Friday, April 17, 2009

Taking care of ministers

If you have been following Transformed Daily, you know that I have recently been spending a little time in the book of Joshua. Much of this book is dedicated to the distribution of the Promised Land to God’s chosen people. It is always interesting to note that as all of the land is being distributed among the tribes, it is very obvious that the Levites are left out. In fact, it is clear that they are intentionally left out of the land distribution bonanza. Why weren’t the priestly people given any land? Doesn’t this seem like a severe oversight or a grievous error? It seems backwards. Wouldn’t God take extra-special care of His priests by blessing them with the lion’s share of the land? Why didn’t the men of God get the largest allotments of land? Why did they just get some cities that they were allowed to live in, rather than thousands of acres of land to call their own?

Maybe it is because God set apart the Levites to be priests, not farmers. They were called to devote themselves to the work of God Almighty and pastor the people, not concern themselves with clearing land, growing crops, digging wells, and raising livestock. God’s plan was to keep His priests focused on serving the spiritual needs of His people. But, that doesn’t mean that the priests were left to lives of poverty or reduced to begging in the streets in order to survive. On the contrary, God makes sure that His servants, who work in His house, are well taken care of by providing places for them to live and plenty of provisions. God does this by commanding the other tribes to make sure the Levites have all they need.   

We also see that God takes care of His priests by setting aside a large portion of the sacrificial offerings for their food, as well as the best of the oil, and the wine, and the first-fruits, with the tithes of the children of Israel (Num. 18:9-19, 24). God also made provision by commanding the other tribes to give unto the Levites, out of their own inheritance, cities to dwell in (Num. 35:2-5). God makes it clear that those who receive from the spiritual service of His servants, should, in turn, minister to their temporal subsistence. By the way, this is a common thread that is continued into the New Testament as the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians,
“But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14) 
Before I conclude, it is also interesting to note that the Levites didn’t all live in just one city. Rather, they were appointed to live all throughout the land of Israel. God never intended there to be one centralized community of Levites, but every tribe was to have the priestly influence and presence among them. This is also true of the Christian church today. Christ has called us to be among all nations, all tribes, and all people groups. The church is intended to be throughout the entire world and all of society, instead of heading off to make a “Christian country” somewhere. We are called to go. We are called to plant churches in every community. The ministers of the gospel are called to live among the people of this world as they minister the love, compassion, righteousness, and justice of Christ Jesus.  

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