Monday, October 22, 2007

Joshua: The Priests Get Their Due
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Joshua: The Priests Get Their Due

Intro.: I once was a part of a party game.

  1. As each person arrived, they were given a colored slip of paper. The paper could have been red, green, or blue. 10% of those arriving got red slips, 30% got green slips, and the others got blue slips.

  2. As it came time for dinner, the people with red slips were told to sit in the back of the room, those with green slips were asked to sit in the middle of the room, those with blue slips were allowed to sit closest to the kitchen.

  3. The first food to come out was a feast – out from the kitchen came fresh green salad, bowls of corn and green beans, baked potatoes, and two huge roasts of Prime Rib of Beef. It was going to be a good dinner. And it was carried past those who had blue slips, and then past those with green slips; finally, it was placed on the tables alloted to those with red slips. It was going to be a good meal.

  4. The next food to come out was bowls of spaghetti. Now, the sauce was lucious, meaty, and full of vegetables – mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes. And it was placed in front of those who had green tickets. They were a bit disappointed, but they were served tasty food – maybe it was okay.

  5. Finally, out came the bowls of white rice. And they were placed in front of those with blue slips.

  6. Two-thirds of the world's population goes to bed hungry each night.

  7. It sometimes seems that the distribution of the world's goods seems unfair. I wonder if that is how the Levites felt that day.

Read: Joshua 21:1-3


Trans: I want to spend the next few moments looking at the impact of the Levites on the Israelites.

  1. The Levites were prepared for what God offered

    1. The story of the Levites actually starts years before Joshua comes on the scene. We will begin our story by going back to Abraham. Abraham was very old before his son was born – Isaac. Isaac was a miracle – and a promise that God kept

    2. The story does not end with Isaac. Isaac had two sons – twins. The older, Esau, should have inherited ¾ of all Abraham's possessions. But one evening, Esau was hungry and Jacob traded a bowl of soup for Esau's birthright. It was about this incident that Malachi would later write eight hundred years later, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

(Ill.) A gentleman who thought Christianity was merely a heap of puzzling problems, said to an old minister, “That is a very strange statement, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’“ “Very strange,” replied the minister; “but what is it that you see most strange about it?” “Oh, that part, of course, about hating Esau.” “Well, sir,” said the minister, “how wonderfully are we made and how differently constituted! The strangest part of all to me is that He could ever have loved Jacob. There is no mystery so glorious as the mystery of God’s love.”1

    1. And Jacob had twelve sons – Each of these twelve sons began a family that would take the Jews into the promised land. Most of those families would receive an allotment of land – as we saw last week.

    2. You have heard of some of them. There was Joseph who rescued his family from famine, there was Judah – the leading family by the time of Jesus, there was Benjamin. But there was one who would receive no property. That was the family, or as they are better known, the tribe of Levi. The Levites have been set aside since the time of Moses to serve as Priests for the Israelite nation. They were not counted as part of the membership of the Jewish people – and they would not be given any land in the promised land.

  1. The Levites received what God offered

    1. The Levites were prepared to take what God would give them. As priests they had a responsibility to the entire Israelite nation. If they had been given land, they would be unfairly located in one region. They would not be given land, rather they were to be given cities scattered throughout the promised land – there are 48 cities and the surrounding land given to the Levites to raise their families. There were 13 in the south, 10 in the central plains, and 13 in the north. There were also 12 to the east of the Jordan river. 2

    2. God did not want the Levites to be tied to one group of people, but be available to serve the entire nation.

(Ill.) God always has had a global perspective. He scattered the priests. The early church was scattered through persecution. The modern missionary movement had its beginning with the translation of the scriptures into modern languages. One of the first of these was John Wycliffe. Here was a man who was declared a stiffed necked heretic because he translated the scriptures into English in the late 14th century. Wycliffe believed the Bible belonged to all believers – not just the clergy. And because that was true, it had to be made available in the language of his people. Wycliffe was British – he devoted his life to creating the first English translation of the Bible. God's love is not for a few – but for all. It is true today, it was true as the people settled into the promised land.

  1. The Levites used what God offered

    1. It was the priest that were responsible for maintaining the synagogues. It was the priests that were responsible for maintaining the temple in Jerusalem.

(Ill.) The priests training would start at age 25 – it began with a purification ceremony. After completing the purification ceremony, the young Levite would be brought to the door of the tabernacle and be set aside for service as the Jewish elders set their hand on him – Very similar to the ordination service in today's churches. They would begin their service as assistants and then move into other duties such as members of the temple orchestra, doorkeeper, or administrator. These Levites were also responsible for guarding the temple, cleaning it, and the various piece of furniture inside of it.3

    1. Now that is a pretty costly venture for anyone in an agricultural society that owns no land – a fact that God was acutely aware of.

    2. So the result was that the priests were to collect the tithe – for both their support and for the support of the synagogues and the temple.

    3. It is interesting that during this time, the Levites faith went from hot to cold – several times in the next 1400 years.

    4. By the time that Jesus arrived on the scene, it was not only the Levites that cool; but, with few exceptions, so was the entire Jewish nation.

    5. And that is part of the reason Jesus stood out – here was a man who lived out and demonstrated His faith in His broken world. He was different – He was like nobody else that they had met.

    6. You know, our world is not much different. We live in a world that has, for the most part, become cool in its faith.

(Appl.) Can you imagine a world where one person, two people, or three people, lived out their faith? Can you imagine a world where a few people allowed their faith to effect every decision they made? In His parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus insisted that true worship consisted of doing good to others. This is demonstrated by the lowly Samaritan traveler, who stopped to help a wounded man. His compassion is a contrast to the hands-off approach of a priest and a Levite, both of whom “passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:31–32).4 Will you be a priest, a Levite, or a Samaritan?


1AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

2The Open Bible : New King James Version. 1998, c1997. Includes indexes. (electronic ed.) (Jos 21:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

3Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.

4Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.

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