I’ve been ‘stuck’ in Deuteronomy for a while.
I say stuck because Deuteronomy is a pretty thick book, especially in the Old King James, but actually I’ve learned a lot through it. You may recall Giants in the Land, which was the first portion that really stood out from the passages and passages of law-in-review. And I say review but really I think the book of Deuteronomy was really Moses’ re-clarification – a ‘here’s what you should do in this instance’ reference for the leaders and judges after him.
But another point that caught my attention was this: multiple times Moses reiterates an arrangement God made for the Levites – their whole tribe is to get no inheritance in the Promised Land (didn’t you ever notice there is no place called ‘Levi’ ever talked about in Old Testament history/geography?) They’re going into a Promise they have no part in among all their brothers; and why? It almost sounds like they got slighted. But we get the explanation for this in chapter 18:
18 “The priests, the Levites—all the tribe of Levi—shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and His portion. 2 Therefore they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance, as He said to them.
3 “And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, whether it is bull or sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder, the cheeks, and the stomach. 4 The firstfruits of your grain and your new wine and your oil, and the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5 For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever. – Deuteronomy 18:1-5
So here’s the thing. The Levites didn’t get any land because they were called by God to be priests. Instead, God gave them himself as an inheritance. Boom, #howdoyoulikethatReuben? Just kidding, but the Levites didn’t just get encumbered with the task of ministry work to an entire nation, they were also given the promise that God would take special care of them; they didn’t have to worry about land, or money, or even food, because God arranged it all.
So you know what I immediately think of?
The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You [Prophesying of Jesus] are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek. – Psalm 110:4
2 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,[a] 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”[b]
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,[c]
“The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone,”[d]
“A stone of stumbling
And a rock of offense.”[e]
They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. – 1 Peter 2:1-10
The Levites were chosen by God for the Old Covenant priesthood, but when the covenants changed, so did the priesthood; the Levitical line was fulfilled by John the Baptist, and the New Covenant priesthood, the order of Melchizedek, was begun by Jesus, God-with-us Emmanuel, who is forever a priest at the right hand of God the Father after shedding his own blood before the Father to buy us out of bondage – I can’t think of anything else when I start remembering that sacrifice for me.
I don’t know who Peter was writing to – I assume to Jewish Christians, since the Jewish church was Peter’s particular calling – but I don’t think it matters; we’re all the body of Christ, and now, like the Levites, we’re called to a royal priesthood. Which means two things: inheritance (royal) and intercessory ministry (priesthood) – like the Levites we’ve been tasked as ministers, not to one nation but to all nations. But we’ve also been adopted and called into royalty, as sons and daughters of God. Some might call that recompense – I just call it an undeniable, unquenchable joy that can’t be hidden or kept inside. The real call is to step into inheritance with Jesus; the natural result is a desire to minister to the nations.We weren’t called to minister merely out of desire for payment or reward – God didn’t hold back the Levites’ inheritance to get them to serve him – but in full confidence that there will always be enough for me no matter how much of myself I give. No worries, no concerns, because the LORD is my portion!