Bible Readings for July 14th
In Joshua 20–21, we read about the dwelling places assigned to the tribe of Levi. Importantly, six of the forty-eight cities that the Levites would inhabit served as cities of refuge for the manslayer who had killed a person unintentionally: Kedesh, Shechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan (Num. 35:6–34; Deut. 19:1–13; Josh. 20:7–8, 21:41). But beyond the cities of refuge, these chapters illustrate two important theological principles. First, the Levites lived in cities from the inheritance given to the other Israelite tribes. These forty-eight cities were technically not the inheritance of the Levites but simply the dwelling places of the Levites. Second, the reason the Levites were not given an inheritance was that Yahweh had given the tribe of Levi an even greater heritage: the priesthood (Josh. 18:7).
There is a fascinating interplay of diverse gifts and callings here in the nation of Israel. On the one hand, the priests had been given direct access to Yahweh in their holy calling to minister inside the tabernacle. But on the other hand, the other tribes of Israel had to support the Levites out of their own inheritances by giving them cities and pasturelands in which they would dwell.
In the new covenant, we have only one priest who mediates between God and us—that is, our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:14). It is Jesus who sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us in the throne room of God by pleading the merits of his own blood and righteousness (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Through the priesthood of Jesus, we have direct access to the Father (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18).
God has appointed pastors and elders not to mediate between us and God but to lead us spiritually in the church (Tit. 1:5–9; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:1–5). We are called to support our pastors financially to give them freedom from worldly cares and avocations as they minister to us (1 Cor. 9:8–11; 1 Tim. 5:17–18), but the New Testament makes it clear that they do not have greater access to God than anyone else.
All of us stand to inherit Christ together, but God has mercifully given us elders to serve as under-shepherds of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Therefore, obey the elders God has given you and submit to them, just as the Israelites were called to do with the priests whom Yahweh had appointed from the tribe of Levi.
But, rejoice in your greater privileges: unlike the non-Levitical Israelites, you have direct access to your heavenly Father in the holy places through your great high priest. Therefore, draw near to God through Jesus Christ in one Spirit (Eph. 2:18; Heb. 10:19–25).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.