A Greater Portion
– Levitical Tribes Inheritance –
Joshua 21:1-45
Paul J. Bucknell

'A Special Service' (Joshua 21:8-42) shows us the the resulting purpose or mission the Levites now have since they have the special calling to be the Lord's. The Christian similarly has a special service that results from our calling to be Christians. The more we follow up on this, the richer our Christian lives are. This is part 3 to a 5 part series on Joshua 21, 'Obtaining a Greater Portion.' See below for an index on Joshau.

Now the sons of Israel gave by lot to the Levites these cities with their pasture lands, as the LORD had commanded through Moses. And they gave these cities which are here mentioned by name from the tribe of the sons of Judah and from the tribe of the sons of Simeon; and they were for the sons of Aaron, one of the families of the Kohathites, of the sons of Levi, for the lot was theirs first. Thus they gave them Kiriath-arba, Arba being the father of Anak (that is, Hebron), in the hill country of Judah, with its surrounding pasture lands. But the fields of the city and its villages, they gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as his possession. So to the sons of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands, and Libnah with its pasture lands, And to the sons of Gershon, one of the families of the Levites, from the half-tribe of Manasseh, they gave Golan in Bashan, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands, and Be-eshterah with its pasture lands; two cities. And to the families of the sons of Merari, the rest of the Levites, they gave from the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with its pasture lands and Kartah with its pasture lands. All the cities of the Levites in the midst of the possession of the sons of Israel were forty-eight cities with their pasture lands. These cities each had its surrounding pasture lands; thus it was with all these cities. (Joshua 21:8-13, 27, 34, 41, 42, NASB).

We see here a special plan for the Levites. Those who had been called to be close to God and represent Him are involved in this special plan.  Let us first look at what this special plan is and then think about its implications to our own lives as Christians. If we can get a hold on this concept being shared here, it will prove to be a great blessing to your life and to those around you.  Instead of questioning God’s purposes, you can delight in serving Him as He wants!
Unless we understand God’s plan, we will always misunderstand our circumstances!
What then was God’s special plan for the Israelites? It is apparent that instead of being grouped together, they were spread about all over.  The holy was mixed with the unholy. God’s representatives were scattered all about Israel, whether it was on the west bank or east bank of Israel. It didn’t matter if they were in the north or the south. The Levites would have various towns and the pasture lands around those towns. Let us just read two verses out of the many here to better understand what God was about.
Map of 48 Levitical Cities Joshua 20 21Then the cities from the tribe of Ephraim were allotted to the families of the sons of Kohath, the Levites, even to the rest of the sons of Kohath. And they gave them Shechem, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands, in the hill country of Ephraim, and Gezer with its pasture lands, (Joshua 21:20, 21, NASB).
In this case, the cities of refuge would naturally be some of those cities of the Levites. Altogether there were be 48 cities that the Levites would live in. What they were given was limited due to their special purpose. Yes, they were closer to God. We would think that they would all live on some high mountain together and for that mountain to be holy. The closer to the top, the more holy it would be. That is the way of worldly religions. If we keep God’s best news in the church hidden, we have gravely failed.
The need for the Israelites to be spread all over Israel was twofold. It is much like what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Christians are both salt and light.
““You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. “Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16, NASB.

The History of the Levites
Because of Simeon and Levi’s violence, they did not receive an inheritance of land. “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel. (Genesis 49:7).
But with the Levites’ faithfulness to Moses during a rebellion (Exodus 32:25-29) and Phinehas’ zeal for the Lord (Numbers 25:6-13), the Lord turned a curse into a blessing. God made a special covenant of peace, a perpetual priesthood with Phinehas’ own descendants. These would be the Lord’s priests. Other descendants of Levi would carry the tabernacle.
One other important point. God decided that He would take all the Levites as His own people to serve Him instead of the firstborn freed from the angel of death in Egypt. They then would have a special place on God’s heart. (See Numbers 3:12-13).
We are like salt to restrain evil. We might think of the way salt is distributed throughout meat to preserve it. The meat is only preserved if the salt is rubbed into it. If the culture is getting more debase,  it is because there is less Christians living out Christ’s likeness. They have compromised. I remember long before I was a pastor, that whether I was a worker at GE or a counselor in some summer camp, people knew I was a Christian. They would apologize if they spoke wrongly. They were conscious about standards because I was there. Someone recently asked me how can they stay away from worldliness once they enter the work force? I told them that they are to witness. Let people know you are a Christian. Of course, then you cannot easily compromise. Everyone is looking at you. If I come in late, they have no mercy for that Christian. We are to be like salt.
 We are also to be like light. Light to be effective must not be covered. Light stands for the revealing of truth. It goes along with the former. Jesus teaches both of them at the same time. The Levites would be distributed over all the land so that people would be reminded how they should live. The Christian is not only to keep the world from getting worse by being holy but also to bring God’s truth into the lives of others. If someone is sick or has a special need at work, we can on behalf of that person pray to the eternal and mighty God. People have a lot of needs. They pretend to be cool when they are with the majority of the people, but when they can find someone that they can trust, they share their heart. We might hear of the great needs of a person’s heart. Then as God’s priests we can both share what God thinks about such things and then pray for them.  Hindu after Hindu had come to know the Lord because they were desperate. They were dying and called out to other gods but to no avail. But when they cried out to the eternal God in the name of Jesus, they were healed. But how did they hear of Jesus? Sometimes through a nurse, a relative, a stranger, etc.  God spreads us throughout the world so that we can allow God’s love and light shine to all through our lives. God refuses to have all His people grouped together. He wants them to spread out throughout the world. Jesus’ famous words are, “Go ye into all the world.” Go. Go. Go. Don’t be shy. Don’t form cliques. Open your hearts to God and He will always open your hearts to those around you.
  1. Of course if the Levites had a special place to live together, this would never happen. This is like trying to get people to visit the church. It is not easy. We need to live among people and show God’s love. But there was a cost. The Levites would not have their own name and land. Judah would have its own tribe and therefore its own name. But the Levites were different. They had these cities spread out over the newly conquered land. The advantage was that they could focus on God’s holy work of living holy lives and telling God’s ways around them.  
Is God Being Fair?
  1. This brings us to one other significant point. This is the point we started our message with today. One would think that they would get more land for serving the Lord when in fact they got far less. Was this fair? God was deliberate about His actions toward the Levites. No one can be more fair than God. On the one hand, He did not have to give them anything. They belonged to Him. They were His slaves. Do slaves argue about not getting an inheritance when the master dies?  Of course, not. They are not sons. But God in His graciousness, gives more to those who faithfully serve Him. This is both an Old and New Testament principle. We see this clearly stated  in the Old Testament in Numbers 3:45, “For the Levites have no portion among you, because the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance.”
  2. What we have as New Testament believers is far greater than what is in the the world. We as His people are not to chase after the wealth on this earth. That would be blatant idolatry. A deep desire to get ahead in this world every time compromises our service to God. If we focus on being like the world, then we cannot faithfully serve God. We do not lie on our forms. It might mean someone else gets the grant or gets the recognition. More important is our resolve to live holy lives. We might dare to speak for Christ in a politically restrictive area. You might be rejected by your colleagues. But you are the Lord’s. You are being faithful to Him.
  3. Let me make one short word here. When we are being employed by others, we are faithfully to do the service required. If we can witness, let us witness. But many situations do not allow this. We actually lose our testimony if we talk when we should be doing our job. Employers pay us for our work. We are bound to this. But what you do on your free time such as lunch time or break is quite different. When I dare speak publicly on various issues, people quietly come to me and thank me for doing it. They feel the same, but they are afraid to state it. God will first judge the church for its unfaithfulness.
  4. The Christian is given several thoughts to help protect His faithfulness serving God. This service is not only in keeping holy (salt) but also in our ability and willingness to act as God’s priests on earth.
  5. First of all, we are to die to ourselves. We are not to live for what we can get on earth. We need to see that this world is temporary and that time is far too short to focus on living as others live. We do not need the best houses and cars. We do not spend much time and money trying to look the prettiest we could. We can go without fancy jewelry and perfumes. It is okay for us not to land that top level position.  Perhaps, God might want you there, but in that case you need to have the character and devotion of Daniel who was willing to give it all up at a snap if necessary. He chose to open his windows and keep praying. In our context, the militant homosexuals are having their so-called tolerant ways perpetrated in companies and universities. Why? It is clear it is because Christians are not standing up and clearly communicating what is right.
  6. Even though we spend years studying and hundreds of thousands of dollars getting what is ours, we must not compromise. It is much harder for the professional to live for Christ. In a real way you have more to die to. We must be willing to give it up in a snap if necessary. Unless we have died to ourselves, we will not be able to do this.
  7. Second of all, I would like to say that we must treasure the inheritance that the Lord has given to us. Do you remember what He said to the Levites? “For the Levites have no portion among you, because the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance.” Let me candidly ask you, “Would you rather be rich and successful?” or be a Christian? Of course, we are not saying that the rich cannot be Christians, but unless your treasure the ways of the Lord more than what the world sees as successful, then you will never make it to the kingdom of God. You might call yourself a Christian but in fact are not a Christian. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; (1 Corinthians 1:26, NASB). I think Queen of England once said she was glad that it did not say ‘any’ instead of ‘many.’
  8. But unless you love and treasure God’s kingdom more than the world, you will one day betray yourself and turn back to the world. There is no protection here except to wholeheartedly love the Lord and do what He leads you. I cannot say that you will not for Christ’s sake lose your job, your home, your security, your friendships, your all or even your life. But are we then just following the footsteps of Jesus? Isn’t that what a Christian is?
  9. By brothers and sisters, we have a greater opportunity to serve because we are specially called. If we treasure our calling, then we will make all the necessary sacrifices. We will keep our values in front of us. If you study during church, you have already shown who you are allegiant to. If you lie or cheat, have you not already shown that your heart is not for the world? But the Levites, had a special calling and a special service. It is only when we in our hearts treasure the calling, that we are faithful in our service.  But if you are not making the necessary sacrifices in your service, then it shows that you do not really love God at all. Your Christianity is all a sham. It is the kind of sham that the world hates. It is the kind that the Lord spits out of His mouth. Lukewarm. Good for nothing.

    1. Next > A Special Promise (Joshua 21:43-45)

      Obtaining a Greater Portion (Joshua 21:1-45)

      Index on Joshua

      Reaching Beyond Mediocrity (Joshua 10:1-43)
      – The Day the Sun Stood in the Sky –
      Skepticism and Higher Bible Criticism
      Joshua 10:12-14 Interpretations of the 'Sun stood in the sky.'
      Joshua 10:12-14 Purpose of Recording the Miracle
      Joshua 10:1-11: A. Joshua's Sincere Obedience
      Joshua 10:12-43: B. Joshua's Quest for God's Best
      Joshua 10:1-43: Bible Study Questions
      Mobilizing God's People (Joshua 1:10-18)

      Joshua 1:10-18: Introduction to Moblizing God's People
      Joshua 1:10-11: A. Communicates God’s Will
      Joshua 1:12-15: B. Demands Total Participation
      Joshua 1:16-18: C. Responds With A Clear Commitment
      Joshua 1:10-18: Bible Study Questions
      Finishing the Task (Joshua 13:1-33)

      Joshua 13: Introduction: 3 Unexplainables
      Joshua 13:1 Passes on the Vision
      Joshua 13:2-5 Knows the Need
      Joshua 13:6 Lives by Faith
      Joshua 13:7-33 Distributes the Responsibility
      Joshua 13:1-33 Bible Study Questions
      Victory over Strongholds (Joshua 6:1-27)
      Joshua 6:1-27 The Lesson from Jericho
      Joshua 6:1 Our Need for God's Power
      Joshua 6:2-5 Our Discovery of God's Solutions
      Joshua 6:6-27 Our Participation in God's Victory
      Joshua 6:1-27 Summary: You can win too!
      Joshua 6:1-27_Bible_Study_Questions
      Obtaining a Greater Portion (Joshua 21)

      Joshua 21 Introduction: A Greater Deal
      Joshua 21:1-7 A Special Calling
      Joshua 21:8-42 A Special Service
      Joshua 21:43-45 A Special Promise
      Joshua 21 Bible Study Questions
      Effectively Dealing with Defeat & Despair (Joshua 7:1-15)
      Joshua 7:1-15: Learning about Defeat and Failures
      Joshua 7:1-5: Falling into Failure
      Joshua 7:6-10: Staying in Disgrace
      Joshua 7:11-15: Road to Recovery
      Joshua 7:1-15: Bible Study Questions

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      Biblical Foundations for Freedom

      Rev. Paul J. Bucknell
B) A Special Service (Joshua 21:8-42)