Joshua now covers the final details of inheritance for the tribe of Levi (the priestly tribe). God had commanded the people to provide land for the priests – not to own – but to possess, and that they might live in the midst of the people.
Joshua 21:8 (NKJV) “And the children of Israel gave these cities with their common-lands by lot to the Levites, as the LORD had commanded by the hand of Moses.”
The children of Kohath were given 10 cities.
The children of Gershon were given 13 cities.
The children of Merrari were given 12 cities.
The children of Aaron were given 13 cities.
It was a total of 48 cities.
Joshua 21:41–42 (NLT) “The total number of towns and pasturelands within Israelite territory given to the Levites came to forty-eight. 42 Every one of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it.”
Isn’t it beautiful to read those words of Joshua in the end of this chapter, that the land was given to Israel by God? That they now lived in the possession of His promises, that they were given rest all around and not a man of their enemies was able to stand against them (Joshua 21:43-44). Christian, I pray you’d know that these promises are for us as well. One day when we’re done, we’ll look back and be able to say the same thing:
Joshua 21:45 (NKJV) “Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel (to the church of God). All came to pass.”
The tribes who had received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan, Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh had fulfilled their word, they’d completed their mission in fighting for their brethren on the west side, to help them receive their inheritance. Moses calls them, commends them, and sends them home (Joshua 22:1-4). As he releases them, Moses admonishes them with words that are applicable to us all.
Joshua 22:5 (NKJV) “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
After the 2 1/2 tribes crossed over the Jordan they built an altar ( we’ll later see for good reason) but their action was misinterpreted. Rumors began to swirl, and the nation was ready to go to war against their own brethren. The ten tribes sent representatives to warn the 2 1/2 tribes about this, to speak “fighting words.” We will see next time, the reason the altar was built, and how easy and foolish it is to jump to conclusions and get riled up – unnecessarily.
When Jesus was in Jerusalem He would teach the people daily in the Temple (Matthew 26:55; Mark 14:49; Luke 19:47). The religious leaders have had enough, so they challenged Him and asked Him by what authority He was doing these things. He taught there and cleansed the Temple, but hadn’t “graduated from their universities,” He hadn’t been approved or ordained by them, He had none of their usual Rabbinical qualifications, and yet the people flocked to Him (we’ll see in the end that envy was the key they used to kill Him – Mark 15:10).
Jesus, however, turns the tables. Sometimes we think we can bury the past, but we can’t, not if there are things the Lord wants us to face. Jesus brings up John the Baptist, His forerunner, the one who pointed to Him. If the religious leaders would have been open to God, they would have been open to John the Baptist AND, of course, they would have been open to Jesus.
Warren Wiersbe put it this way, “They had rejected the ministry of John the Baptist, and that led to their refusal to trust Jesus Christ. You may forget your decisions, but they will not forget you. You may even try to bury them, but they will be resurrected to accuse you.” They refused to acknowledge the authority of John the Baptist and they would do the same for Jesus, even though both were undeniably ordained by God.
Jesus essentially says, “I’ll answer your question if you answer mine. Let’s have an honest and reasonable conversation,” but these religious hypocrites refused to have that type of talk and honestly face the truth.
The parable of the wicked vinedressers, therefore, came as a warning. They had been blessed with a heavy responsibility as leaders in Israel. God wanted this nation to bear fruit, and to be a witness to the world, but the leaders got possessive and suppressed the fact that the people (the vineyard) didn’t belong to them. This led them to reject the prophets of God and eventually killing the Son of God – so what was God to do? He would punish them and lease the vineyard to others (the church for a season). The religious leaders knew Jesus spoke this parable to them, so they reverted back to their usual way of dealing with these things – murder.
Imagine trying to trick or trap God! How foolish! The scribes, pharisees, and sadducees reasoned that if they could somehow trap Jesus in His words, He’d say something that would be self-incriminating, He’d fall before the people or the Roman Government.
Regarding the payment of taxes, the Bible Knowledge Commentary writes, “If Jesus gave either a yes or a no answer He would lose support. If He said it was proper to pay taxes to Caesar, a foreign ruler (viz., Tiberius Caesar, A.D. 14–37), the zealots (who opposed Roman rule and favored Jewish autonomy) would be offended by His answer. If He answered that it was not proper to pay taxes (which the religious leaders might have suspected because He had been teaching about the kingdom), then the Romans would be displeased and the religious leaders would be able to turn Him over to their authority.”
Sounds so similar to some of the hot-topic political issues of today that the enemy wants us to get entangled in.
But Jesus gets the victory in the “debate”, and He does so with doctrinal depth and beauty. The coin had Caesar’s image on it – so give it to him; but we are created in the image of God and therefore called to render to God our entire lives. May we never forget whose image we bear! (Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9)
Psalm 89 was written during a time in which Israel had been defeated (Psalm 89:38-45). The Psalm begins in faith but goes on to question God’s faithfulness.
The Psalmist reminded God of His covenant with David, but the Psalmist misinterpreted it to be a line that would be fulfilled through human kings, when in all reality, it would be fulfilled in the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s commendable to read Ethan’s heart to sing of the mercies of the LORD – forever (Psalm 89:1) and how he would use his mouth, not only to sing, but to preach on God’s faithfulness.
Ethan acknowledged that there was no one like the LORD – and I’m blessed with the way he acknowledges that only God is able to rule over the raging sea – over the waves when they rise (did you think of Jesus when you read Psalm 89:9? see Matthew 8:24-27).
Ethan acknowledged – it’s all God’s, made by Him, there’s none like Him, the Maker of the north and the south, the heavens and the earth!
Ethan was upbeat and personified even the mountains rejoicing (Tabor and Hermon) at God’s creation.
May we also rejoice today – in creation and redemption – for no matter what the circumstances my be, God is faithful, He will keep His promises, fulfill His Word, and work all things together for good.
V. 15 – If we live a life of “good understanding,” we will gain favor as Jesus did. We read that in:
Luke 2:52 (NKJV) “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
But unfaithfulness brings unnecessary heartache. Life is already hard, unfaithfulness on our part makes it even more difficult.
V. 16 – The New Living Translation puts it this way, “Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness.”
Good advice isn’t it, “think” before we act, even before we speak!
We all have that choice to be wise or foolish. O Lord, please make me wise 🙏🏼
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.