March 20

Read Joshua 20 -- 21

Unlike all the other tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi was given no separate territory (Joshua 14:3), for the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance (13:33), and the Levites have no part among you; for the priesthood of the Lord is their inheritance (18:7). After the tribes had been assigned their territories, the heads (chief elders) . . . of the Levites came to Eleazar the priest, and to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel; and they spoke to them at Shiloh . . . saying, The Lord commanded . . . Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with suburbs (pasturelands) . . . for our cattle. And the children of Israel gave to the Levites out of their own inheritance, at the commandment of the Lord, these cities and their suburbs (21:1-3). The Levites were given 48 cities which were dispersed throughout the territories of all the other tribes. This was necessary to provide spiritual help to all Israelites, as well as protection for anyone who was responsible for an accidental death (Numbers 35:1-15).

The Levites were divided into three groups according to the descendants of Levi's three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. But only those Israelites who were descendants of Levi through Kohath's grandson Aaron, could be priests and serve in the Tabernacle. However, even some of these descendants were physically disqualified to be ministers at the altar because of disabilities and defects; and some were spiritually disqualified because of violating one or more of the commandments (Leviticus 21:1-23). The priests were responsible for preserving, transcribing, teaching, and interpreting the Law. They were also the civil officers responsible for the administration of the Law (Deuteronomy 17:9-12; 31:9,11-12,26). All the Levites, not merely the ones who were responsible for the worship at the Tabernacle, were to receive an equal share of the tithes from the other 11 tribes. Each tribe was to provide for the physical welfare of the priests within its own territory. This was not left up to the goodwill of the people, but was a command from God.

God devoted 42 of the 45 verses in Joshua 21 to emphasizing the Israelites' obligation to support the ministers of His Word. No one is too poor or exempt from giving his tithe which is a tenth of his income and, thus, proportionately equal for all. When Israel was faithful in this responsibility, God mightily blessed them. When they failed, they suffered.

The Apostle Paul illustrated this, saying: Who goes to war (as a soldier) . . . at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of the fruit of it? . . . Who feeds a flock, and does not drink of the milk of the flock? . . . It is written in the Law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn. Does God take care (only) for oxen? Or does He speak altogether for our sakes? (I Corinthians 9:7,9-10). Although he was not the local minister of that church, Paul also wrote: If we have sown to you spiritual things, is it too much if we reap from your material support? If others be partakers of this power (claim) over you, do not we (have a still greater claim)? . . . Even so the Lord has ordained that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel (9:11-12,14).

Christ Portrayed: By Eleazar, the chief priest (Joshua 21:1). Christ is our High Priest (Heb. 3:1).

Word Studies: 20:3 avenger of blood means the nearest relative of the slain person who was to avenge his death by destroying the slayer; 21:2 suburbs means pasturelands; 21:32 refuge means protection.

Prayer:

Government Officials: Rep. Larry Combest (TX) and Rep. Gil Gutknecht (MN) · BPM Staff: Mary Kay Wagner · Pray for Nabil Ajamian, Voice of the Truth, editor for Arabic translation · Country: Belize (236,000) on the eastern coast of Central America · Major languages: English and Spanish · Religious freedom · 64% Roman Catholic; 26% Protestant; 2% spiritist/animist; 1% Hindu; 1% Muslim; 1% Baha'i · Prayer Suggestion: Lift up your hands in surrender and praise as you pray (Psalms 63:4).

Optional Reading: John 11

Memory Verse for the Week: Colossians 2:10