|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #368, 369 and 370|
13 December, 1998
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began some years ago with the call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees has followed the Scriptural account of the lives of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their progeny as they entered Egypt and later emerged through the great signs and wonders of The Exodus. At Sinai, they had received and agreed to a national offer of marriage to Yahweh, the God of Israel, had received God's Laws, and had built the portable focus of national worship, the Tabernacle.
Israel had subsequently approached The Promised Land, and then, in fear at hearing the report of the spies, turned back. A rebellion led by Korah, Dathan and Abiram had followed against the leaders, Moses and Aaron, at the prospect of a wilderness existence for the years of their generation. All the rebel leadership, and a number of the people, had perished by the LORD's hand, and Aaron and his sons had been confirmed as the LORD's choice in the office of High Priest.
Before we approach today's study, there is a term used back in Numbers 18:1, which I think Keil and Delitzsch clarify rather well. When, in that verse, Aaron and his sons are told that they "shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary", and "the iniquity of your priesthood" the explanation offered by Keil and Delitzsch is, briefly, that this involves "expiation for all that offended against the laws of the priests and the holy things...", and also the defilement of (the sanctuary) by (the sins of) those who draw near to it... . The priests were to take upon themselves and expunge (these sins) by virtue of the holiness and sanctifying power communicated to their office... . It was to wipe out these sins and defilements, that the annual expiation of the holy things on the day of atonement had been appointed. The Levites were given to Aaron and his sons to assist them, but only Aaron and his sons were to approach within the holy and most holy areas to serve therein lest others approach and find death for such transgression.
In the last study, we had finished up by reading Numbers 18:25 to the end of the chapter. I shall repeat this passage for those who might have missed the last study.
25. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
26. Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.
27. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress.
28. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest.
29. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it.
30. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress.
31. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.
32. And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.
Regarding the subject of tithes, The New Bible Dictionary, item "Tithes" tells us that "The custom of tithing did not originate with the Mosaic Law (Gen. xiv. 17-20), nor was it peculiar to the Hebrews. It was practiced among other ancient peoples. There are three main questions to consider. 1. What were the Hebrews required to tithe? The Torah legislated that 'the seed of the land' (crops), 'the fruit of the tree', and 'the herd, or... the flock' (Lev. xxvii. 30-32) were to be tithed. The manner of tithing live-stock was as follows: the owner counted the animals as they passed out to pasture, and every tenth one was given to God. In this way there was no possibility of selecting inferior animals for the tithing of the flocks and herds (Lv. xxvii. 32f.). If a Hebrew preferred to dedicate the tenth of his cereal and fruit yields in the form of their monetary value he was free to do so, but a fifth of that sum had to be added to it. He was not allowed to redeem the tenth of his flocks and herds in this way (Lv. xxvii. 31, 33). 2. To whom were the tithes paid? They were to be given to the Levites (Nu. xviii. 21ff.). But in Heb. vii. 5 it is said to be the sons of Levi 'who receive the office of the priesthood' who are to be the recipients of the tithes. This departure from the Law may have been due to the Levites' unwillingness to fulfil their duties in Jerusalem after the return under Ezra (Ezr. viii. 15ff.). The Levites, because of the nature of their status and functions in the community, had no means of support; therefore, and in return 'for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle', they were to receive 'all the tenth in Israel' (Nu. xviii. 21, 24). This passage in Nu. xviii mentions only the tithing of cereal and fruit crops (verse 27). The Levites, however, were not allowed to keep the whole of the tenth. They were directed to 'offer up an heave offering' which was to be taken out of the tenth, which represented 'a tenth part of the tithe' (Nu. xviii. 26). This 'tithe of the tithe' was to be 'of all the best thereof' (verse 29) and was to be given to the priests (verse 28; Ne. x. 39)."
The third point in the article deals with those circumstances after Israel had entered the Promised Land. However, it may yield a bit more perspective on the whole topic if I briefly include a portion of that note, which says:
"3. Where were the Hebrews to offer their tithes? They were to bring them 'unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there' (Dt. xii. 5f., 17f.); i.e. Jerusalem. And the offering of the tithes was to take the form of a ritual meal, in which the Levite was to share (Dt. xii. 7, 12). If Jerusalem was a long way off from a man's village the transporting of the tithe of his crops might create a problem, but he could always take his tithe in the form of money (Dt. xiv. 22-27). Every third year the tithe was to be offered in each man's own locality (Dt. xiv. 28f.), although on these occasions he was still obligated to go up to Jerusalem to worship after the offering of his tithes in his home community (Dt. xxvi. 12ff.). To these comparatively simple laws in the Pentateuch governing tithing there were added a host of minutiae which turned a beautiful religious principle into a grievous burden. These complex additions are recorded in the Mishnaic and Talmudic literature... ."
As the notes in the Dictionary further state, "This unfortunate tendency in Israel undoubtedly contributed to the conviction that acceptance with God could be merited through such ritual observances as tithing (Lk. xi. 42), without submitting to the moral law of justice, mercy, and faith (Mt. xxiii. 23f.). The tithes paid by Abraham, the ancestor of Israel and, therefore, of the Aaronic priesthood, to Melchizedek (Gn. xiv. 20), and his receiving the blessing of this priest-king (Gn. xiv. 19), signifies in Hebrews vii. 1ff. that Melchizedek's priesthood was infinitely superior to the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood. Why Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek is not explained in Gn. xiv. 18-20. The New Testament reference to the tithing of 'mint, anise, and cummin' (Mt. xxiii. 23; Lk. xi. 42) illustrates a Talmudic extension of the Mosaic law, ensuring that 'everything that is eaten and that grows out of the earth' must be tithed."
Here, then, the Tribesmen of Levi, to which Tribe the other tribes were to offer their tithes, were themselves, in their turn, to offer their tithes of what was received from the nation towards sustaining the focus of national worship, the Tabernacle, and those Levitical families of Aaron's house engaged in that service. Indeed, the whole Tribe of Levi was in a sense a tithe of the nation, separated to serve in support of the Aaronic Priesthood. As Aaron's family in their turn, performed the service of the Tabernacle itself, this involved, as a form of tithe, the yielding of burnt offerings and sacrificial gifts to Yahweh, The Almighty God, and national "Husband."
Thus, The Almighty God was both the original source of Israel's sustenance and wealth, and also the ultimate recipient of the national tithe which was to go towards the upkeep of His national "civil service", as we might picture it, and also of His national "ecclesiastical structure" as well, because the nation, in both its civic and its religious commitment, was His "wife" by the Sinai agreement and ceremony. As the "Husband" of Israel, He was the provider of all national wealth, but He was also to be the honoured focus of respectful service of that nation, being recipient of the tithe of that which He had provided and from that tithe, apportioning sustenance to His appointed servants, both civic and ecclesiastical.
Next week we shall give some attention to matters pertaining to the Christmas Season.
20 December, 1998
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
As we are, once again, at that spot chosen on the calendar to remember the First Advent of Our Lord, in human flesh, otherwise called Christmas; a time when the thoughts of most of Western Society are enjoying a holiday break, it seemed appropriate to step aside, so to speak, from our ongoing series of Bible Studies for a short interval in order to consider the occasion which is thus marked.
I thought on this matter as I prepared this week's talk, and I decided to review some of those things which I have said on former similar occasions. What follows is a modified repeat of things said before, so if I say some things which long-time listeners to these broadcasts think sound familiar, please bear with me, for I believe they bear repeating.
Perhaps the terms "First" and "Second" when applied to the Advents of Jesus Christ, as popularly understood by orthodox opinion, are not completely indicative of the number of occasions upon which this same God has made a visitation to His Created beings because it tends to separate the personality of Jesus in the flesh from the concept of The Pre-Incarnate visitations by the same God when given other names such as "Elohim", and "Yahweh" (Jehovah) in the Old Testament record. For this reason, we should, for example, when speaking of His visitations to Jacob's descendants, count also the visit atop Mount Sinai, and when leading His people of Israel through the Wilderness and at the Tabernacle and later, the Temple in Jerusalem. However, I would comment now upon the annual observance called Christmas, marking the arrival of the Babe of Bethlehem, and His prophesied Return in power and glory to take the Throne of David (Luke 1:32) as King.
The commercial interests all across the land would, I feel sure, panic at the mere suggestion, or even the thought, of giving up the lucrative Christmas market and so those aspects of the encrusted social rituals which appear innocuous to the establishment are cultivated with lavish intensity. It has, in fact, become a bit like Hallowe'en in this respect.
No doubt the whole commercial community desires to sustain the pagan aspects of the hour, in order to stimulate the sale of gifts which are nice, but not really essential to one's existence. This pagan distortion of the true intent of the holiday becomes obvious when the God-given Law, requiring the observance of a weekly Sabbath for rest and a time for the whole national community to worship, is totally dismissed and set aside in the interests of intensified avaricious commercial activities which nominally are supposed to be supportive of, and to reflect, a Christian occasion.
But just as the glorious and mighty hand of God intervened at the Exodus, God has promised the second time to bring His people out from the present forms of bondage. This Second Exodus would appear, however, to be of another order. This emergence will be out of the present un-Godly economic, spiritual, cultural and governmental bondage which presently acts to fetter the fullest expression of a truly Christian, God-serving Israelitish community. As regular listeners know, we in British-Israel hold that the present day descendants of the vast majority of ancient Israelites are to be found among the main racial groups of the British Commonwealth, the Americans, and kindred folk of North-West Europe.
Such a community, with the Throne of David at its centre, must come, for in Luke 1:32 the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary of her son, saying that "the Lord God shall give unto him the Throne of his father David." But if Jesus was to be given the throne of His father, David, and to rule over the house of Jacob, as stated by the Angel Gabriel to Mary, let me put the question, "Where is that throne which God shall give to Jesus Christ?" He didn't receive it at His First Advent for in John 19:15, John tells us that the chief priests answered Pilate "We have no king but Caesar." The story concerns that fateful stone called Jacob's Pillow, which is also called Lia Fail, and The stone of Destiny, and today, the Coronation Stone.
As Jesus did not receive that throne at His First Advent, it awaits the Second. However, we should apply the name "Emmanuel" at both the First and the Second Advents. Matthew 1:23 simply says "They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Incomparably, the Christian world has historically fulfilled this prophecy by applying the name exclusively to Jesus Christ.
In the time remaining, I want to see if we can determine an answer to the question "What purpose was served by Jesus' coming into the world of human experience?" Why did Christ come and why must He come again?
Christ is described in the symbolic language of Revelation 13:8 as "...the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." This statement reveals that, from the very first concept in the mind of The Creator, it was His intention to create men and women possessing the ability to think rationally and so to make decisions involving expressions of love and of commitment to Himself. That over-riding requirement necessitated granting permission to test immature selfish decisions, some of which have resulted in savage calamities during the present age. We call these decisions "Sin".
Incidentally, the ability to make any such decisions is not possible without the ability to project the results one should expect from those decisions. Such rational thoughts must enjoy a totally rational environment in order to develop. Thus, Natural Law had to be built into the Creation and apply in all aspects of the physical universe. It is this natural law which forms the subject-matter of the Sciences.
Do not be fooled by concentration on this aspect alone. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 14:1, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Fulfilled prophecy demonstrates that God exists. As Peter wrote in II Peter 1:19, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."
But that ability to sin required, in love, the availability of some means of healing the breach, and re-constituting the whole environment to one enjoying fellowship with God Himself. For guidance, man needed a statement of Law, The Commandments, and penalty for the defiance of sinful experiments. Survival of the created, however, requires the payment of that penalty through some means available to mankind. The Cross is that means of payment. Do not despise it.
We read in Genesis of the fall from Grace of Adam and Eve. Their experimental rebellion was foreseen by God, and this necessitated on God's part, right from the very beginning, the advent of a "Second Adam" who would serve, much as Noah's ark, to take the waves and storm and shield the occupants. (Incidentally, the "nave" where the congregation sits in a church takes its name, like the "navy", from the Latin "navis", a ship, as it is intended, symbolically, to serve that very function!)
Thus only those sinners who, so to speak, "come into the ark" of Christ's "body", are safe from the ultimate consequences of their inadequacy because He alone could fully satisfy the penalty of Law-breaking on The Cross. That act had to occur on a separate occasion from His Advent as King, when He would finally establish God's rules as a Law written in our hearts and thus in Israel, His Nation.
Christ told us to pray to Our Father that His Kingdom would come or be developing on earth as it is at all times effective in heaven.
From this we see that these two Advents were required right from the first planning stage of the Creation. The First Advent must be as the perfect suffering penalty-bearer, the silent Lamb of God, to Whom the ordinance of Old Testament sacrifices pointed. Only thus would Christ earn the right to lay claim upon the hearts and loyalty of His people at the Second Advent.
The Second Advent, then, must follow the First. Christ, as the Lion of Judah, the all-powerful King of kings, must establish society under the congenial and gracious rule of The Almighty God, free of the attacks of those who refuse to abide by that Law.
Revelation 5:5 speaks in symbolism thus: "...behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth."
It is the selfless act of Jesus, condescending to be humbly yet royally born of the Virgin Mary to initiate this sequence of Advents, which the herald angels gloriously announced to the shepherds of Bethlehem.
There is a further aspect which we ought to explain. The Northern House of Old Testament Israel, the people whom God formed for Himself, as His "wife" (Isaiah 54:5, and Jeremiah 3:14), the "example nation", had sinned to the point of national divorce from Him (Hosea 2). They were deported by Assyria. Judah was not at that point divorced from God (Hosea 1:7).
By Deuteronomy 24:4 and Matthew 5:32, God could not, prior to His Own death, re-marry His divorced wife, Israel. There was only one way that a marriage could take place along the lines of Hosea 2:19-20 and Revelation 21:2. Paul explained it in Romans 7:1-3. God, the husband, incarnate in Christ, had to pass through death first.
Thus, in Matthew 10:3, we read Christ's words "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel...". It is the so called "Ten Lost Tribes" to whom Jesus stated that He was specifically sent at His First Advent, and to those same "lost sheep" the Apostles were sent in Matthew 10:6, to preach the Gospel explaining this central aspect of His two Advents.
May these thoughts add meaning to your Christmas.
27 December, 1998
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
About the end of the year, in order to mark the occasion with some thoughts of a wider or more general perspective than can normally be accommodated on a week-by-week basis in our ongoing series of Bible Studies, we have generally made it a custom, for one or two broadcasts, to try to take a break from the usual style of study which we generally follow.
With the surge of Christmas purchases at this season of the year, many people have received quite an assortment of gifts, at least some of which they really didn't need, or which they find they cannot use for one reason or another. They may have found, on unpacking the gift that it was not exactly the desired size, the required match in colour or design to something already possessed at home, or conversely, that it was, indeed, exactly like something already owned, and of which one is quite sufficient for the present and foreseeable future.
It may turn out that after one has pulled out of the box all the bits and pieces, and assorted components which had been so carefully designed and fitted together by the manufacturer, each in its matching formed foam nest amid the generality of the packed design, that the article did not work, or appeared to be defective for some reason, and that the whole must be carefully re-packed in the carton and returned to the manufacturer or the dealer at the point of purchase. Or the problem may simply be that, in order to transport the gift to one's home in a distant city by some means of public transport, the whole must similarly be reassembled in the package and prepared for the journey.
Have you ever, indeed, been presented with the compounding problem which results when the whole has been dis-assembled from the box and distributed about the table by others, perhaps over-eager and slightly thoughtless children before you entered the room to observe the sequence of dis-entanglement? It is a problem which reminds one of those magnificent gifts of boxed jig-saw puzzle segments, some created to replicate edifices in three-dimensions, which are designed to challenge junior budding Einsteins blessed with a total infinity of patience, and to quite defeat most of the rest of us.
In short, I am asking if you have ever been in a situation in which you were handed the problem of re-packaging a very large carton or container in which quite a number of carefully designed and closely fitted components of some kind of complicated apparatus had previously been carefully fitted and packed by the manufacturer, but the heap of parts had been pulled out and put aside on the table by someone else in your absence, so that you had no idea, when handed the task, of how the parts had been packed when the package was first opened?
How does one even begin the process of reassembly? The packing was expertly done. Each of the parts, like the uniquely formed segments of some giant jig-saw puzzle had perfectly nestled into its formed packing arrangement for shipment. And now you have inherited the challenge! As I see it, one approach to the problem which may have to be considered if other attempts are defeated, is an approach which seeks to trace and follow, if at all possible, from the start, the thinking of the designer and manufacturer of the whole contents of the package before the actual product was first created and assembled. Conceivably, one may even have to try, in imagination, to look over the shoulder of the inventor or designer, so to speak, as the design emerges, in order to grasp how and why the various parts of the whole package were created and put together in the first place. At least, in the attempt, one may learn something of beneficial packaging methods to be stored in one's own memory library for future reference, should a similar problem ever arise in the future!
Today, I feel led to put in sequence the reasons, as I understand them, why things were, and are, and indeed had to be, brought into existence, in the course of tracing the establishment of the grand design of the whole of Creation. Many have put their hand to the task during the long ages of the world's history, and many and varied have been the results, both in depth of view and of philosophical stance. Cultural norms have played a part in these essays, as have a variety of religious dogmas, the accumulated wisdom of the time, and the capacities of minds to bend the intellect to the pursuit of understanding.
Thus, I now approach the task of presenting my own thoughts, not with any claim to superiority in this work but simply that I might, with the hope of some eventual sense of satisfaction, set down on paper, so to speak, an ordered sequence of thoughts which may have gone into the Creative plan from the mind of the Creator Himself.
You will note in those last statements, that I have already established a basis for thought, one might term it an axiom, by which one may begin to construct the design on paper, much as a person drawing the plan of a building may decide the layout of the first lines on the blank paper on the drawing board, or the window of the computer screen.
Philosophically, of course, we might say that we have a choice to make which calls us to select an answer to the question "Was there design in the doing, or was it simply formed of tumultuous chaos buffeting chaos, to a conclusion both unsure and yet inevitable, given the first impulse of the founding energy?" To put it in other terms, "Did a dancing myriad of deliriously energized particles, like an infinity of mindless dice, chaotically thrown in the one toss allowable for success ,all turn up the precise formula required in one instant of the flux of time, to fix the whole concourse of time and space in the pattern needed to generate matter and to establish life in all its variety and motion?" Or, alternatively, was the hand of a Mighty God the guiding force which launched His Universe, His work of magnificent artistry and grandeur, upon its pre-determined course with unimaginable exactitude and foresight, heading to a conclusion not yet consummated?
These thoughts, at once beautiful and awesome, fascinating and surpassingly challenging, face any who would venture upon the path of a re-teller of the tale. Lacking the power to observe the course of events as their fiery initiation cooled to a manageable texture of energy, matter and accommodation of ourselves, we must supply our lack of first-hand presence through imagination with some timidity but reassured in this, that one can but try, and leave the result to be picked up and carried forward by another with a shared concern.
Being dis-inclined towards grasping losing odds in a gambler's nightmare, I will begin with the statement that I hold the Scriptures which tell of the Christian's understanding of God to be true statements, conveying revealed truth to me. I therefore select the "Direction of Deity" in preference to that "Deliriously chaotic dance of mindless dice" as the first cause and originator of the sequence. There is a test which one may later apply to check the assumption through observation of the resulting infinity of designs. One may suggest on the grand scale, something akin to the neatly measured simplicity in the packed carton wherein no tolerance for error is allowable in order to complete the whole.
I will state the assumption that The Almighty God was the artist Whose astounding work of majestic artistry we presently occupy. Following on from that assumption, I believe certain logical positions must be accepted. Here is the sequence, in brief.
God, the designing artist must be capable of understanding and sharing the product of time and space which He created, and all that it contains. He loves His Creation, and all the myriad beings which He would generate, or else they would not have emerged into existence at all, and this loving oversight, to place the concept in anthropomorphic equivalence, as that of a parent with a child, meant that He desired the emergence of a reciprocal Love to reflect His Own; a Love to be mirrored from being to being throughout the domain of His mighty work.
Now let us pause to reflect upon that love. Love, as we understand the term, is the positive manner of expressing a choice, in the presence of a given alternative. I should explain. One may, in defining any choice, describe it using a "love" or a "hate" label. Thus, one might say "I choose to love my pet" but the same choice can be re-cast in the words "I would hate to lose my pet." Of such two aspects, all choices are formulated, yielding a selected course of action in preference to the optional alternative which must, consequently be rejected.
Psychologists may give the impression when lecturing to students that the emotions which we categorize as "love" can swiftly move to "hate" when advances are spurned, and hence, that "love is very close to hate" because both arise from emotional concern for the attainment of an objective. This is not a clear picture of the situation, however, for "Love" and "Hate" are, so to speak, the two facets of One Choice. This is important to clarify, and it is important on more than one level.
The means whereby the Great Plan must undertake the interaction of Deity with our own destiny, we will leave for our next study. We must close for today, but next week we will pick up this theme with the intention of making our way through to a satisfactory conclusion to the whole of God's Great Plan, as far as we can sketch it out.
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