Series: Thru the Bible
Levites & Priests in every Tribe
Before crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land, God told Israel not to forget the Levites or the Priests but to set aside space for them in their alloted land. The Levite and the Priest could inherit no land and so it was the responsibility of all Israelites to honor these families who ministered on their behalf to the Lord and on behalf of the Lord to them.
There was a minimum of 4 families, comprised of either the Levites or the Priests which fell to each tribe in Israel. They were to apportion land for their use and sustenance.
The constant presence of the Levites or Priests held all of Israel in remembrance of their God, their covenant with Him and their obligation to love Him and their brothers with all their hearts and in their actions.
By doing this God was establishing two truths:
1. That His presence was inescapable as it was represented in the persons and immediate closeness of the Levites and Priests to every tribe in Israel.
2. God was establishing value where there is TRUE value was a MAJOR reason for God making Israel provide for their spiritual leaders. When all was said and done, the Levites received in excess of 110% the average income in Israel in addition to the allotment of land assigned to them by the tribes, and the single priestly family of Aaron received even more by way of percentage than all of Israel.
To honor them was to honor the God Who called and appointed them!
In the New Testament, Paul draws a direct line between the priests of the Old Testament and the ministers of the New in 1 Cor. 9:13-14,
1Cor. 9:13-14, “(13) Do you not know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? (14) In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.”
Deut. 12:1-32, HCSB
“(1) Be careful to follow these statutes and ordinances in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess all the days you live on the earth.
(2) Destroy completely all the places where the nations you are driving out worship their gods–on the high mountains, on the hills, and under every flourishing tree.
(3) Tear down their altars, smash their sacred pillars, burn up their Asherah poles, cut down the carved images of their gods, and wipe out their names from every place.
(4) Don’t worship the LORD your God this way.
“(5) Instead, you must go to the place the LORD your God chooses from all your tribes to put His name for His dwelling.”
The pagan nations they were driving out worshiped anywhere and anyway they chose. In any place where they believed there to be discernible hint of the divine in nature – they would worship there – but in direct contrast to this God had revealed to them the place of worship was to correspond to the place of His Name.
“(6) You are to bring there your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tenths and personal contributions, your vow offerings and freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. (7) You will eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your household in everything you do, because the LORD your God has blessed you.”
There was a time when we taught that there was an additional tithe the Israelites were to give and I believe we pointed to verses like this one to support it, but at this point I am not ready to concede to that as truth. By the time we reach the 14th chapter there will be much more we need to consider about this and I want to be careful and not presumptuous in our examining of the passages.
One thing is for certain – this passage “appears” to be mentioning tithes and practices which were already well established. I say that because traditionally when God is bringing up something new – there is MUCH repetition and many specifics which these verses lack – so it appears God is not so much instituting something new, but rather designating where to bring the tithes once they enter into the new land.
Up to this point, Israel has all congregated around the Tabernacle and the tithes were brought to the Levities and a tenth of what was brought to the Levites, they in turn gave to the priests.
Now that they were about to enter into a new land, we do not even know where the Levites will live since up until now they lived around the tabernacle as did the priests, but the Levites and priests are not to inherit any land so it remains to be seen where they will live and where to bring these tithes. THAT seems to primarily be the interest of God in having Moses mention these things.
Now back in Numbers 35:1-8, you remember God told Moses to appoint 48 cities for the Levites of which 6 would be Cities of Refuge. As best as I can interpret it, not only the 6 Cities of Refuge…but ALL Levitical cities were walled cities. While today we know where those cities were located, they have not yet been revealed in the passages we have yet read.
In this slide we can see all of the Promised Land and its divisions among the tribes. EACH TRIBE had its own Levites or Priests who lived there. This effectively kept ANY of the tribes from being isolated from it’s religious leaders and their influence for good in remembering the Lord God Who brought them up out of the land of Egypt to possess this good land.
Also, it gave each tribe the opportunity to minister to the ministers. They were NOT far away or out of reach. When it was time to bring the sacrifices and tithes to the Tabernacle, they were to “NOT forget the Levites within your gates”, but bring them along and share in the bounty of the celebration!
Also, this is a type of foreshadowing of the Body of Christ – a “foolish nation” without boundaries or isolated habitat!
Surprisingly Wikipedia has a very good article on this clearly outlining all the basics including where all 48 cities were located and which division of the Levitical tribes were “within the gates” of the other tribes.
This SLIDE is based upon the division of the tribes mentioned in Joshua 21.
Notice that there were:
- 13 cities for Aaron’s priestly division.
- 13 cities for the Gershonites.
- 10 cities for the Kohathite.
- 12 cities for the Merari.
Enumerated on the map are the divisions of the tribes in the land, which tribe held which family of Levi or the Priestly family. Each Tribe ONLY had 4 families – with the exception of Judah & Simeon who both shared an intermingled land mass.
Also notice the diamonds – each one represents one of the 6 Cities of Refuge which were pretty evenly scattered across the land.
(8) “You are not to do as we are doing here today; everyone is doing whatever seems right in his own eyes. (9) Indeed, you have not yet come into the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you.
Entering the rest requires that we stop with our works.
I like Guzik’s words here in that, as they often do, they reflect and improve upon my own thinking in these verses.
Not at all as we are doing here today – every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes: Before Israel crossed over the Jordan, during the wilderness wanderings, each Israelite pretty much conducted their own worship as they pleased. But God was not really pleased with this; worship was not a matter left up to whatever pleased the individual. Real worship is concerned with what pleases God.
I want you to notice though that even though it did not please God, it was not counted against them as sin since they did not know it. God had not told them. This reminds me of the difference in 1Jn. 1:7 and 1Jn. 1:9.
1Jn. 1:7-9, HCSB “(7) But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (8) If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Much of what is called worship in today’s church really isn’t worship. It is self-focused, man-focused, and personal-experience-focused instead of being God focused. Much of today’s worship is measured by how I feel instead of being measured by how God was honored and worshipped.
“Singing should be congregational, but it should never be performed for the credit of the congregation. ‘Such remarkable singing! The place is quite renowned for its musical performances!’ – This is a poor achievement. Our singing should be such that God hears it with pleasure – singing in which there is not so much art as heart, not so much of musical sound as of spiritual emotion.” (Spurgeon)
“(10) When you cross the Jordan and live in the land the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all the enemies around you and you live in security, (11) then the LORD your God will choose the place to have His name dwell. Bring there everything I command you: your burnt offerings, sacrifices, offerings of the tenth, personal contributions, and all your choice offerings you vow to the LORD. (12) You will rejoice before the LORD your God–you, your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance among you. (13) Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings in all the sacred places you see. (14) You must offer your burnt offerings only in the place the LORD chooses in one of your tribes, and there you must do everything I command you. (15) “But whenever you want, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your gates, according to the blessing the LORD your God has given you. Those who are clean or unclean may eat it, as they would a gazelle or deer, (16) but you must not eat the blood; pour it on the ground like water. (17) Within your gates you may not eat: the tenth of your grain, new wine, or oil; the firstborn of your herd or flock; any of your vow offerings that you pledge; your freewill offerings; or your personal contributions. (18) You must eat them in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God chooses–you, your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite who is within your gates. Rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you do, (19) and be careful not to neglect the Levite, as long as you live in your land.”
“(20) “When the LORD your God enlarges your territory as He has promised you, and you say, ‘I want to eat meat’ because you have a strong desire to eat meat, you may eat it whenever you want. (21) If the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, you may slaughter any of your herd or flock He has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat it within your gates whenever you want. (22) Indeed, you may eat it as the gazelle and deer are eaten; both the clean and the unclean may eat it. (23) But don’t eat the blood, since the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. (24) Do not eat blood; pour it on the ground like water. (25) Do not eat it, so that you and your children after you will prosper, because you will be doing what is right in the LORD’s sight. (26) “But you are to take the holy offerings you have and your vow offerings and go to the place the LORD chooses. (27) Present the meat and blood of your burnt offerings on the altar of the LORD your God. The blood of your other sacrifices is to be poured out beside the altar of the LORD your God, but you may eat the meat. (28) Be careful to obey all these things I command you, so that you and your children after you may prosper forever, because you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.”
(29) “When the LORD your God annihilates the nations before you, which you are entering to take possession of, and you drive them out and live in their land, (30) be careful not to be ensnared by their ways after they have been destroyed before you. Do not inquire about their gods, asking, ‘How did these nations worship their gods? I’ll also do the same.’ (31) You must not do the same to the LORD your God, because they practice for their gods every detestable thing the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. (32) You must be careful to do everything I command you; do not add anything to it or take anything away from it.”
“If a prophet or someone who has dreams arises among you and proclaims a sign or wonder to you, (2) and that sign or wonder he has promised you comes about, but he says, ‘Let us follow other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us worship them,’ (3) do not listen to that prophet’s words or to that dreamer. For the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul. (4) You must follow the LORD your God and fear Him. You must keep His commands and listen to His voice; you must worship Him and remain faithful to Him. (5) That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has urged rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slavery, to turn you from the way the LORD your God has commanded you to walk. You must purge the evil from you.”
(6) “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’–which neither you nor your fathers have known, (7) any of the gods of the peoples around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other– (8) you must not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity, and do not spare him or shield him. (9) Instead, you must kill him. Your hand is to be the first against him to put him to death, and then the hands of all the people. (10) Stone him to death for trying to turn you away from the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. (11) All Israel will hear and be afraid, and they will no longer do anything evil like this among you.”
(12) “If you hear it said about one of your cities the LORD your God is giving you to live in, (13) that wicked men have sprung up among you, led the inhabitants of their city astray, and said, ‘Let us go and worship other gods,’ which you have not known, (14) you are to inquire, investigate, and interrogate thoroughly. If the report turns out to be true that this detestable thing has happened among you, (15) you must strike down the inhabitants of that city with the sword. Completely destroy everyone in it as well as its livestock with the sword. (16) You are to gather all its spoil in the middle of the city square and completely burn up the city and all its spoil for the LORD your God. The city must remain a mound of ruins forever; it is not to be rebuilt. (17) Nothing set apart for destruction is to remain in your hand, so that the LORD will turn from His burning anger and grant you mercy, show you compassion, and multiply you as He swore to your fathers. (18) This will occur if you obey the LORD your God, keeping all His commands I am giving you today, doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.”
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
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