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God’s Word for You

Numbers 18:20-24 Trust

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, October 7, 2021

20 The LORD also said these things to Aaron: You will not have any allotment of land among them in the land, and you will not have any share among them. I am your share and your possession among the people of Israel.

God had promised acres upon acres, miles upon miles of land to be grazed or cultivated; for Israel’s herds and flocks. Each tribe was going to receive their own region (Joshua would cast lots for the locations). Some tribes would choose to remain on the east bank of the Jordan. One tribe (Simeon) would fall entirely within another tribe (Judah). Manasseh would be divided into two parts. But Levi? There would be no land for Levi. There would be a few towns for Levites with some pasturelands for their herds and flocks (Joshua 14:4), but no real territory. This was because God made himself the inheritance of Levi. All of the offerings that came to the Lord, including all of the additional things that came to fulfill vows that people made, would go to Levi. He wanted their trust.

21 See, I have given all the tithes in Israel to the Levites as a possession in return for their work which they are doing, the work at the Tent of Meeting. 22 The Israelites will never again come near the Tent of Meeting. If they do, they will become responsible for sin and die. 23 But the Levites are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting, and they will bear their guilt. It will be a permanent regulation throughout your generations to come: They will not have any possession among the Israelites. 24 For the tithe from the Israelites, which they lift up as an elevated offering for the LORD, I have given to the Levites as a possession. Therefore I have said to them, “They will not have any possession among the Israelites.”

A tithe is a tenth of a thing. Israel was commanded to bring in a tithe of everything that they harvested, but a man could redeem part of his tithe with cash by adding twenty percent of its value (Leviticus 27:30-32; more about this with the verses that follow). Once again, the people of the tribes apart from Levi were forbidden from approaching the tabernacle unless they were making an offering. There was to be no other reason for approaching the tent. This isn’t the place to ask “what if” questions, such as what if the tabernacle caught fire, or what if one’s prize bull escaped and went rampaging into the tabernacle. On the one hand, there were plenty of Levites and plenty of water to fight any fire. On the other hand, a bull that got loose and came to the alter might be considered an unintentional dedication and be sacrificed, but there is no record of that ever happening. Since I am not a high priest serving with the Urim and Thummim, what difference does any speculation about such things make that comes from me?

The lesson this command taught to the Levites was to depend upon God completely for the things they needed to live. The ordinary believer could say that they trusted in God (Job 9:10; Psalm 31:14), especially in a time of danger (Psalm 55:23) or fear (Psalm 56:3), or simply with choices to be made (Psalm 143:8). But the Levite and the priest had to learn to let go even of wondering about lunch or dinner, clothes, medicine, or the smallest necessities. “O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord—he is their help and shield” (Psalm 115:10).

But trusting in God for daily bread is a small part of our trust. Consider that in the Lord’s Prayer we beg for God’s help not only in finding food and other things we need, but to glorify his holy name, to build and expand his glorious kingdom, and for his divine will to be carried out in the world. Surely these things were to be on the minds of his Levitical priests. If not them, then who? And also we pray for deliverance from evil and unrighteousness in general, to lead us away from temptation, and most of all, for the forgiveness of our sins. Surely these things were to be on the minds, hearts, and lips of God’s Levitical priests, just as it is with us.

God, our holy God, is our shelter from troubles and storms of all kinds, not only hunger, but many things more. “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners. As heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled” (Isaiah 25:4-5). And the same prophet says just a little further on: “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples… he will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:7-8).

God commanded his priests and Levites to depend on him for everything. By doing this, God showed the people what it means to truly rely on him; on the Lord our God. Fear, love and trust in him above all things.  This is really nothing more than keeping the First Commandment, but that is a command each one of us struggles with all the time. We like to think that we trust in God, especially when we are warm and fed and content and have no troubles. But when we become hungry, or afraid, or alone, or cold, or in danger, then we don’t know where to run to. Some people run to the church and demand help, almost always adding, “I’m a good Christian, you have to, you must give me everything I ask for!” They want nothing from God; they only want to be taken care of without having to say anything to God, without having to bow the knee; without having to repent. They act so innocent that you’d think they were Adam and Eve’s brothers and sisters who never fell, were never tempted, and are only persecuted by an unjust world.

But God wants us to be aware of our sinfulness and fall before him, asking for his mercy. The priests and Levites lived and worked in and around the sacrifices made for the forgiveness of sins. They saw every day that a goat slaughtered to atone for a mistake would only be a sacrifice for that day. A week later, the same sinner would be back with another goat, and another, and another. We could never shed enough blood to atone for the wrongs we do. But Christ came, and with his one sacrifice all the other sacrifices came to an end forever. This is why we put our trust in Jesus. This is why we fall before him and thank him daily until our eyes close in death. He has ransomed us all, and in the end he will raise us up to live with him an the unending banquet of his victory feast. Pray to him! Praise him! And give him thanks!

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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