The Scriptorium

Concerning Priests and Levites

God's servants deserve our support. Deuteronomy 18.1-8

A Holy Nation (1): Deuteronomy 17, 18 (4)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 144.1, 2
Blessed be the LORD my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle—
My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me.

Psalm 144.1, 2

(Tidings: O Zion, Haste, Your Mission High Fulfilling)
Blessed be the Lord, Who trains my hands for battle;
He is my Rock, my steadfast love and strength!
He is my shield; no foe can shake or rattle;
He will subdue them all to me at length.
Refrain v. 15
 Happy are they on whom blessings fall!
 Blessed are the people who on Jesus’ mercy call!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 18.1-8

Preparation
1. How were the priests and Levites to be supported in Israel? Why?

2. What responsibility did the priests and Levites chiefly perform?

Meditation
God did not allow the priests and Levites to have an “inheritance with Israel” (v. 1). By that He meant a specific territory, like the other tribes were assigned. Instead, the priests and Levites were scattered among all the tribes of Israel. They owned no land or permanent dwellings, nothing they could pass on as an inheritance to their children.

Except the Lord Himself (v. 2).

The work of the priests and Levites was “to stand to minister (Hebrew, שָׁרַת sharat – to minister, serve) in the name of the LORD” (v. 5). What did this involve? Primarily, teaching the Law of God, administering the various sacrifices and offerings, assisting the judges who sat in the gates of the city, and being living representatives of the Presence of God among the people. This last role they chiefly fulfilled by eating the offerings that were given unto God (v. 1), as if God Himself were in them receiving the people’s gifts.

For this ministry, the people were to support them liberally and ungrudgingly (vv. 3, 4).

A Levite’s calling (and we can assume that includes priests, all of whom were descendants of Levi) was not necessarily fixed to any particular community. As the Lord led, they could move to serve elsewhere, especially at the central place where God had chosen for sacrifices and feasts (vv. 6-8). This gave the people locally an incentive to treat their priests and Levites well, or they might lose them to some other town.

The priests and Levites ministered and served by faithfully carrying out their spiritual duties on behalf of the people. For this, they were well worthy of the people’s support, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 9.13, 14).

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
It seems God made allowances for one who, perhaps by doing a genealogical check, realized that he was actually a Levite. Such a man could choose where he would serve, but “all the desire of his mind” needed to be focused on service to the LORD and his fellow man (vv. 6, 7). The passage addresses one who was expecting an inheritance, but which, by taking up the work of the Levite, he would be required to forego (v. 8). He had to leave his old life behind and claim a new inheritance. This is an excellent example for us to follow, as we turn from our old lives to a sanctified life of service to God (Rom. 12.1, 2). We must say with the Psalmists, “You are my portion, O LORD; I have said that I would keep Your words” (Ps. 119.57). “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73.25, 26). When God is our portion, and we know that we belong to Him, we can give thanks with other believers to the Father “who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. In Him we have obtained an inheritance… incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for us. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Col. 1.12; Eph. 1.11; 1 Pet. 1.4; Acts 20.32). Our new portion and inheritance are gained through Jesus Christ. And He must be all the desire of our mind.

Reflection

1. In what sense is God our “inheritance”? Why is that a very good thing?
 
2. Besides giving financially, what can we as believers do to support those who minister and serve among us?

3. In what sense are believers all ministers and servants to one another?

God accounted as received by Himself what He had assigned to the Levites; not. only lest any portion should be withheld from them, but also that every one should willingly pay the lawful dues of God's ministers; and again, lest any should wickedly murmur because the first-fruits and some portion of the sacrifices were appropriated for the subsistence of the priests.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 18.1-8

Thank You, Lord, for the leaders of my church. Help me appreciate and encourage them by…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 144.3-15
Praise God for those who have helped you in your walk with and work for the Lord. Ask Him to put two or three of these people on your mind for prayer throughout the day.

Psalm 144.3-15
(Tidings: O Zion, Haste, Your Mission High Fulfilling)
Lord, who are we, that You regard and love us?
Why should You care for our poor sinful plight?
We are but breath; You dwell on high above us;
our days like shadows pass before Your light.

Refrain v. 15
 Happy are they on whom blessings fall!
 Blessed are the people who on Jesus’ mercy call!

Bow down the heav’ns, come down and touch the mountains.
Flash forth like lightning; scatter all Your foes!
Send out Your arrows, send them out to rout them;
stretch forth Your hand and save us from all woes!
Refrain

From every foe and every lie deliver!
Then will we sing new songs unto Your praise.
Rescue Your servants, who are Yours forever;
grant us deliv’rance by Your hand always.
Refrain

Bless, Lord, our children, strengthen them forever.
All our provision, day by day supply.
Bless our endeavors; from distress deliver.
Keep us from harm and all distressing cries.
Refrain

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore