Sabbath, November 5, 2011
“All who would be soldiers of the cross of Christ, must gird on the armor and prepare for conflict. They should not be intimidated by threats, or terrified by dangers. They must be cautious in peril, yet firm and brave in facing the foe and doing battle for God. The consecration of Christ’s follower must be complete. Father, mother, wife, children, houses, lands, everything, must be held secondary to the work and cause of God. He must be willing to bear patiently, cheerfully, joyfully, whatever in God’s providence he may be called to suffer. His final reward will be to share with Christ the throne of immortal glory.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 128.
1. What was required of the men who were counted in Israel, to be used for upkeep of the tabernacle?
Exodus 30:12, 13 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord.
Exodus 38:26 A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.
“The tithe was to be exclusively devoted to the use of the Levites, the tribe that had been set apart for the service of the sanctuary. But this was by no means the limit of the contributions for religious purposes. The tabernacle, as afterward the temple, was erected wholly by freewill offerings; and to provide for necessary repairs and other expenses, Moses directed that as often as the people were numbered, each should contribute a half shekel for ‘the service of the tabernacle.’ In the time of Nehemiah a contribution was made yearly for this purpose. See Exodus 30:12-16; 2 Kings 12:4, 5; 2 Chronicles 24:4-13; Nehemiah 10:32, 33. From time to time sin offerings and thank offerings were brought to God. These were presented in great numbers at the annual feasts. And the most liberal provision was made for the poor.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 526.
2. What was done in the time of King Joash (836-797 B.C.) to provide funds to restore the house of the Lord?
2 Chronicles 24:8, 9 And at the king’s commandment they made a chest, and set it without at the gate of the house of the Lord. And they made a proclamation through Judah and Jerusalem, to bring in to the Lord the collection that Moses the servant of God laid upon Israel in the wilderness.
3. Was this contribution collected in the time of Jesus? What did the collector ask Peter?
Matthew 17:24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
“Soon after they reached the town, the collector of the temple revenue came to Peter with the question, ‘Doth not your Master pay tribute?’ This tribute was not a civil tax, but a religious contribution, which every Jew was required to pay annually for the support of the temple. A refusal to pay the tribute would be regarded as disloyalty to the temple–in the estimation of the rabbis a most grievous sin. The Saviour’s attitude toward the rabbinical laws, and His plain reproofs to the defenders of tradition, afforded a pretext for the charge that He was seeking to overthrow the temple service. Now His enemies saw an opportunity of casting discredit upon Him. In the collector of the tribute they found a ready ally.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 432, 433.
4. What did Peter reply without first consulting Jesus? Did he fully understand the motive of the questioner?
Matthew 17:25 He saith, Yes.
“Peter saw in the collector’s question an insinuation touching Christ’s loyalty to the temple. Zealous for his Master’s honor, he hastily answered, without consulting Him, that Jesus would pay the tribute.
“But Peter only partially comprehended the purpose of his questioner. There were some classes who were held to be exempt from the payment of the tribute. In the time of Moses, when the Levites were set apart for the service of the sanctuary, they were given no inheritance among the people. The Lord said, ‘Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance.’ Deuteronomy 10:9. In the days of Christ the priests and Levites were still regarded as especially devoted to the temple, and were not required to make the annual contribution for its support. Prophets also were exempted from this payment. In requiring the tribute from Jesus, the rabbis were setting aside His claim as a prophet or teacher, and were dealing with Him as with any commonplace person. A refusal on His part to pay the tribute would be represented as disloyalty to the temple; while, on the other hand, the payment of it would be taken as justifying their rejection of Him as a prophet.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 433.
Clarification and solution
5. How did Jesus help Peter see things differently in this matter?
Matthew 17:25, 26 And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
“When Peter entered the house, the Saviour made no reference to what had taken place,… While the people of a country are taxed for the maintenance of their king, the monarch’s own children are exempt. So Israel, the professed people of God, were required to maintain His service; but Jesus, the Son of God, was under no such obligation. If priests and Levites were exempt because of their connection with the temple, how much more He to whom the temple was His Father’s house.
“If Jesus had paid the tribute without a protest, He would virtually have acknowledged the justice of the claim, and would thus have denied His divinity. But while He saw good to meet the demand, He denied the claim upon which it was based. In providing for the payment of the tribute He gave evidence of His divine character. It was made manifest that He was one with God, and therefore was not under tribute as a mere subject of the kingdom.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 433, 434.
6. What was Jesus’ principle in dealing with sensitive issues such as this? How does this apply today?
Matthew 17:27, first part Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them,…
“While Jesus made it plain that He was under no obligation to pay the tribute, He entered into no controversy with the Jews in regard to the matter; for they would have misinterpreted His words, and turned them against Him. Lest He should give offense by withholding the tribute, He did that which He could not justly be required to do. This lesson would be of great value to His disciples. Marked changes were soon to take place in their relation to the temple service, and Christ taught them not to place themselves needlessly in antagonism to established order. So far as possible, they were to avoid giving occasion for misinterpretation of their faith. While Christians are not to sacrifice one principle of truth, they should avoid controversy whenever it is possible to do so.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 434.
7. How did He resolve this matter, again showing His lordship over heaven and earth? What lesson of trust is particularly important for every Christian in every area of life?
Matthew 17:27, second part … Go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
“The humblest and poorest of the disciples of Jesus can be a blessing to others. They may not realize that they are doing any special good, but by their unconscious influence they may start waves of blessing that will widen and deepen, and the blessed results they may never know until the day of final reward. They do not feel or know that they are doing anything great. They are not required to weary themselves with anxiety about success. They have only to go forward quietly, doing faithfully the work that God’s providence assigns, and their life will not be in vain. Their own souls will be growing more and more into the likeness of Christ; they are workers together with God in this life, and are thus fitting for the higher work and the unshadowed joy of the life to come.” –Steps to Christ, p. 83.
“Though He had clothed His divinity with humanity, in this miracle He revealed His glory. It was evident that this was He who through David had declared, ‘Every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof.’ Psalm 50:10-12.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 434.
“God speaks to us through His providential workings, and through the influence of His Spirit upon the heart. In our circumstances and surroundings, in the changes daily taking place around us, we may find precious lessons if our hearts are but open to discern them. The psalmist, tracing the work of God’s providence, says, ‘The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.’ ‘Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.’ Psalm 33:5; 107:43.” –Christian Education, p. 56.
For additional study
• Matthew 22:15-22
• Romans 13:1-7
• Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 131