But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them.
Joshua 13:14 (NIV)
I worked many different jobs earning my way through college back in the day. One of the more fascinating jobs was as an abstractor. An abstract is a legal document that provides the description and history of a plot of land. The abstract gets continually updated whenever something legal happens to that land such as changing ownership, a tax lien placed against the property, a mortgage, or a release of that mortgage. It’s full of legalese, but an abstract can provide fascinating tidbits about the history of a property.
In today’s chapter, we enter a section of the book of Joshua that served as a kind of ancient abstract for the twelve Hebrew tribes as the Promised Land was divided and each tribe was assigned a section of land. It’s about as spiritually inspiring as, well, reading an abstract. However, just as with an abstract, there are some worthwhile tidbits amidst all the legalese.
The abstract of the Promised Land begins in today’s chapter with what is essentially an ancient form of the legal description of the lands east of the River Jordan that had been assigned by Moses at the request of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh. It’s formally structured and begins with a summary description of the land given to those two-and-a-half tribes. It then provides a description of each tribe’s allotted land.
The thing that stands out is that in verses 13 and 44, the tribe of Levi is reminded that they will not be allotted any land. God assigned the tribe of Levi to serve all of the tribes by serving the Temple and being God’s spiritual servants among all the tribes. The offerings and sacrifices of the 11 other tribes provided the Levites with their life’s provision, but never would they have an earthly plot of land to call their own. As verse 33 puts it: “the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance.”
What struck me as I mulled this over in the quiet this morning, is the fact that the Levitical design will be expanded by Jesus. During His earthly ministry, Jesus instructed His followers to spiritually live like the tribe of Levi:
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being…
What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Matthew 6:19-21;31-32 (MSG)
Like the Levites, followers of Jesus were dispersed throughout the entire world to serve God, to be focused on the matters of Spirit, and to trust God for their provision. As the old-timey gospel song put it: “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”
As a follower of Jesus, I am a spiritual descendant of the Levites. My treasure, my spiritual inheritance, doesn’t have an earthly abstract or legal description. Jesus said He would go and prepare a place for me. As the author of Hebrews put it: “For here [on earth] we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”
In the meantime, just like the Levites, I serve God where I’m planted, wherever I go, and wherever I might be scattered.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.