JOSHUA 19:1 – 21:45 and LUKE 6:20–49
We now come to the end of the dividing of the land for the remaining tribes. The lots came forth for Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and then Dan. The territories that were covered are found in verses 1-48. Joshua was finally given a territory for his inheritance. It was the city of Timnath-Serah (portion of abundance) which he requested located in the mount of Ephraim. He built this city and resided here (vs 50). The final dividing of the lots were conducted by Eleazar the priest, Joshua and the primary leaders of Israel at Shiloh. As mentioned earlier, Shiloh was going to be the headquarters seeing that the Tabernacle of Moses would be established there.
We are going to see a casualness develop within the children of Israel. They have wandered for a long period of time; fought many battles yet the Lord saw them through every situation and circumstance. There will be battles to be fought through the reign of the Judges and God will prevail on their behalf. There will be a cycle that will be seen. They will call upon the Lord while in trouble; God will deliver them; they will rejoice and thank God but soon slip back to their old ways. They will begin to trust in this complacency knowing that God can be relied upon to deliver them while in trouble and for many of these cycles this will indeed be the case. I feel to establish this truth concerning Shiloh because this trend exists today. We can come to the place of taking the presence of the Lord for granted.
Shiloh will be a reference marker for a portion of Jeremiah’s warning to Israel many years after the Ark is removed from Shiloh. He will warn Israel to remember what God did at Shiloh (Jer 7:12, 7:14, 26:6, 26:9). He will warn Israel to not put their trust in the things of the temple which is another reference to Shiloh (Jer 7:4). There will come a time when God will no longer allow His presence to be contained in Moses Tabernacle at Shiloh by a corrupted priesthood. There will come a time when the Ark will be removed and begin a journey, first through enemy territory and then into the capable care of a faithful priest. This particular priest was also a king whom we know as David. Ironically, we will see two Tabernacles functioning simultaneously; one at Shiloh (Moses) and the other at Zion (David). This is another example where we see two different congregations like what we saw in Exo 32 at the foot of Mt Sinai. What is the primary difference between the Tabernacle of Moses and the Tabernacle of David? The Tabernacle of Moses did not have the Ark after the events at Shiloh (1 Sam 4). The Tabernacle of David had the Ark. David loved the presence of God. He had a heart that sought after God. Once again, I bring all of this up now so that we can see how the two different streams develop within the church. The Tabernacle of Moses at Shiloh is most instructive to us. It is not too difficult to make modern day parallels. This background on Shiloh should prove useful when examining the period of the Judges which will soon take place.
The Lord speaks to Joshua regarding a law that He spoke through Moses on previous occasions (Num 35:9-28, Deu 19:1-3). It involved the cities of refuge for those who slayed a person without malice or intent (vs 1-8). What I appreciate in this law are the established boundaries which serve as a protection. Laws hold and have force when boundaries are clearly stated and enforced. The enemy is always at work in trying to erode and chip away at moral absolutes. This results in the moving of boundaries to fit the whims and desires of man. These elastic boundaries give room for evil to operate and function. When boundaries are eroded or taken down it paves the way for lawlessness. In this instance a person who accidentally murdered a person without malice had a place of refuge he could go to. It would be unlawful for anyone to do harm to this person within the confines of this place of refuge. As believer’s this should encourage us in knowing that there is places of refuge where we can go; to be hidden and covered under His wings (Psa 91). The specific places that were appointed are covered in verses 7-9.
Let’s elaborate a bit more on this thought of the law and boundaries. God’s Law, when upheld serves as a hedge of protection for His people. It allows the enemy no room to manoeuvre seeing that the boundaries are strong and sure. The enemy initially gained access to man by chiselling away at the law and commandment that God gave to man in the garden. His method of seduction to the soul of man resulted in man violating and breaking God’s boundary which was represented by His law. What was the result? Satan now had a greater means of access into the affairs of man. We understand that all of this took place at the beginning in the garden. So why then does the Lord indict lawyers in many of His teachings? These so called learned men of the law are able to twist the boundaries of God’s law to their personal advantage. In doing so they are allowing for an increase of lawlessness. The legal profession has many outstanding people of integrity and character so this is not meant to be a blanket indictment. Still, look at the lawsuits, the legislative overload of new laws and regulations, many of which are contrary to God’s absolutes as seen in the 10 commandments. In the USA today we have the marriage covenant; a covenant instituted by God at the beginning, being redefined by man. Do you not think that this will open up the door to even greater lawlessness? It is easy to point the finger at politics and lawyers etc. however we better be careful to see if the church itself does not bear some responsibility. Are we being true to God and His laws? The prophet Malachi makes a strong indictment upon the priesthood as being partial in His laws. His rebuke is not pointed at any political party but squarely directed at the priests.
Mal 2:5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.
Mal 2:6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.
Mal 2:7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
This account of the places of refuge has significant meaning. God is a God of boundaries and it is important that we be faithful in helping to ensure that we uphold the respective boundaries that God would place in our lives. This could relate to our homes and families as well as to our ministries.
The matter of distribution of land to the Levites (priests) is covered in this chapter. The chief fathers and representatives from Kohath, Merarai and Gershom came to Joshua and Eleazar after the cities of refuge were established. They reminded Joshua what Moses had commanded earlier regarding how their allotments would be handled (Num 35:2). The Levites were to be given an inheritance within the boundaries of each of the tribes. We have seen it mentioned on many occasions already in how the Levites were not to have a specific inheritance on their own but that they would be allotted land within each of the boundaries of the tribes. It was also said of them that their inheritance would be the Lord Himself. This helps to give greater meaning to the role of the priesthood. Within each of the territories of the tribes there would be priestly representation.
Through the period of the Old Testament the primary focus on the role of the priests was seen through the Levites. They were given the distinction and privilege of being priests by responding to the call of God at Sinai. (Who is on the Lord’s side? Exo 32:26). We see that they will now reside alongside each of the tribes in accordance to the terms set out in this chapter (Josh 21). The role and understanding of the priestly ministry is still minimized in today’s church. The primary function of a true priest is to represent God to the people and to be a representative on behalf of the people to God. It is a high calling. It is a calling presented to all believers of the New Covenant (Rev 1:6, 5:10). The fact that each tribe had priestly representation signifies the priest’s vital role in the ongoing thrust of God’s purposes. It establishes a precedent for the church. The priestly role tempers and works alongside the prophetic ministries. Neither is exclusive. When both the prophetic and priestly roles are functioning efficiently it better establishes the kingdom rule.
As important as the Levitical priesthood role was in the Old Testament there is one that is even greater. The Apostle Paul develops it extensively in his letter to the Hebrews. Paul, being a chief amongst the Pharisees was well acquainted with the Old Testament order and was in a position to address the primary arguments of the antagonists of Christ and the early church. Paul of course was speaking of Melchizedec. He makes the case in how Abraham, whom through the loins that Levi would later come forth, paid tithes unto Melchizedec. This symbolized that the Melchizedec order of priesthood supersedes that of Levi (Levitical Order). I feel to bring this truth out in light of the representation of the Levites throughout the tribes of Israel in their inheritance.
We learn much about the role of priests through the Levitical order but there is a higher realm that can be understood by examining the person of Melchizedec. He was a king/priest as seen in Genesis 14:18. He is a perfect type of the king/priest calling to the last day church. Once again, the primary emphasis today is on kingdom living without due attention being given to the priestly role. We also can see an over-emphasis on the prophetic movement at the expense of the priestly role. It took a Phineas, (a priest) to temper and address the fallout of an overambitious prophet (Balaam). It took a Samuel (prophet and priest) to finish the work of a king (Saul) in rebellion (1 Sam 15:33). The role of a priest can be seen from Genesis through Revelation. It will be the priests that will rule and reign with Christ in the millennium (Rev 20:6). You will only find the role of kings come on the scene some 3000 years after the creation and last for a period of about 400 years. The next mention and role of a king is when they reign with Christ during the millennium. The priests do not rule exclusively, they function alongside the prophetic and kingly realms. My point is you cannot exclude the priestly role in either the “kingdom” or “prophetic” movement. The Levites lived alongside all the tribes as a means of helping to judge and rule in an appropriate fashion. The Lord has very high regard for the ministry of the priesthood. One of Jeremiah’s greatest concerns before Israel went into captivity was the following:
Jer 5:31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
What is seen after Babylon is a beautiful flow of priest(s) and prophet(s) that helped bring restoration to Israel. Ezra and Joshua were priests who flowed alongside prophets like Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi. One is not exclusive of the other. The burden to be a priest after the order of Melchizedec or a son of Zadok should apprehend the saints of the last days. Remember, Christ Himself was a prophet, king and priest. May we ultimately seek to be like Him in all we do and see a harmony and flow amongst the prophets, kings and priests.
It is amazing to see how many instances of offense come to the Pharisees over incidents occurring on the Sabbath. It not only provides an opportunity for the Lord to show forth their hypocrisy but it also helps to give understanding to the true meaning of the Sabbath. In our commentaries to date we have seen this as a recurring theme. How did the Lord direct their attention in this instance? He alludes to an Old Testament example that they would be aware of, seeing that they were overly concerned with Sabbath violations. This is wisdom in action. “Have you not read..” If they were true Pharisees they would know of the account of David that Jesus is speaking of (1 Sam 21:1). If they were true Pharisees they would know of the verse that mentions David stating, “The Lord said unto my Lord…” (Psa 110). If you now put two and two together it would be clear that David did the very thing that the Lord and His disciples were doing here. Secondly, they would know that the Messiah would be the Son of David (Math 22:42-45). Jesus is using the Old Testament, the resource that the Pharisees were always referring to, to validate Himself as the Son of David and as a result, the Lord of the Sabbath (Luk 6:5). The Lord is demonstrating great wisdom in this exchange. In one sense He is recognizing their understanding of scripture but in doing so demonstrates His authority in plucking the ears of corn on the Sabbath. In other words, the so called strength of the Pharisees (The Old Testament Scripture) is now their weakness as they cannot defend the Lord’s authority. It is absolutely brilliant! It truly represents wisdom in action.
This then leads to another Sabbath event. There was a man who had a withered hand who entered into the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. As an aside, wouldn’t you love to have been able to hear Jesus teach in the synagogue and to see how He handled those who challenged Him? Here we see Scribes and Pharisees who had no concern for the man who needed a healing but rather were looking to see if Jesus would violate Sabbath laws. They now were only interested in trying to find a way to accuse and discredit Him. The Lord knew their thoughts (vs 8) which was probably not hard to interpret seeing their track record. Here is another remarkable demonstration of the power and wisdom and God. Here is where we see the Lord showing forth their pure hypocrisy. You have to love this question and how He handled this situation.
Luk 6:9 Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?
Luk 6:10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
How would they answer Him in a public setting? Are they going to argue their stand before a man who has a serious need of healing? The people would turn on the Pharisees in a heartbeat. As I write these thoughts there are many similarities that come to mind today. Hypocrisy abounds in every area of life. What is needed is for Truth to come to the fore. It must be Truth entwined in wisdom. The Scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites, pure and simple. They put on a show of concern and spirituality but it was always done for personal benefit. They had no genuine concern for the need of others and Jesus was able to flesh that out in a way that was able to be seen by all. Can you imagine this scene playing out in the synagogue when Jesus asked that question? Who would dare speak against a healing of a man’s need? The result of this humiliation of the Pharisees was increased anger and hatred towards the Lord. It is important to understand that this is what will be seen in the last days. When a people stand for truth and justice they will be opposed. We need to cry out for the fulfillment of Isaiah 33:6.
Isa 33:6 And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.
Soon after this event Jesus again retreats to a solitary place to pray and spend time with his Father; in fact He spends the whole night in prayer (vs 12). We have called these moments where the Lord gets away in prayer with His Father as being in a “Position of Rest”. What was the fruit of this particular night in prayer? No doubt, He was refreshed and revived but He was also given instruction on a very important matter. The next day He called His disciples and out of those disciples He chose the twelve who would become Apostles (vs 13-16). In a Position of Rest, the Lord came to the place where He chose the 12.
In verses 17-19 we see the Lord ministering to the multitudes who needed healing and deliverance. It was a season of healing due to the people recognizing that there was “virtue” flowing out of Him. This is also seen in Math 14:36. The woman with the issue of blood is but another example (Mark 5:30). It also needs to be noted that people came to hear Him. We must never underestimate this quality of Jesus. He was a master teacher and was able to captivate audiences wherever He went. Many would be offended, especially the priests, lawyers and scribes but the majority of the people heard Him gladly. Today the modern day news media seeks to control the narrative. They try to implant their values and sense of what is right and wrong. These modern day Pharisees and Scribes will feign interest and concern for social justice however it is veiled behind a self-absorbing agenda. It is Truth coupled with wisdom that will expose their hypocrisy. This is where the church must arise. A love for God’s Word, His Law and His ways is the prescription that is required. Will we be able to make a stand for Truth as Jesus did, exposing the lies and schemes of the enemies of the Cross? Are we willing to accept the fact that there will be strong opposition poised against those ambassadors of Truth? Jesus had the ability to teach the Truth, heal the sick, deliver the oppressed and expose the hypocrisy of the learned and esteemed elites. May God grant that we can faithfully follow after His example.
There was a clever advertisement in the 1970’s for a particular brand of oil filter for one’s car. It featured a mechanic in a garage with a car in the background having an engine that was being overhauled. The mechanic also had a $6.00 Fram oil filter in his hand. He then stated the following words: You can pay me now or pay me later. In other words you can pay a small price of $6.00 for an oil filter today to help maintain proper maintenance and longevity for your engine or you can forego the payment today for a much higher price when your engine fails later on. Why do I bring this up? This happened to me. I totally fulfilled the admonition that was sounded out in the ad. I put off doing routine car maintenance only to have my engine totally seize up. It’s a practical lesson that presents an eternal truth.
If we learn to give heed to God’s Word, His Laws and warning today it could well prevent future catastrophe in future. This is the gist of what the Lord is teaching as He expounds on some of the Beatitudes. Yes, there is a price in seeking the Lord wholeheartedly now. There may be seasons of weeping, of being in need, of being reviled and scorned but the time will come when the tide will turn (vs 20-23). The Lord makes clear that such a people are to rejoice and leap in those days. He goes on to say that the fathers and prophets of old endured such difficulties as well. It is a privilege in being able to be identified with them. Ultimately, we are identifying with an aspect of the suffering of Christ. What the church truly needs is perspective at such times. This is the ability in having our eyes lifted up to see the bigger picture. A narrow minded view will be a person who lives day to day through the up and down circumstances of life. A narrow minded view will be a person who opts for the easier way, finding satisfaction and joy in the temporal things of life. Jesus sends a strong warning to those who live in such a way (vs 24-26).
The Lord then gives instruction in how one should live and view life. It is a prescription that is contrary to what is the norm. The thought of loving one’s enemy and blessing those who seek to do harm does not make sense to a world where people live for themselves. The bottom line in the Lord’s teaching is that the emphasis is to be upon others as opposed to ourselves. This is true even when you are being taken advantage of. It is the example and way by which the Lord Himself lived. This model of living helps us to understand how the Lord is able to love us as sinners and reconcile us to Himself. It is the ability to see people as God sees them. It enables us to be instruments that God can use to reach a lost and dying world. If we have a “live for today” mentality we will reap its consequences in short order. On the other hand if we can appropriate the Lord’s instruction as seen in these teachings, we will have an eternity of rejoicing in His presence.
Is there a particular verse that comes to mind when the subject of tithing is addressed? In many cases it would be Luke 6:38 “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom…”. This verse is often linked to Mal 3:10 where we are encouraged to prove the Lord and see if He will not pour out a blessing. What is the motive in using these verses in such a way? It is true, that God does bless a cheerful giver and that we could never out give the Lord, but what is the motive for giving?
If we can learn to love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us we become candidates to receive such blessings. The act of giving or caring for others comes from a dying or a divesting of SELF. We give because we desire to meet a need in someone else’s life. As we are motivated to give in such a way it allows God to freely meet needs in our own life. This is captured in a strong and fruitful marriage. The love reciprocates between husband and wife as one seeks to bless the other; as one looks after the needs of the other at the expense of themselves.
This is the message and the life that Jesus presents to mankind. One will be able to appreciate Luke 6:38 when it is taken into context with the teachings of Christ in the previous verses. The blessings and the promises of this verse come as a result in how we treat and view others. This should always be the basis for our giving; that we are giving to God for the extension of His kingdom. This is what distinguished the offerings between Cain and Abel. One gave out of convenience while the other gave of his best; one gave conditionally while the other gave an offering predicated on faith (Heb 11:4).
The subject of having a right foundation is covered in verses 43-49. It is a subject of extreme importance. The Book of Genesis is the foundation Book of the Bible. It is a Book of Beginnings where the entirety of God’s Word is established. The situations we see in life today can be traced back to Genesis. The Bible makes this following statement: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do” (Psa 11:3)? Every work will be tested; what kind of foundation is our ministry or our life founded upon? Jesus gets to the core of where good fruit originates; it is in the heart (vs 45). One can have the appearance of being fruitful by a good outward show. This can be an individual or perhaps even a church. On the outward all can look well and good. The question is what is the root like, what is the foundation like, what is actually in the heart? We are living in a day when the Lord is seeking to get to our hearts. We have seen this concerning Joshua, his visitation from the Lord of hosts is a picture of what Jesus is doing today (Jos 5:13-15). Do we welcome the sword and the Word to probe the depths of our hearts? This is the tempering process by which the Lord tests our foundations to see where we are really rooted. How does He apply this process to our lives? How can we be among those who have strong and established foundations in place?
The Lord gives the steps in verses 47-48. “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom He is like: He is like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid a foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock”. Simply put the key is to hear what God is saying and to do it. Do we have ears to hear? The key in these last days is to have established foundations and roots that go deep in the earth. Such a person and ministry will stand when testing’s come and will be able to provide needed fruit in a time of drought and adversity.
Jer 17:8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.