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Sabbath School Lessons on Numbers
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 8: Priests and Levites *
Introduction: After the last few weeks, what are your views about
rebellion towards God? How about towards His leaders? I'm going to
assume the answer is: "I don't want to be a rebel!" Can rebellion
exist in something that is not obvious? For example, what if we
refuse to support God's leaders financially? What if we are critical
of their lifestyles? What if someone gives us correction and we
resent them for it? What responsibility do leaders assume for the
rebellious nature of the "flock?" With these questions in mind,
let's dive into our study of Numbers!
- Take Responsibility
- Read Numbers 18:1. Review in your mind last week's
lesson: the one about the earth opening up and swallowing
the rebels, the one about fire coming down from heaven
and burning those holding the censers. Then re-read our
last verse from last week: Numbers 17:12-13. Now that
you are in the right frame of mind, consider Numbers
18:1. What would you say if you were Aaron? (Either a
trembling "Yes, God!" Or "Shoot me right now.")
- What do you think God means? After all, He just
intervened to save and vindicate Moses and Aaron
when "the family" was rebelling.
- Do you think that Aaron might have been partially
responsible for the rebellion we studied last week?
- Or, is something else going on? (The current U.S.
President refers to "teachable moments." I think we
have a teachable moment right here. God is holy, and
He holds his agents to very high standards when it
comes to the sanctuary. That is part of the
explanation for the dramatic treatment of Korah, who
was, after all, a Kohathite - part of the group
being addressed here. With great authority comes
- Read Numbers 18:2-4. Why would both the supervisor and
the supervised die for an infraction?
- About two months ago I preached a sermon that was
professionally videotaped. This is rare in my local
church. Just as I started the sermon, a little kid came
flying up the steps of the platform. I immediately
thought, "What should I do?" I turned and started
walking the other way so the camera would follow me and
not tape the sideshow. This so distracted me from what I
was saying that I said the wrong word - which I then had
to correct. That put me off to a bad start. Did I have
an obligation to talk to the people about their
obligations in the recording? I had not said a word
about it. (This was partially my fault.)
- Reap the Benefits
- Read Numbers 18:8-9. Read Numbers 18:11-12. Recall that
only perfect animals ( Leviticus 22:19) were to be
offered. Aaron and the Levites had very important
responsibilities, but they also had fine rewards. Should
this apply to God's representatives today?
- An article in the most recent issue of Christianity
Today talks about the controversy among some
churches about the wealth of the leaders. Does this
text speak to our spiritual leaders having the
- I don't make a dime from writing this lesson
and never have. All of the translators are
volunteers. Is this wrong? (If this were the
only thing I was doing, it probably would be
wrong. But, I get paid for my law-related work
and do not need to be paid for this work.)
- Read Numbers 18:20. If you were a member of another
tribe, you could make as much money was you wanted. Is
this true of the Levites? (God prohibited their
possession of land and regulated the amount of their
- What application should this have for the support of
- Read Numbers 18:21. What two sources of income have we
discovered? (The priests took as income all of the
sacrifices and offerings that were not burned. The
Levites took as income the tithes paid by the people.)
- Read Numbers 18:25-32. I once heard a minister say to me
"the Levites were never told to pay tithe." He failed to
read his Bible carefully. Why should the Levites pay
tithe? They received the tithe because of their work on
God's behalf. What work does their tithe support? (This
teaches us that tithing is not just a matter of
supporting God's workers, it is about thanking God for
- Read 2 Corinthians 9:7. Compare it with Numbers
18:32. Can we say you "cheerfully" avoid dying?
- Can these two verses fit in the same room? (One
distinction that I see is that the Levites were
paid from what was given to God for His work.
For them to misuse it or misappropriate it was
a very serious matter.)
- What do you think about God's system for supporting the
priests and Levites? Is it fair? How much would you pay
for the forgiveness of sin? For the provision of food?
For the guidance of God? (It seems 10% plus the various
offerings is a real bargain. The value seems "priceless"
- Does any nation follow such a program when it comes
to taxes? (The United States does not. In God's
system of support, those who produced more, paid
more, but they paid the same percentage regardless
of income. In the United States those who earn more
pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes.
Those at the low end pay nothing in taxes. Those who
pay nothing have no incentive to reduce taxes and
those who pay the most have less incentive to earn
more. God's system is more logical.)
- The Red Heifer
- If you review Numbers 19 you will see that it contains a
great deal of discussion about dead bodies and being
unclean as a result of touching a dead body. Why do you
think this instruction comes here? (Read Numbers 16:49.
They had a lot of dead bodies to deal with.)
- Read Numbers 19:1-5. They had the sacrificial system.
They had an altar. They had the method for forgiveness of
sin. Why should God require something that seems so
similar yet different?
- Was there something wrong with the current system?
(Think about what we have been studying. A large
number of the Levites were in revolt. Many people
had died because of God's judgment. The system was
not working "smoothly" as of late. As a result, God
did something a little different.)
- Why do you think the heifer had to be "red," without
defect, never been used as a work animal, and
sacrificed outside the camp? (All of these things
might represent Jesus. He shed His blood for us. He
lived a perfect life. He voluntarily gave His life.
He was killed outside the gates of Jerusalem.)
- How does the idea of a similar, yet different
sacrifice fit into our comparison with Jesus?
(The sacrificial system set the example of how
sin is taken care of, but Jesus is much more
than the sacrificial system. When things were
not going right with the sacrificial system,
when death was all around, God gives an
instruction that shows that He has a plan to
deal with all of these problems.)
- Read Numbers 19:9. The ashes of the red heifer are used
for "the water of cleansing." Can you relate that to
Jesus? (Read John 4:11-14. Jesus gives us "living water."
He gives us eternal life.)
- Read Hebrews 9:13-14. Where have you heard of sin being
taken away by ashes being "sprinkled?" (The "heifer"
referred to here is most likely the red heifer. The
"blood of goats and bulls" refers to the sanctuary
system. But, the heifer and the sprinkling seem to be a
reference to Numbers 19 and specifically Numbers 19:17-21.)
- How is the red heifer linked to Jesus? (Jesus
fulfills the prophecy of the red heifer.)
- Because the ashes of the red heifer were used to purify,
some believe that a "red heifer" will be born in
Jerusalem in modern times, that its ashes will be used to
purify the historic place of the temple, and that a new
temple in Jerusalem will be built by the Jews. What do
you say about the Biblical basis for this claim? (Hebrews
9 tells us that Jesus gives us the better and eternal
sacrifice. Why would we want to go back to a sanctuary
system on earth?)
- Friend, it seems that we have covered several different
topics this week. The thread between all of them is
taking God's law seriously. We must respect God's will
and His law. We cannot take God's law seriously if we do
not study His word. Studying His word gives us access
today to "living water" and gives us insight into the
difficulty with "red heifer" theories. Today, will you
commit to studying God's word?
- Next week: The Sin of Moses and Aaron.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.