof, or climb in a tree that's higher than the house, if you can find any around here that do that. I'm not sure you could. [laughter]
You should be afraid of strangers giving you things. So as children of God there needs to be a healthy balance of rational and irrational fear, and one of the problems among us as believers is we can lose what the Bible calls "the fear of the Lord," that healthy, genuine, reverential awe and respect. Even the New Testament says it's a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God. "Our God is a consuming fire," Hebrews, chapter 12 tells us, talks about godly fear. So a little bit of that fear returning to them isn't all bad. Now, it's going to be balanced out in the very next chapter.
What they lost is now going to be explained. So in verse 1 of chapter 18, God confirms, once again, the tribe of Levi. "Then the Lord said to Aaron"---now, it's interesting up to this point God has spoken to Moses. Now, God is speaking directly to Aaron. So this is the break from the norm. There's only a couple places in the Old Testament where God speaks to Aaron; this is one of them. "'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.' "
The Lord is going to talk about Aaron, his sons, and the tribe of Levi. Basically God is saying, "The Levites, the tribe of Levi, those are my guys. Those are the guys I want. I like their genes. I want them serving in the tabernacle." I don't mean their blue jeans, I mean their G-E-N-E-S that genetically you had to be a Levite of that tribe to serve, right? So God could say, "I like your genes." [laughter] Tribe of Levi. Sorry. [laughter] No, I am really not sorry. [laughter] Because you know what? It's inevitable. You know it by now. There's great forgiveness with you. [laughter]
So notice, "'you will bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood.' "So, "You guys, Aaron, you and your boys, the buck stops with you. You are responsible to maintain the sanctity in this place. If people try to rush in, any outsider, any interloper, any poser, not only will I hold them responsible, but you as well. This is your gig. This is your place. You are responsible to maintain sanctity. I'm going to require it of you and your sons."
"'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. It was the job then of the tribe of Levi and of the priests specifically to prevent fools from rushing in where angels feared to tread. You've heard that saying before? Alexander Pope the poet said that in a work he did on criticism. So, sometimes people are foolish, and they want to rush in where angels fear to tread. It was the job of these gatekeepers to not let that happen, sort of like the Secret Service.
You know, it's interesting that a Secret Service person will be trained to follow the President of the United States, whether he agrees with the president's policy or not, they are trained to guard and protect POTUS, the President of the United States, and even take a bullet for that president, "guard with my life." So they had to guard with their life the tabernacle and the holiness and the sanctity. If they don't do it, it won't be done. They shall attend the tribe of Levi.
"'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,' " notice this, " 'they and you also.' "Now let me just bring a thought up; can I? Have you heard this before? "All roads lead to God. Well, it doesn't matter what you believe. You believe that, good. Well, I happen to sort of think this way, and I believe all roads lead to God. Sort of like a mountain. On the top of the mountain is God, and you might go up on this side, I go up on this side. We all get up the mountain. All roads lead to God."
I always answer that question by saying, "You know what? I absolutely agree with you---all roads lead to God. But not all roads lead to God safely. Yes, we will all die and stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and have to give an account to God for our lives, every human being will. So, yup, all roads lead to God. You can be an atheist; you'll see God one day. The God you don't believe exists, you'll see him, and he will render you your judgment. You can be an atheist---all roads lead to God. You can be a Buddhist---all roads lead to God. You can be a Christian---all roads lead to God.
But not all roads lead to God safely. There's only one road, and here it is illustrated, that leads to God safely; and that is, you can approach God only through a sacrifice performed by a mediator. In this case a priest would take an animal, slaughter its blood, sprinkle it, the high priest sprinkling the mercy seat on that ark, symbolic, as we already talked about, Jesus Christ our Great High Priest dying in our place for our sins. "There's one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus." That's the only road that leads you to God safely.
Let me tell you something else that's important here. Here's a principle, it's an Old Testament example of a New Testament principle: just as the priest, just as Aaron and his boys were to keep the sanctity of the tabernacle from deteriorating into idolatry, and letting anybody come in and do whatever they wanted to as they felt led by the their own little heart's desire, so too in the New Testament. Did you know that church leaders are called upon, elders are called on upon, pastors are called upon, ministers are called upon to preserve the sanctity in the church of true and authentic worship by preaching and by church discipline?
In the book of Corinthians, First Corinthians, chapter 5---I put a little marker here just to read something that Paul wrote. He writes to that church saying, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles---that a man has his father's wife!" There was an incestuous relationship going on in the church of Corinth, a sexual immorality going on between a couple of church members, somebody with his father's wife, some unknown, unnamed person having a relationship with his father's wife.
Now, listen to what he writes: "And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you." He's castigating them because they felt so proud, puffed up, prideful, because they were so magnanimous. "Oh, yes, you know, we're in Corinth, and not everybody's perfect. And, you know, everybody has a sex drive. And, you know, you know, if you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with." So this is happening in Corinth and they just sort of winked an eye at it.
And just, you know, "We want to be excepting of all people. We don't want to point a finger and be judging. We want to be tolerant." He continues, "For indeed, I [Paul], as absent in body but present in spirit have already judged (as though I were present) him who has done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together," that is, as an assembly, "along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver one," that one, that person who's sleeping with his father's wife, "deliver that one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
"Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven, leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump." Wow, heavy duty. What are they to do? Excommunicate that person from their fellowship, "deliver him to Satan," the realm of Satan, the realm of the world, not the fellowship of the saints, not to fellowship with him. In one other place, not even to have dinner with him, not even to eat with him, but to send a strong statement: "You are living in unrepentant, immoral sin. You are having sex in an illicit way. We as the body of Christ will not fellowship with you or talk to you at all."
Wow, that's harsh. You bet. And here's the reason why: if, let's say, we did that, let's say one member of our fellowship was living in unrepentant, immoral, sexual sin and we approached that person (Matthew 18), one person said, "It's wrong," and the response was, "Well, don't judge me. You have no right to speak into my life." Okay, that's rejected. Now you bring another person with you Jesus said (Matthew 18). And two of you approach that one and say, "Hey, both of us want to say what you're doing, is just---it's so wrong." "Who are you to judge me? Who do you think you are?" and keeps doing it.
Then you tell the church. And if it's a large assembly, you tell those who are the leadership body of the church to deal with that one and treat him according to Jesus, according to Jesus as "a sinner and a tax collector," not as a believer. He may be a believer, you treat him as an unbeliever. And Paul says don't even let him come in your midst, deliver him to the realm of Satan, the world. Why is that? Why would he do that? Is it harsh? You bet. For this reason: that state of isolation by enough bold and, I would say, loving believers---because it's not loving to just be tolerant of everybody.
The only reason most people are tolerant is they don't want those other people not liking them. So, to get you to like me, I'll just like whatever you do and nod at whatever you do. But if I really love you, then I'll call you into account. And if enough people would do that, that person would feel so alone, so isolated, he'd come to his senses. On more than one occasion we have done that. And after a period of time I've had people come back in tears and in real repentance saying, "I was wrong. I seek the fellowship of God's people once again. I want to be restored to fellowship."
And the whole purpose is to get them back into the body as the real body of Christ, healthy member of the body of Christ. And so it is the job, according to Paul, of church leadership, just like the priests in the old tabernacle. God is saying, "The buck stops with you. I'm holding you into account." And I believe that if a church refuses to loving judge, Paul's words, those of its own members, that God will judge that church. So they did. You can hear a pin drop right now. [laughter] God continues in these first few verses saying the tribe of Levi is going to help you out.
Verse 4, " 'They shall be joined with you, attend to the needs of the tabernacle of meeting, for all the work of the tabernacle; but an outsider shall not come near you. And you shall attend to the duties of the sanctuary and the duties of the altar, that there may no more be wrath upon the children of Israel.' ""The reason is I'm having you do this is so that the rest of the people of Israel won't die. You're complaining that you're going to die, if you obey my instructions, you won't die.
"If you as the priests maintain the sanctity of this place and don't allow others to do what they have done in the last couple of chapters, I'll respond to that. I will forgive. I will bless. And so that that wrath doesn't happen, I enact this as a command." " 'Behold,' " verse 6, " 'I myself have taken your brethren the Levites---I myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you [Aaron] given by the Lord, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting.' "
Being a priest, being in the ministry is a demanding job. And so to help you in those demands, I'm giving you as a gift a staff. I wish more leaders saw their staffs as a gift from God, their boards as a gift from God, the committees that they run or oversight over areas as a gift from God to help bear the load, so you don't have to go it alone. I love you and I'm giving you a gift, accountability, other leaders with you, other people to help you. "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 [watch this] your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death."
"I'm giving them to you as a gift. I'm giving the position of being a priest as a gift." Now, beginning in verse 8 down to verse 20 the Lord tells Aaron and his sons what their remuneration will be. "It's a demanding job, but I'm giving you the position as a gift, and I'm giving people to you as a gift. But I'm going to give you something else as a gift. You're going to be remunerated monetarily for what you do. You're going to get the gifts of the children of Israel to support you, to sponsor you out here in the wilderness."
Now this is important because there was only one tribe that didn't get any land allotment, and that tribe was the tribe of Levi. The Levites got no land allotment, no land appointment, no place for them to put down agricultural roots, literally roots and grow things, so they received the gifts, the tithes from the rest of children of Israel. "The Lord spoke to Aaron: 'Here, I myself have also given you charge of my heave offerings, all the holy gifts of the children of Israel; I have given them as a portion to you and your sons, as an ordinance forever.'"
" 'This shall be yours of the most holy things reserved from the fire: every offering of theirs, every grain offering and every sin offering, every trespass offering which they render to me, shall be most holy for you and your sons. In a most holy place you shall eat it; every male shall eat it. It shall be holy to you. This also is yours: the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel; I have given to them and your sons and daughters with you, as an ordinance forever. Everyone who is clean in your houses [male or female] may eat it.'"
"'All the best of the oil, all the best of the new wine and of the grain, their firstfruits which they offer to the Lord, I have given them to you. 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. Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours.' " So that's how they were kept, how they were cared for, how they were remunerated for their service of the spiritual activities of the tabernacle, the maintaining of the place, the sacrifices, etcetera.
Very few things are accomplished without the generosity of God's people. In the Old Testament a tenth, a tithe, 10 percent of what the children of Israel owned was brought unto the Lord. It wasn't in those days a matter of---"You know, I'm not really doing really great over here in the tribe of Issachar. So, you know, we're going to give 6 percent this month." They had to give 10 percent of whatever it was. If some produced more, they would give 10 percent of that. And it might be more than the 10 percent of a smaller tribe or somebody who wasn't as fruitful. But everybody gave 10 percent.
And I believe personally how one handles money is a barometer, not the only barometer, but certainly a barometer of their spiritual maturity. Martin Luther used to say there are three conversions that are necessary for somebody to undergo: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the wallet. And he said, "I have found that the first two are much simpler than the third." In some cases people can convert their thinking, and "O God . . ." and "God . . ." and "God . . ." But when it comes to the hard issue of actually supporting the work of the Lord, the programs of the Lord---in that day, the tabernacle; in this day and age, the church---not so much.
And it's unfortunate, because according to the New Testament there's a law of sowing and reaping. If you plant little, Paul said, you get little; if you plant much, you'll see much in return. One preacher said, "Money is like manure: store it up and it stinks; spread it around, it helps things grow." Now, in that day and age they had to do it; in our day and age we're under grace, not law. So under law it's different than under grace. Under law they had to do it; under grace, do what the Lord puts on your heart. Second Corinthians 9, "Let everyone give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly, not of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver," literally "a hilarious giver."
When you give a tithe, you are saying, "I trust you, Lord. You gave it to me to begin with. And you know what? You're letting me keep 90 percent. I'm so honored. I'm giving you 10 percent and I'm releasing it to you. That's why you need to do it cheerfully. If you do it grudgingly like, "I don't want to write a tithe check. I wanted that cool new whatever I want to buy that month that I saw over there that I don't have, or that outfit, or those pair of shoes, or whatever." Then you might as well keep it and just be Ebenezer Scrooge, because God loves---he loves a hilarious giver. How about giving that way? Ha, ha, ha! Woo-hoo! Wee! [laughter]
"As he purposes in his heart." "'Everything,' "verse 15---we better mosey along." 'Everything that first opens the womb of all the flesh, which they bring to the Lord, whether it is man or beast, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of the unclean animals you shall redeem.' "We've gone through all that redemption money, the shekel of the sanctuary." '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,' " in case you were wondering.
"'But the firstborn of a cow, the firstborn of a sheep, the firstborn of a goat you shall not redeem.' "So you can say "holy cow!" Because [laughter] you just---unredeemable. "'You shall not redeem' "---actually they are holy, it says right afterwards, so you can say "holy cow." "'You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and burn their fat on the offering made by fire, for a sweet aroma to the Lord. And their flesh shall be yours, just as the wave breast and the right thigh are yours.
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.' "The "covenant of salt" means it's an indestructible, pure, and permanent agreement. You can't destroy salt. You can't burn salt. You can't destroy it. It's permanent. It speaks of purity and permanence. In the ancient days a covenant of salt, a pinch of salt at a meal was exchanged between partners in that part of the world. So the idea is it's a permanent agreement, it's a pure agreement.
"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. Behold, I have given the children of" Israel---or "the children of Levi all the tithes as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, and the work of tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear their sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance.' "
Now notice that wording carefully. Notice that it says "they shall bear their iniquity," it's going to be "a statute forever," "among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance." If you remember your Bibles, back in Genesis 34, the men of Shechem did a vile thing in coming in and taking advantage of some women. So two tribes, the tribe of Levi and the tribe of Simeon, decided we need to pay them back. And the way they paid them back was by killing them all in Shechem. "How do we return to you doing that vile thing? You raped somebody---we'll kill all of you."
Because of that it became a stench, it became horrible in the nostrils of the Lord. And he pronounced judgment on the tribe of Levi and the tribe of Simeon. When did that happen? Well, when Jacob---I'll just turn to it and read it to you---is on his deathbed in Genesis 49, and all of his sons---now he's 147 years old. And what's amazing to me is that he can remember all of his sons' names [laughter] at 147, in their birth order. Listen, I'm the fourth of four boys. My dad in his sixties didn't remember our names. He would say to me, "Um, Jim---oh, I mean, Rick---oh, I mean, Bob---oh, Skip."
He'd have to go through all of them to finally, "Oh, yeah, you're, you're that one." [laughter] But this 147-year-old coot, or maybe he's 137, he's old. He remembers their names according to their birth order, anyway. He comes to verse 5 to Simeon and Levi. Notice, "Simeon and Levi are brothers," they're two peas in a pod, really, "instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their counsel; let not my honor be united to their assembly; for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel."
A judgment is pronounced upon the tribe of Levi and the tribe of Simeon, and yet the tribe of Levi gets the priesthood as a gift. What happened? What happened to get that priesthood and that favor back? Well, that's gonna have to wait for next week because we're already a minute over time. So we're gonna close it off here, finish off the chapter, and do the next chapter next time. Father, we thank you for the Spirit of the living God that makes these things that happened so long ago so relevant to us. Lord, even as there was a required system of a priest with an animal, shedding of blood, as gross as that sounds to us, on the other hand, it's so gracious that you would just by the shedding of blood forgive people who did wrong in sin.
And that you would eliminate any roadblocks, so that there would be a fellowship restored. And you would dwell among your people letting someone else take the hit, take the rap, take the punishment, an innocent animal. And so too, Lord, with an even greater---a greater covenant of grace you let Jesus take the hit, take the rap, take the pain for us in our place, so that we might have fellowship with you. And I pray, Lord, I pray we would enjoy that fellowship and that we would come boldly before your throne so thankful for the work of Jesus on our behalf. It's in his name we pray, amen.