One of the most common modern misunderstandings of God is deism. Deism is the idea that there is a God, but he is generally far off and uninterested in the world. God is the cosmic watchmaker who builds the parts with precision, winds up the mechanism, and leaves the device to run in perpetuity. The great lies of deism are that God is not loving and that He is uninvolved. In a deistic worldview, God is like an absentee landlord or a father who ran out on the family. That is not the God of the Bible. The God of scripture is one who is intimately involved in this world and invites us to see his sovereign hand of providence in every sunrise and beat of our hearts. The Bible reveals a God on whom we must depend for every detail of life.
I have written before that I see God’s plan for redemption in Jesus through faith in his work on the cross was God’s plan from the beginning. I have also written about how God uses types and shadows to allude to His singular plan for redemption in Christ. God also uses types and shadows for us, God’s people, to help us understand our role as the body of Christ, the Church. He does this by using familiar terms like Temple, body, and family. As I was reading not long ago, I was struck by one image God uses for us, his people, and what that means for our dependence on God. 1 Peter 2:4-5,9 says,
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
The image that Peter uses to help the Church understand themselves is the office of Priest.
The Priests’ Special Portion
Old Testament priests were descendants of Levi and were set apart by God to serve God and the people of Israel in the tabernacle/temple and the adjudication of the Law of God. They are representatives from the people who are authorized to come before God to offer sacrifices for sin and worship.
There was one feature of the Old Testament Levitical priests’ lives that stuck out to me recently was Deuteronomy 18:1-2,
“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord's food offerings as their inheritance. They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.”
The Levites were unique among the tribes of Israel in that, rather than being given a piece of land after the conquest of Canaan, they were given cities in all of the provinces. God intentionally scattered the Levites and they were distributed throughout the territory of Israel to be the representatives of God for all the people where they lived. The Bible says that the land was not their inheritance, but rather God himself.
Inheritance is a big deal in the Bible. It was the livelihood of the next generation. God enshrined in the Law the Year of Jubilee so that the inheritance of land that was given to each tribe and each family would always be theirs to steward. This was the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham: land, offspring, and blessing. The Levites, by not having a specific geographic location allotted to them were “exempt” from that promise of land. This set them apart, even within the already set-apart people of Israel, as having a unique relationship to God and his promises. While the other tribes had land, cities, farms, and resources they could pass down to their offspring; the Levites were dependent on God alone for their livelihood, security, and legacy.
The Church as Levites
What struck me as I was reading was the idea of the Church as new Levites. As the New Testament Church, we are living out the image of the Levites in our own time. We are the new people of God, the Church of Jesus Christ. We are a kingdom of priests called out by God for God and spread throughout the nations so that the work of Christ is witnessed in every corner of the world. We are given the law and words of God to bring peace to the nations and we wander this world as strangers and exiles waiting to return to our homeland. Our inheritance is not from this world.
Our inheritance is God himself. Our hope is not in the land: the family business, house, or cottage. Our satisfaction is not in our stuff: the bank accounts, the investments, the cars, or boats. Our deliverance will not come from worldly powers: the government, social programs, even our friends and neighbours, they are not our hope. “The LORD is [our] inheritance (Deut. 18:2).” The Lord provided for every single Levite day-by-day from the offerings that were brought to the temple: daily meat, bread, oil, and flour. Jesus commands us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread (Mark 6:11).” Jesus is calling us to live in full dependence and contentment in God. At the end of time, even the blessings of the sun and moon will be replaced with God himself,
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
– Revelation 21:23
But more than their physical needs, the Lord chose the Levites to “stand and minister in the name of the LORD (Deut. 18:5)”. This was a special privilege and treasure that no other tribe had access to. In the work of Jesus, God opened that door of standing and ministering to all his people. And this privilege comes with a calling: to make the LORD your inheritance.
As the world shifts and changes and worldly powers, influences, and resources rise and fall; we can take comfort that our inheritance, our livelihood, our treasures are not made by human hands, but are kept by the eternal God for us in heaven. Preach to yourself that God himself is your inheritance, and no loss you can experience in this world will be able to shake that foundation. You are secure in Him.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
- Lamentations 3:24