Deuteronomy - Lesson 20
Levite in Your Gates - Deut. 18.1-8
The Levites represent a barometer on where the people of Israel are in their ethical religion. They are not given land as an inheritance so it is the responsibility of people in the other tribes to support them. Moses presents a theology of worship but doesn’t go into detail.
Levite in Your Gates - Deut. 18.1-8
Levite in Your Gates (18:1-8)
I. Economic Status of Levites
A. No land as an inheritance
B. Vulnerable socio-economic group
II. Supporting the Levites
A. Specific provisions
B. Theological roots
III. Priests and Levites
B. References to Priests and Levites in Deuteronomy
C. Moses’ vision of the status and duties of Levitical priests
III. Charge to Care for the Levites
IV. Structure of the Passage
V. Implications for a Theology of Ministry
The book of Deuteronomy contains the gospel message. Even though there are some laws mentioned, the essence of the book is prophetic preaching. Your presuppositions and principles for interpretation that you use will make a difference in how you view the meaning and significance of the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy is primarily a collection of sermons but its structure is covenantal. The structure of the covenant was commonly used in other cultures in the Ancient Near East during this time period. God tells the people of Israel that he is their God and the people say that they are God’s treasured possession. (Note: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb are referring to the same thing. They are used interchangeably)
God gave the Decalogue to Moses so they have authority as Scripture. The book of Deuteronomy as whole is also Scripture. It contains the speeches of Moses and narrative passages. It’s the lense through which we view the other books of the Pentateuch.
Moses begins by recalling events that happened during their wandering in the wilderness, then recent events as they have gotten closer to entering the promises land from the east. Moses is idealized in the Old and New Testaments and in the writings of historians. You get a different picture when you read his first address. It shows Moses as faithful but flawed.
The Law was given to the nation of Israel after they had been freed from Egypt as the way to respond to God’s grace. God gives them the boundaries for right and wrong and a process to restore relationship when it is broken.
With the privilege of salvation and covenant relationship comes the call for a righteous response, demonstrated in joyful obedience to the Savior and Lord. A covenant is a formally confirmed agreement between two or more parties that creates, formalizes, governs a relationship that does not exist naturally or a natural relationship that has disintegrated.
God’s people are a privileged people; they have been graciously redeemed, and set apart as his special treasure, his holy covenant people. God acts graciously to undeserving people and they respond joyfully with obedience. The is the end of the first speech of Moses, Deuteronomy 4:32-40.
The Decalogue is the bill of rights of the people of ancient Israel. It is the ten principles of covenant relationship. It creates a picture of covenant righteousness and provides a foundation for later revelation. The Decalogue contains the features of a typical covenant and conditional and unconditional laws. The addressee is the head of the household because they can be a threat to others.
When Moses recites the Decalogue in Deuteronomy 5, there are parts that are similar to the passage in Exodus, and there are some significant differences. He begins with getting the attention of the people of Israel and appealing for covenant fidelity, restates the Decalogue, then ends with a document clause, using covenant language.
The Shema is a call for whole-hearted, full-bodied commitment. This passage is a theological exposition and pastoral proclamation to impress on the minds of the people of Israel the special relationship they enjoyed with YHWH. The grace God showed them must be embraced with grateful and unreserved devotion to their redeemer and covenant Lord.
God chooses the covenant partner, sets the terms, declares the goal, identifies the sign and determines the consequences of disobedience of the covenant. After Moses explains the purpose of the Law, he explains to the children how the Law was given and that learning it and putting it into practice will bring them life.
Moses talks to the people of Israel as they are entering the land, about how they will respond to the external test of confronting and dispossessing the surrounding nations. He reminds them of their special status with God and the covenant that he offers them unconditionally. He challenges them with the theological, ethical and missional significance of the test.
How can you worship a God that asks the people of Israel to wipe out the Canaanites? The reason for Israel taking the land is so the people of Israel as a holy people will be preserved so the world will be preserved. God is fundamentally compassionate and gracious, he does what is right and God offers us grace and mercy.
When everything goes right, what do you do then? The message of this passage is, “don’t forget.” YHWH provided manna in the wilderness to feed the people of Israel. God was also teaching them in the wilderness that life comes from every word of the mouth of God, not just by eating physical food. Moses challenges the people to respond to prosperity by praising God, not by taking the credit themselves.
The enemies in the Promised Land are formidable. God promises to defeat them. Moses warns that people to acknowledge that God is responsible. Even though the Canaanites do not follow God, the reason God chose the people is not because they are morally superior to the Canaanites.
Israel’s covenant with YHWH is based entirely on his grace and they don’t deserve it. Moses interceded on behalf the of people of Israel to ask God to not judge them and God is described as, “changing his mind” and renewing his covenant with them.
“What does YHWH ask of you?” Moses answers this question, then gives a doxology to confirm it and an application to illustrate it. God wants you to have a soft heart toward him, to live in an attitude of trusting awe and to act in a way that honors the covenant that God has established with you.
Moses has given a profound theology of land. He gives the people of Israel instructions for what God wants them to do when they enter the land to confirm their covenant with God. This included using uncut stones and plastering them and writing the Torah on them and then praising God. The land is an integral part of the covenant. The people shout blessings on Mount Gerizim and curses on Mount Ebal.
As the people of Israel enter the land, God has instructions for them on how to live in relationship with him and worship him so that it may go well with them and their children. They are to reject the false worship practices of the surrounding nations and accept God’s invitation to come and worship him in the place and in the way he has designed for them.
The Levites represent a barometer on where the people of Israel are in their ethical religion. They are not given land as an inheritance so it is the responsibility of people in the other tribes to support them. Moses presents a theology of worship but doesn’t go into detail.
This is a warning to the people of Israel to not imitate the materialistic preoccupation and the brutal rituals associated with the worship practices of the surrounding nations when they worship YHWH. There are warnings against following false prophets, someone in your family or people in your community if they are promoting seditious religious practices. The apostle Paul uses similar language in the New Testament when warning people about following people who teach heresies.
In contrast to worship with the purpose of satisfying the gods, YHWH delights in fellowship with his people and for them to celebrate in his presence. YHWH encourages his people to eat in his presence and with other people. His guidelines about which foods are acceptable to eat set the people of Israel apart from other nations.
A main purpose of the national festivals was to keep alive the memory of God’s grace and maintain their faith in god and their covenant with him.
Moses describes the key offices and roles that keep the society going by providing political and spiritual structure. The primary concern is righteousness. The king is to be the embodiment of Torah righteousness. Moses outlines specific steps to achieve this and describes what it will look like.
Moses, in his role as prophet, is the commissioned envoy of righteousness to the people of Israel. Moses was a mediator between God and the people of Israel. He warned the people of Israel about false prophets and the danger of adopting the worship practices of the surrounding nations.
Moses provides a picture of covenant life and godliness in a way that you can apply it to every situation in life. It’s important to care for the poor and the resident alien and to show justice to them. The resident aliens were invited to participate in the feasts and covenant life.
The ideal for the people of Israel was a patricentric society but in often the reality was a patriarchal society. In a patricentric society, the male head of the clan will provide resources and security in a way that gives his family and the community opportunities to flourish. The vision for women in Deuteronomy is different than the world that is described in Israelite narratives.
Celebrating God’s goodness and grace in the Land. Bringing an offering from the firsfruits of the harvest is a time to remember how God has provided for the people of Israel in the past, both as individuals and as a community. There are lessons we can learn about worhship and living faithfully. This is the Deuteronomic creed.
Some people view the curses in Deuteronomy 28 as a stumbling block to accepting the Old Testament as Christian Scripture because they say it represents God as vengeful. However, this was a common way of writing covenants in the Ancient Near East, they follow a list of extraordinary blessings, they serve a pastoral function and there are similar curses articulated in the New Testament.
Deuteronomy 29 begins with Moses recounting how YHWH brought the people out of Egypt and gave them victory in the land east of the Jordan River. Then he describes the curses they will experience when they turn away from the Lord. Chapter 30 describes the eschatological restoration. Deuteronomy 29:29 refers to the mystery of divine grace. (The movie and book series that Dr. Block is referring to is Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. The prequel to this series is The Hobbit.)
This is the final altar call of Moses to the people of Israel to appeal to them to choose life by living in covenant relationship with YHWH. The revelation of YHWH given through Moses is to be memorized, recited and used as a guide for conduct. It is understandable and doable.
The Torah that Moses has been preaching was written down. This is the introduction to the song of Moses and contains the commissioning of Joshua, who will take over after Moses dies. Part of the book of Deuteronomy is the death narrative of Moses.
This passage is a poetic witness to the people of Israel of the faithfulness of YHWH and the faithlessness of Israel. Moses was told to teach it to the people of Israel so they could pass it on to their descendants. People could sing it throughout the day and it could be presented as a musical drama at national celebrations.
At the end of the sermons of Moses, he pronounces a benediction by saying something specific for each tribe. Deuteronomy 33 and Genesis 49 have some similarities and differences in the way the sons of Jacob and their descendants are blessed. The exordium and the coda frame the blessings by describing YHWH’s care and provision for the people of Israel as their king.
This is the last narrative story about Moses in the Old Testament. God tells him to go up on Mt. Nebo where he is able to see the land. Joshua takes over as the leader of the people. There is a eulogy for Moses at the end.
The Gospel according to Moses. This is a collection of sermons of Moses as the people of Israel are poised to enter the promised land after being in the wilderness for 40 years. Deuteronomy is a special book, calling God’s people to celebrate his grace and demonstrate covenant love for him with action that glorifies his name. Until we recognize the gospel in this book, we will not read this book. (Note: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb are referring to the same mountain. They are used interchangeably)
The Gospel according to Moses
To many people the law stands in opposition to the gospel. While it may be possible to read Paul's epistles this way, the book of Deuteronomy will not allow this reading. Like the book of Romans in the New Testament, Deuteronomy provides the most systemat
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Dr. Daniel Block
Levite in Your Gates - Deut. 18.1-8
[00:00:00] All right. We are moving now, jumping a few paragraphs or a few chapters up to Chapter 18. We will end there, but will lay the groundwork to a special problem in the special issue in the book of Deuteronomy concerning the Levites. This is rather surprising because the book of Deuteronomy isn't actually very interested in Leviticus issues. Like you have in Leviticus, like you have in the book of Ezekiel. Priestly issues are not a big concern in here. It's ethical religion, not cultic religion that drives this whole book. But the Levites represent a barometer of where the nation is on ethical religion, which is very interesting. So my title is a Levite in Your Gates, a barometer of Israel's spiritual state. First of all, we have to talk about the economic status of Levites in Israelite society as a tribe among the tribes of Israel. They did not get their own land. But though Moses is a Levite, we should. And since Moses is a Levite, we shouldn't be surprised that when he deals with this tribe. He acknowledges Levi as one of the 12 tribes. They they are in addition to the actual 12 tribes. But as some of you already mentioned in private conversation between the sessions in chapter 27, when they're at that ceremony at Gerizim and Eval, the Levites are they are as a tribe, which means that Joseph represents Ephraim and Manasa to keep the number 12. But these are always the outliers. There are 12 political tribal entities, but one religious tribal entity, and that's the Levites. Sometimes they function as that 12th tribe at the ritual of covenant, blessing and curse. There you have them identified in the farewell blessings of the Tribes in chapter 33. Moses blesses Levi, but that means he has to cut out either Ephraim or Manasa.
[00:02:36] And so what does he do, Joseph? That works. The Levites. We need to talk about the Levites as a vulnerable social economic group. Often they are grouped together with the wind or the orphan and the alien and the Levites. Don't neglect these people. Take them along when you go to the central sanctuary. Wherever. The data. Although Moses never mentioned the issue in the first or second addresses the frequency with which Moses appeals to Israelites to take care of Levites in the third address catches us by surprise. He talked over and over again about the Levites in your gates. And here Gates means towns in the First Testament. When you hear the word city, that means at a community with walls around it. The difference between a city and a village is the wall. It has nothing to do with size. A city is, by definition, a community or as a place with walls to protect the people on the inside and keep out unwanted people. So the Levites in your gates means the Levites within the walls of your town. So that the expectation here is there will be leverage all over the place. But we'll come back to talk about the Leviticus towns. Well, you may celebrate before you offer your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male circumcision, female servants. Yeah. The Levite that is within your towns, literally, it's within your gates since he has no portion or grant of land with you. That's the problem. The Levites have no independent economic base. They have no no way of making a living because they don't own tribal territory. The farms. We'll talk about the Leviticus towns a little bit later. That's a different issue because they have no land.
[00:05:05] They can produce their own food and their own wool and their own whatever else people need to live. So the injunctions are repeated. Don't forget to take care of those. The laborer is worthy of his hire. And this is a case where the Levites are serving, doing their spare spiritual ministry. You take care of them. And there are other places too, like chapter 12, verse eight Bring the Levite in other texts. Moses Associates, Levites with the Sojourners, fatherless children, fatherless children and widows suggesting that he, Moses anticipated them presenting a significant social problem. And what happens to the Levites becomes a barometer on how the nation is doing spiritually. Fascinating study, the Levite, because he has no portion or grant of land with you. The soldier and a widow. This is over and over again. They are who are within your towns. They may come and eat and be full to be filled with you that the Lord, your God may bless you in all the work that you do, or the blessing of God on the farmers is tied to how they take care of Levites. Take care of the Levites that the Lord, your God may bless you. You may hear Chapter 16. You must celebrate before Yahweh, your God, you, your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the soldier or the fatherless, the widow or pneumonia at the place that the who your government choose to make his name dweller stamped with his name. Bring the Levites with you. Well, this is this is the general charge and this is the problem. There are specific provisions for taking care of Levites. Watch yourselves lest you neglect the Levite as long as you live in the land.
[00:07:06] Did you hear how he says that? Watch yourselves. Lest you forget the Levite. But doesn't say Watch out for the Levite. Because it's out of the heart that precede the issues that the issues of late come. And if your heart is right, you will take care of the Levites or 1427, the Levite who is in your gates. You shall not neglect. He has no portion. When you have finished paying the tide of the produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, give it to the Levite, to the Lords or the fatherless, the widow. So they may eat within your gates and be feel. They don't have to come to the central sanctuary to have a meal. They want to eat in your town where they are living as well. And here then you shall say to you before you. This is from chapter 26. I have removed the sacred portion out of my house and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the Sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to the whole command that you have come out. This is chapter 26. When you come to the central sanctuary as an individual and you present your offering. This is what you say. I have taken care of the poor back home and now I've come to the central sanctuary. If you're not going to take care of the poor back home, I don't want to see you at the central sanctuary. Take care that this is ethical living. What else shall we say? At that time. Yahoo! Was set up at the time of Levi to carry the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh, to minister to him and bless in his name. And to this day, therefore, the this is from chapter ten.
[00:08:51] Therefore, Levi has no portion or grant when God set them apart. He said, You are my portion, you, your male and your servant and female, the Levite that is within your town. Since he has no portion or grant of land with you. So you have it again. 1427 We looked at some of these texts already. But let's look at how Moses deals with Levites elsewhere. And then, of course, it's interesting to watch how he deals with Aaron, who's a Levi the supreme Levi. He's the high priest, after all. Not in the Book of Deuteronomy, because by the time we get to Deuteronomy, Aaron's gone. But Moses does talk about Aaron a couple of times, four times in three contexts. In 1920, he recalls his prayer for Aaron in the aftermath of the Golden Calf in ten, six and 32. He recalls Aaron's death. But he never speaks up, Aaron, as the high priest. The closest he comes is ten six, where he notes that his son, Eliezer, ministered as priest in his place. Moses doesn't have much time for Aaron. He seems to have democratized Aaron's status as the one who is holy to the way the whole nation is. Now that that medallion that the high priest Warren is on, on his head. We showed pictures earlier. The inscription on there now applies to the whole nation. This is the early version of the priesthood of all believers. The whole community has a priestly function. You are a holy people to Yahweh. You're gone out on a mission as a nation. So Moses recognizes the work of a single priest at a central sanctuary in a couple of places, but he never calls them the hereditary high priests. And we don't know. It's very vague.
[00:11:00] It's hard to figure out about whom he is talking. Is it somebody whom the priests at the central sanctuary chose, chose for a particular moment? We don't know. He talks about the priest who is an office at that time. A couple of times in his addresses, Moses doesn't attempt to produce a handbook on worship practices that builds on Exodus 25 to 31 or 35 to 40 and nine Leviticus six. Rather, he presents a theology of worship, highlighting national observances at the central sanctuary as unifying events and highlighting taking care of the priests as an aspect of their ethical worship from day to day. From an ethical perspective, he highlights that the events at the central sanctuary are to be used as occasions to take care of the marginalized. So we're not separating the sacred from the profane, the secular from the sacred. Everything secular is for everybody, and everything sacred is for everybody as well. It's a holy world we're creating. And so this accounts for his blurring of distinctions between Levites and priests. Now, we evangelicals, we trust when Exodus and Leviticus draw the distinctions between the ironic priesthood and the Levites, who are the descendants of Levi from the other branches of that. But in critical scholarship, they are that they tend to treat these as two groups competing for power. And in the book of Deuteronomy, it looks like the Levites have won out over the area needs. But of course, I don't think that words, exodus and numbers distinguish dramatically. Let's look at Moses vision of the status and duties of priests. What do priests do? Deuteronomy ten 8 to 9. At that time, Yahweh set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the Ark of the Covenant. Well, I thought I thought their job was to present sacrifices at the altars.
[00:13:28] Not in Deuteronomy. That's not the first thing he says about them. In Deuteronomy, it's all about covenant. He doesn't mention leverage until he talks about the Ark of the Covenant. They carry the Ark of the Covenant. They stand before you awake. They administer rituals and pronounce blessings in his name, as they do to this day. For this reason, the Levites have no allotment of or grant of land with their brothers. The Lord is there. Grant Yahweh, your God as you are for your God told them. The privilege of serving God is to be more than compensation for not having land. But of course, that places the onus then of taking care of them on the people who have the land. And this becomes a part of the issue. It's remarkable that in his recollection of past events, Moses never spoke of the context in which Levites were separated for sacred duty. There's no hint about when God did this. We know what happened already at Sinai and Exodus, chapters 25 to 31, where he he describes building the tabernacle. It assumes Aaron is going to be the high priest. He's been set apart. None of that is in the book of Deuteronomy. In the parenthetical comment of 1089, the narrator of the books notes the status of the priests as separation. The Lord has separated them here, set them apart. His deal, as opposed to Bahaa to choose elsewhere. We read about the Lord chose Levi and the Levites to be his agents. So the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward. For Yahweh, your God has chosen them. Here is the word chosen. Sometimes it's separated and sometimes it's chosen. He has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of Yahweh.
[00:15:40] And by their word, every dispute and every assault shall be settled. Well, we got we got three different functions of the Levites right here. So let's talk about this. The Leviticus priests are Yahweh is chosen officials deliverer called Priests are Guardians of the Covenant. They carry the Ark of the Lord set apart to carry the Ark, be custodians of it. Some of you are aware that the oldest professional sports trophy in North America is the Stanley Cup. And of course, the the climax to the Stanley Cup playoffs is unlike any other. And what a great moment is when there is only one Stanley Cup. It's not like they create a new trophy every year. They create little replicas of the thing for each player on the winning game, and they brand their names or their names in a new play. That's why it keeps growing, gets bigger and bigger. But it's this massive thing. But when that thing is on the road every year after the Stanley Cup is is has the playoffs are done, the members of the winning team get to keep it for a week. Do with it whatever they want. And so they take it all over the world. When Marian also won the Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks, he took it to Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic, took it home with him, and for a week he showed it off to everybody. But trust me, that thing is kept in a safe van all the time with several guardians. They are guardians of the Cup. He doesn't get to keep it in his house overnight without the Guardians. And wherever it goes, the Guardians are there. There's only one of these. Lots of mysteries been told about that. It's been stolen, disappeared a couple of times in its history.
[00:17:41] And. But the Holy Grail keeps surfacing and growing. Well, these Levites have that job. We get to carry the ark, which means more than we simply have to the burden. It means we have the privilege. We serve the throne of the living God. For this is the Lord's throne. Their officials in initially scored, they stand before Yahweh. Remember God told Abraham, Walk before me and be blameless. This is a different matter for. Then walk with me. Enoch walked with God. That's an expression for fellowship. Intimacy. Walking with God, Micah said. What does the Lord, your God require of you? But to do justice, love, mercy and walk humbly with your God. This is different. They stand before Yahweh. This is royal language. This is court language. The Levites stand before the end throne. One Receive his commissions and then go and fill. Fulfill them on his behalf. This is royal imagery here. Stand before me. Official court language authorizing them entrance into the presence of the king, either to minister to him or to receive his orders to go and dispense to the people. This is a very privileged status. They are ministers to Yahweh. Sherif means to serve to minister. In what sense? Especially cultic service when they're performing the sacrifices, even taking care of the Tabernacle building itself, or eventually the temple. Keeping the gold polished and keeping the. The. The candelabra, the menorah burning. All of that is maintaining the residence, the royal residence of God, so that it keeps sparkling for the glory of the one who lives there. Then resolving disputes on God's behalf. Chapter 21, Verse five. This is an interesting text. If you are are dealing with a difficult cold case and you encounter something that you can't solve, then the priests, the sons of Levi, well, here shall come near for the Lord.
[00:20:24] Your God has chosen them to serve him and to bless in the name of the Lord. And every dispute and every assault shall be settled by them. If you can't figure out a case, give it to the Levi. Levi? No, I don't think this involves then the Levites setting up a Supreme Court and going through all of the business of examining the evidence, hearing the attorneys again one more time, the Court of Appeal. In that sense, I think it would involve primarily the manipulation of the agreement. That would mean you can't solve the case. All right, Here, let's see. We discover the mind of God with these two stones. Now in other books, Exodus and Leviticus, the numbers, the grim and the tumbling are in the hands of the high Priest. But Deuteronomy never talks about the high priest. He generalizes it to the Levites. They minister to Yahoo! They are blessed sirs of the people. Their job is to pronounce the blessing in the name of Yahweh. Deuteronomy never says what that blessing looks like, but presumably it involves the ironic blessing. If you look at Let's go back there, there is something very curious about numbers. Chapter six verses 22. Remember what Jesus tells the disciples was with Peter in particular, Whomever you forgive or you pronounce, whatever sins you forgive will be forgiven in heaven, as if he is the authorized person to declare forgiveness. Well, look at what we've got here. Deuteronomy six I'm trying to multitask here. The Lord spoke to Moses verse 20 to speak to Aaron and to his sons. Thus, you shall serve. You shall bless the Sons of Israel as prescribed blessing. You shall say to them, The Lord bless you, the Lord protect you, the Lord smile upon you.
[00:22:35] That's what make His face shine upon you. That's the point to the pagans. That's the point of sacrifices, is to remove the scowl from the God's face and replace it with a smile. May he smile his may his face shine upon. You may be gracious. May he lift up his countenance on you. That is actually look at you and not turn his face away and give you peace. But then look at that last verse. So they shall. Put. My my translation says invoke. The verb is put my name on the Sons of Israel and I will bless them. What? By blessing the people in the name of Yahweh. They put the Lord's name on them. And of course, I've mentioned before, you shall not bear the name of the Lord your God in vain. The assumption is metaphorically, we're all branded. Whether it's on the forehead or on the hands or wherever, we're all branded. But every time the priests bless the people, this is an affirmation of the brand. That's a high honor. To brand the people on behalf of God. They stamp them with his name with a blessing they bless. They are custodians of the Torah. When Moses finally copies or writes out his entire Torah, he hands it to the the sons of Levi, who carried the ark, and they put it beside the ark. And there it is stored. And the Levites are the guardians. Not only that, but in chapter 12, for a Chapter 17, verse 18, the King, when he sits on his throne of the kingdom, he shall write for himself in a scroll, a copy of this Torah. This is where we get the name Deuteronomy now the Hebrew for copy of the Torah. Looks like second law to the Greeks.
[00:24:47] And that's why they call this book. I think that's why he shall write for himself in the presence of the Leviticus priests. Well, why can't he do it in his in his own home? Or why can't he do it privately? Chopping. You shall not add to it or you shall not subtract. The problem is when we read the Bible privately, we pick and choose what we like. It's all country buffet. Then you eat, you pick what you like and it's probably unhealthy and it's sweet and makes you feel good. But on the other hand, it doesn't sustain you. But the Levites are there. They're the ones who bring in the original manuscript and they let you copy for the day and then they take it back home with them. Because you're not and you're not to mess with it. They are custodians of the Torah. But how does the king then keep it? By living by it. And it's the priests who supervise this whole business, and then they function as judicial mediators. If a case is too difficult in your gates, whether murder lawsuits or assaults arise, go to the place that the Lord, your God will choose. Go to the priest, to our Levites, particularly to the judge who is in the office at that time. Inquire of them and they will declare the verdict for you. Again, I don't think this involves this involves actually another court proceeding. Remember in Exodus chapter 19, where Moses re divides or divides the people into hundreds and fifties and he puts and he puts a leader over each of these groups. And then Jethro says, let them divide the everyday mundane affairs and they bring the difficult ones to you. And so they bring them to Moses, and he adjudicates with the judgment of God.
[00:26:43] I think in cases like that, Moses looks to God for the answer to the problem. And in this case, I think these guys, not everybody agrees with me. But I think in this case, they bring it to the central sanctuary where the three men that told me, Ma and the priest who is in charge at the time, he he manipulates these. However they did it, we know and we don't know. And through the ordering, the sanctioned means God speaks. And then there is a serious warning that follows after you'd better listen if you're going to go to God directly for the answer to a problem, you better not think about God not fulfilling what he tells you because it is absolute an absolute directive. Well, do not deviate from what they tell you either to the right or to the left. So this these are the judicial proceedings I've tried to reduce to a kind of chart. Larry. Terry, you were asking about this the other day. And here here it is. When you're trying to solve legal cases, I wish they were bigger, but when you're trying to solve legal cases, it starts over that end and works its way this way. I should actually work the other way, thinking in Hebrew. I would do it that way. But notice the options. It starts with an accuser reports an offense. We got two options. The accused confesses the guilt or the accused protests and says I'm innocent. Well, if he confesses guilt, that's all solved. You don't have to take it any further than sold the accuser part of his reconciliation or the accuser refuses to pardon. Oh, then you have to carry on and see where we're going to go. And it could result in violence or a local tribunal.
[00:28:45] And if it's a local tribunal, then there's another phase. But if the guy protests innocence, the accuser persists in the accusation or the accuser drops the accusation, that's reconciliation here. You've got a local tribunal or a violent solution to the problem, execute the guy or whatever else evidence. And then both in both scenarios, it ends up at the local tribunal and they can't solve it. What do we do if the accuser is the only witness? The case is dismissed. If there are two more witnesses confirming innocence, it's dismissed. Two or more witnesses confirm guilt sentence. Past witnesses fail to confirm guilt or innocence. Not. That's what we're talking about. We can't solve this. We can't figure this one out. So what have we got? It goes to the central tribunal at the sanctuary, and then you have the divine pronouncement of guilt or the divine pronouncement of innocence. And the case is closed. It's a complicated, but it's a very sophisticated system. Actually, when you look put all of this together, this is the do genomic picture of adjudicated scenarios. This is how things could go. Then the Levites as teachers of Torah. This is this turns out, I think, in long range terms to be perhaps the most important. Chapter 17 one Execute according to the Torah that they teach you and the verdict they give you, or 33 in the blessings of the Levi of Levi. Moses says they will teach Jacob your stipulations and Israel, your Torah. So Moses recognizes that the Levites are teachers of Torah. So what he is preaching and he commits to writing becomes the textbook for their religious education. This is canonical from the beginning. It is canonical. It is authoritative. But how would they do this? Well, here we have it.
[00:31:06] The vertical towns, all these little vertical towns set apart for the Levites to live in. And so they're grouped here. The red beans core half from the sentence, of course, mirroring the descendants of Gershom. And then these last ones with a frame. Those are the asylum towns. They do double duty. These are Leviticus towns, but also cities of refuge. So if there's a criminal or somebody causes accidental death to anybody and their close relatives are after them and they want to kill the guy, how do we protect them? Cities of refuge, that one. They're one. They're one. They're one. They're when they're. So six of them, three on each side of the Jordan River. It's taking care of business so that even before they get going, we've got it covered. But look at the Levites. There are a whole bunch of little medical towns here. This is Judah. And then you've got Ephraim and Manasa and the blue are Mira, right? And they take care of the people out here. Gad and Rubin. But man Nasser up in the east. Manasa And then the northern tribes. These are the Gershon sons of Gershon. 48 cities, bank towns. These are not big metropolis metropolitan areas. These are towns set apart as lavender coal towns. I prefer the word town to two cities because when we think city, we think size has nothing to do with size. It has to do with the nature of the place. But these are the little lyrical towns. What is the point of these Leviticus? This is my theory. And so this is how I imagine the system working. A schematic portrayal of the location of the vertical towns. We should have. It's too small, but we should have 40, 48 vertical towns here.
[00:33:23] But they are not stuck in their towns. I think these are bases of operation so that the pastoral work extends to the whole country. Wherever people live, they have access to the Lord via his agents and what they're supposed to be doing in these towns. And they go out to the villages. It covers the whole nation. They teach Torah, which does not mean preaching from the Torah. It means reciting the Torah, helping people memorize it. Did you hear that? In the ancient world, thy word. Have I hear it in my heart that I might not. This is all about memorizing the Torah. In a pre literate world, people actually learn to memorize very quickly. And it's no trouble at all for people in that world to memorize all of Deuteronomy. That's a simple thing, memorizing all of Deuteronomy. And so when they are teaching Torah, the words of Moses live on. So they're not only reading the Torah every seven years at the Festival of Booze Booths, they're in the villages teaching Torah to the people so that, you know, someone blessed is the man. But in it, he meditates day and night. That doesn't mean that he's reading the Bible. It means he's cogitating memory, ruminating. I mean, the word is the same in Psalm one as that which is used of a cow chewing record. Ruminating on the scripture that is in his heart. And this way they see to the religious education, spiritual nurture of the people from one end of the nation to the other, so that the promotion of the faith of Israel doesn't happen only at the central sanctuary. You can't maintain a people's faith three times a year by getting everybody together three times a year. Stuff happens.
[00:35:46] And we need help today where I live. I mean, we talk about the the the regulations in Leviticus about when you have mold on your house. Well, who is supposed to take care of that? Where do you go? It's still the vertical priest. So every community needs access to people like this who will do the business of purification and cleansing. Or when when a woman gives birth to a child who is going to supervise her own purification rites and declare at the end of it, you're ready to go? You know, those kinds of things. And there are lots of other things. If one of your relatives dies and you have to take care and you bury your relative, then you have to have purification rites after that, because you've touched a dead body. I mean, there are lots of things. They needed pastoral help, and I think each town must have had its local town, first of all. Samuel comes to Bethlehem for a festival, and that festival of occasion becomes the occasion for anointing David, who is the next king? What In the local town you've got this festival. And Samuel, the priest, is there. There's no scolding of it. There's nothing wrong with this. No, it's the right thing to do because people need to be nurtured. And think about the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a secular event. I shouldn't say it is sacred, but it's not a cultic event. On the Sabbath, they don't go to Jerusalem. On the Sabbath. They come in from the fields and I imagine it's up to the local Leviticus Priest at sundown to blow the shofar. Time to come in. You've worked hard enough this week. Enjoy the next 24 hours. And so you've got all these things that that happen.
[00:37:52] Life happens. The good, the bad and the ugly. And so this is a good, in my view, a glorious provision on God's part. The Levites in your gates, they are a gift to the town. Because they keep you on track with God. In the absence of Moses, I can't be sorry. I'm going to be out of here. I can't keep you on track anymore. But we got the Levites they'll cover. It's up to them to nurture the people in their faith. But it's interesting. They are given free access to the central sanctuary. They can come any time they want, and presumably they will need to do that regularly to be reminded and reassured and fellowship with other Levites around about the privilege of serving the Lord Yahweh to all the people. I want to finish this discussion of the Levites by going. We've already talked about the blessing of the Levite in Chapter 33. Give to the Levite, your Tom, your order in the godly one, and then teaching Torah in Israel. That's what we've been talking about. But let's go quickly to chapter 18, where you have the particular charge to take care of the Levites. The vertical priests, the whole tribe of believer will have no portion or grant of land and inheritance with Israel. They will eat pathways, food offerings. That's their privilege, Grant. Although Levi has no grant of land among his brothers, Jaquez is Grant, as you promised. This is the priest's share from the people who offer a sacrifice, whether it is an ox, a sheep or a gold. The priests are to be given the shoulder, jaws and stomach. You are to give him the first fruits of your grain, new wine and oil and the first sheared wool of your flock.
[00:39:47] For Yahweh, your God has chosen Him and his sons from all your tribes to stand and minister in your name for all time. When a Levite leaves one of your towns where he lives in Israel and is determined to come to the place Yahweh chooses, he may serve in the name of Yahweh is God, like all his fellow Levites who minister there in the presence of Yahweh. They may eat equal portions besides what he receive from the income of the family estates. Very interesting instructions here on the particulars of how to take care of Levites. Notice the again, KSM instructions concerning communal judges we've had in this broader section when we talk about the king will look at this. But right in at at at the chapter 18 128. This is a discussion of all the officers through which righteousness is maintained in the nation. So judges as guardians of righteousness, the Vidigal priests as the Supreme Court. That's not good expression. The King of Israel as the embodiment of righteousness. And then instructions concerning individual priests as cultic officials, and then prophets as guardians of righteousness. We're looking at a couple of these yet tomorrow. But the primary concern is in four verse four eight. The first fruits of your grain, your wine, your oil, the first fleece of your sheep you shall give to him. To whom is this addressed? The people. The people, The people. This is brief instruction for all the citizens of Israel about the priests. It is not addressed to the Levites as if this is your rights. This is the Levites, right? When I was in university, we had an evangelical National Prayer Day. And through this evangelical meeting, they invited the mayor of our town who happened to be Jewish.
[00:42:10] I'll never forget his worship. That's the way in Canada. We did it. His worship, Sid Buchwald was was the speaker of the day. I'll never forget he began his address by saying, You evangelicals and we Jews have one thing in common. We have no rights. We have only duties to protect the rights of others. And that's the way biblical righteousness works. It's always the next person's. Remember, the Decalogue is addressed to the head of the household to protect the rights of everybody in the household. It's not about the head, the heads, right? He's the problem. It's to get him to take care of everybody here. It's addressed to the people to maintain the the rights that God has granted the Levites by virtue of their status as his agencies, servants and as compensation for not having their own land. So you take care of them and they share your grain. You people take care of the Levite in your image. They're involved in sacred duty. They don't have time to go out there and farm and whatever else. They're doing God's business, take care of them. So this is a great text because it reminds the Israelites that their duty is to take care of these people. The structure of this passage as a whole, the basis of the Levites entitlements, the nature of their entitlements, and then the grounds of their entitlements because they have no land. And then there's a full range of entitlements here. The point of this whole thing is. Well, again, elsewhere in Deuteronomy, we will say Moses will say, when you thresh your grain, don't muzzle the ox. Take care of the orcs that's taking care of you. The act has its rights. And this is not a this is not a slam.
[00:44:27] It's not a pejorative kind of statement. It is just an analogy. Take care of the Levites. God has given them to you as his gift to you to keep you on track with him. And that's your charge. Receive them as your gift and take care of them that they may represent and reflect God well in your community. They are in the midst of their brothers. They're in your gates, They're with Israel. They're everywhere. You are. But they are. They don't have land. The Lord is their grant. And your gifts? Are there grants that they may eat? This is there. We call it pre bed and they are authorized gift that God encourages them to give. These shall be the entitlements, the judgment that God has made about taking care of them. Well, it's interesting what he isolates then to give to the Levites and it is not give to them the leftovers. I mean, later on we'll talk about about gleaning in the fields, the corners of the fields for the poor and the alien and the widows out there. This is not about the leftovers. It's the shoulder, the jowl, the stomach, the grain, doggone fine wine, fine olive oil. These are not the ordinary words. We had these words yesterday. These are not the ordinary words for grain and for wine and for olive oil. It's give to them that which is the best and the first shearing fleece of the flock. The first time you shear a sheep, give it to the Levites. They need clothing, too. And this is how the people will take care of them. The grounds of the Levites entitlement Verse five The Lord has chosen them to stand before him to minister in his name. That is to represent him wherever they go.
[00:46:42] And when the Levite shows up in town, everybody knows the Lord is here. His representatives come. They minister in his name. Well, there are some other technical issues here, but the priests are not stuck in the towns where they live. They can move around. They've got these central Leviticus old towns where their home base is. But in the meantime, they go and spend their time in the villages. And if they want to take time off and go to the central sanctuary, they can go and have full access to everything all the priests have there. They are not second class citizens in the hierarchy of the priesthood. This is a very democratic world here, unlike any other religious system. And it's actually unlike what we seem to find in Leviticus in Exodus, where the ironic High priest, he only has access to the central altar and to and for instance, on the Day of Atonement to sprinkle the blood on the altar. But the Levites are given apparently free access to anything that the religious officials in the central sanctuary town have access to. In fact, they're given freedom. The Levite is driven by a personal desire to come to the place the Lord is chosen. If you would like to go into the to the central sanctuary for a while, go ahead. Moses is not interested in just putting straitjackets on people. In chapter 17, we'll see in the days to come. If you say I'd like to have a king over myself, Moses says, Go ahead, get yourself a cake. I'll just be sure that he's from one one of your own. And the Lord he's one the Lord chooses. But there's nothing wrong in principle with having a cane. Why wouldn't you have a cane? And here to the Levite, he says, Look, you want to go to the central sanctuary for all? Go ahead.
[00:48:47] He opens. His Moses role in the Torah is to open doors of opportunity, not to slam them shut. This tone is I find this, but then my glasses are so colored by now that I see grace everywhere when nobody else recognizes. And I say, What's wrong with my head? What's wrong with my eyes? But here's another one of those. This personal desire. Or if we had read the chapter 12, the end of Chapter 12, If you want to eat me in your place, I like me. I'd like some meat. Go ahead, Eat meat, he says. Never mind, though. It's okay to eat meat. Just be sure it is the meat from a clean animal as opposed to unclean. We'll talk about that tomorrow and that it is kosher in the way it's butchered. Drain the blood. Once you've done that, I mean, that's a small thing. Go ahead. Heavier and heavier steak. It's all right. This is Moses. The Levi wants to join his brothers down in the big city for a while. Go ahead. Presumably participate in all the festivals that go on there. And. And they get all the perks that everybody else gets. There are no second class citizens here. Equal perks for equal service. This is the joy of ministry in the Lord's work. We need to pay more attention in the church about what this is about and the privilege that is, that comes to those whom the Lord calls to service on the one hand. That's the highest honor. They stand before the Lord. They bless the people in his name, not because they're great preachers. No, because the Lord has tapped them on the shoulder. I've called you. I have chosen you. I've put you there. Go ahead.
[00:50:50] Represent me there. But the other side of it is how the people are to respond to the presence of the priests in their midst. This is important. Paul will talk about this in in his books of Corinthians and the pastoral epistles about taking care of those whom God calls into his service. Well, this is a great text. Very few people even know it's in the Bible. But when you start looking at it, you find another. Bundle of wonderful truths about the Christian life and the theology of Christian ministry and the theology of community. We're all in this together. We take care of each other. We have a different illustration. Remember in First Kings chapters six or seven, verse seven one, two, six, you've got this The poor widow, the guy who's coming to take her boys because she can't pay her debts. Remember that? And she comes to the prophet, to Elijah and says, The guy's coming tomorrow and he's going to take my boys. What am I supposed to do? And he says, Hmm, that's a problem, isn't it? What do you have in the house? And she says, nothing except an oil jug. Your translation has a jug of oil. The assumption with that expression is that the jug with oil in it? No, I think it's empty. It's an oil jug that the word for jug is the Little Dipper thing that you used to put into the VAT to take out your oil. And, you know, it's not a big if. It's not a pot. It's I've got all I've got is an oil jug. Everything else I've I've sold because we're hungry. I've traded it for food. And and so he tells her her to go and collect all the pots from the village, get them all.
[00:53:00] Not just a few. Many. And then when they're all done, she. He says, Close the door. And poor. What does she do? She closes the door and she starts pouring in. Oops. Oil comes out of that Little Dipper. And it's enough to fill all the spare parts in the village. But why did he say it closed the door? I mean, when all the ports are full now, oil is the most precious commodity. Why oil? Because everybody needs oil for everything. For lamps, for cooking, for for ointments, for lubrication. Oil is the most precious commodity, economic commodity you can have. It's not grain. It's oil. Sell it on the commercial market. It's a high value. Go and live on it the rest of your days. And that's an amazing miracle. But why did you close the door? That's Texas and tell us. But the interesting thing is. There's something wrong in this town. What's wrong? We've got a widow and two fatherless boys. But the word for orphan is not orphan. It's the fatherless child. A child. In the home of a widow is vulnerable because in that Patrick centric world, if you don't have an adult male taking care of business in the household, you're stuck. You're stuck. And so here, that's exactly the picture we got at the end. The issue here is not simply fertility, religion. God takes care of those who trust in him. This is a social commentary. Something is wrong when people are worshiping Baal, which is the big deal. And in Elijah and Elijah lives there worshiping Bayle rather than Yahweh. And when you worship bail rather than Yahweh, your ethics go out the window. They're not taking care of the poor. This is a barometer of spiritual condition.
[00:55:24] This poor widow goes to the prophet, and her husband was one of the seminary students. One of the sons of the prophets. And he died. And and Elijah solves the problem. But this is there to point out what happens when people go apostate. The whole Elijah Elijah cycle is about what happens in a syncretic world. And now we discover in a synchronistic spiritual world, there is a callused, hardened disposition towards the marginalized. And the irony here is that the Levites are often going to be in that class. Moses anticipates to take care of them. This is a covenant community. We're in this together. So. That's the another dimension of this call for charity compassion. You are brothers and sisters in the Lord. Why did. Why are you the Prophet? Why did he close the door? The text doesn't tell us. But my response to that is to keep the curious eyes of the neighbors out of this. They should have been taking care of it. They have no right to come and witness this miracle. We are not going to toss pearls before swine. I mean, this that Jesus kind of comment where show us a miracle. No, these people don't deserve the sight of a miracle. They haven't taken care of this. Will you do it in private? This is not for show. This is we're taking care of our problem. We're solving a problem and we're exposing the problem of the community. You haven't taken care of your little. Or your fabulous children. So that's another illustration of this.