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June 15, 2021 8:00 am
48 cities scattered all across the promise land were assigned to the Levites as their homes coming up on the Bible study our Dr. James Boyce reflects a very unsavory story from Genesis to explain why these cities were so important and a blessing to all to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically today will stroll through the Levite Hall of Fame recounting magnificent leaders and amazing accomplishments.
More importantly, these stories interweave to form a picture of the holiness and graciousness of our God. Dr. Boyce's teaching of Joshua chapter 20 were drawing quite near the end of the book of Joshua in our study of this great Old Testament book that's an appropriate time to look back over it that's in terms of the outline and see how far we have, and how far we have yet to go. Joshua falls into four main parts to preparation for the conquest, which occupies a surprisingly large portion of the book.
It concerns the preparation of Joshua himself, which is found in chapter 1. There's a short preparation for the story of the conquest of Jericho. The work of the spies in our meeting with Rahab that's told in chapter 2, and then there's a continuation of the story of the preparation where the people preparation is in view and you find that in chapters 3 to 5 that's the first portion of the book and it's not to be taken lightly as that amount of space given over to. It clearly indicates we should in our Christian life give an adequate amount of time to preparation. Certainly preparation of the heart in terms of the work we have to do in the preparation of the skills and talents that we need to do it, then there's a second section of the book in the second section of the book is the conquest itself spent a good bit of time talking about that because some of the most interesting stories in Joshua are found in this portion we saw that there were three campaigns say strike into the heart of the country went up from Jericho to AIS dividing the kingdom of the Canaanites and the two halves of northern and southern part. The second campaign was in the South resulted in a great victory. It was followed by 1/3 campaign in the North and that also was a great victory. We get the impression reading the story of those accounts that that conquest all happen very quickly and it's true that these initial thrusts happen quickly. One in fast succession upon another.
And yet, as we read the unfolding of the conquest.
We realize that what was begun there quickly took a great deal of time to unfold the power of the Canaanites was broken in these three quick frosts but there remains a large task of occupation in one of the sad features of this portion of the book is that over and over again were told that the people didn't quite take full possession of the land were able to do it, but they grew tired, weary, as we sometimes do in our battles and so they didn't press on many of the Canaanites remained the first section of the book is the one we're in now and it has to do with the division of the land after the landed been conquered, it was divided up tried by tribe.
This took place in several stages as well. That was an early stage, which in fact already taken place. Even before the people crossed the Jordan way back when they were still in wilderness, under the leadership of Moses, 2 1/2 of the tribes ask for the Eastern territory. Moses had given it to them on the condition when it came time to take the land data company.
There brothers in the battle. They did that in this portion of the book describes how that first section of the land was given to them. Then there was a division of the land that took place at Gil Gallen that was followed by 1/3 division of the land that took place at Shiloh. By the time that was over all areas of this vast territory that had been conquered by the Jewish armies under Joshua had been divided up and occupied. Then at the very end of the book beginning in chapter 22 we have the farewells sort of a postscript to what is already happened is a chapter that tells how the eastern tribes returned to their area on the east of the Jordan. There's a farewell Joshua to the leaders and on the 24th and final chapter, there is the last great sermon of this great man of God. How we stand at the very end of the third portion we've been looking at the division of the land and we've come to the end of that after it has already been divided up among the tribes there at the very end. Chapters 20 and 21 we find portion the deals with the establishing of certain special cities.
One category of those cities. We looked at last week.
These are the cities of refuge there were six of them were three of them in the east of the Jordan. Three of them.
The west of the Jordan, two of them were in the north. Two of them were in the middle of the country in two of them were in the South, that is, they were spread out tediously placed because these were the cities to which a person who had unintentionally killed another person could flee for refuge.
Leslie avenger of blood should overtake him in accordance with the customs of that. Examine that in some detail. We thought had a great deal to teach us about the validity of law found in the character of God saw that this law of the preservation of people through flight to the cities of refuge was for the aliens as well as the Jews. In other words, it was the universal law, universal law established in the character of the one.net really is the only basis for universal law. Otherwise, if laws only sociological that is the same flaw is what we are. The majority of us aside is best for us. There's no reason at all why that same law should apply to anyone else should make laws to protect our interest. Who cares about the interests of somebody else, we may choose to grant them a certain amount of protection, but there's no need to do it if the basis of our law sociological. But if it's grounded in the character of God's love is real was and it must be universal because all men and women are creatures of God.
All are made in his image. So their life is as valuable as are like their property is as valuable as our property, their well-being is as valuable as our well being saw than the establishment of the cities of refuge in the way in which they operated this universal pattern of laws made clear. We also saw that this is a great illustration of how a man or a woman can come refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is not an exact parallel at this point.
For one thing, the cities of refuge, though they were strategically placed throughout the country were nevertheless in many cases undoubtedly at a distance from where the accident manslaughter and taken place in there would have been cases in which man who had killed another would get to the city of refuge only at the last possible minute and after a great efforts of flight that's clearly not parallel with the gospel because Jesus stands ready at all times with open arms to receive anybody.
You don't have to run a great distance he has is near as our own hearts and minds.
We have only to believe on nevertheless although we recognize these differences. There are wonderful parallels way to the cities was to be clearly marked and to be kept plain and well-prepared and that's a task that's committed to the church were to make clear the way to Jesus Christ. Where to repair the rodents and build bridges and direct the signs and say he is the way salvation is to be found there gates of the city were always to be kept open. It was unlike what was normally done with ancient cities, usually at night. The gates of the city would be closed in times of warfare. They would always be close so the cities of refuge these doors. Gates were always open. Just as a way is always open to come to Christ of any hour of the day any day of the week. Any week of the month for year way is open to Christ, then we have that symbolized by the cities. One thing that is a grim reminder to us is that it's in Israel. This was the only way by which a man who was guilty of manslaughter might possibly be safe. He wouldn't flee to one of the cities, the avenger of blood could overtake him and killing that in the same way, if you will not flee to Jesus Christ the avenger of blood and death is on your heels overtake you. Jesus said the one it comes to me will find salvation. I am the resurrection and the life you comes to me will never die. So there's many many lessons in this great institution of the cities of refuge that we find in chapter 20, chapter 21, we find the final provision for the special cities they special cities of the cities of the Levites is the cities of the priests are 48 of those cities of refuge were taken from among the cities of the Levites, so 48 cities of the Levites. There were six of the 48 with the cities of refuge, but the cities of the Levites were far more numerous labor scattered all throughout the land. This 21st chapter spells it out in great detail sitting by city exactly where the cities of the Levites were this involves a very interesting story and in order to understand why the cities of the Levites were so important and why they were such a blessing. The very fact that they would establish not only to the people, but to the Levites themselves. You have to go back quite a few books in the Old Testament back in the 34th chapter of Genesis, there is one of those stories that is on the most unsavory portions of the Old Testament here and there, you know, in the Old Testament there are chapters that tell of deeds that are so unpleasant that often they're not even preached about matter fact, if you read through the books of homiletical help switch preachers sometimes happen sometimes read through your fine man in these books saying now it's really not possible to preach a sermon on this text. I don't think that that is true. I think all of Scripture is given for our instruction in righteousness are correction and that includes these portions also. But it must be admitted that some of the stories are quite unsavory and this story in the 34th chapter of Genesis is one of the concerns those days in the life of Jacob the patriarch when he had returned from living with his uncle Karen. He had to leave because things were bad behind when he came back to his own country. Esau was there to meet him and Esau wanted him to go south with him. He didn't want to do that and so he went north and settled in Shechem. This was a worldly place. He probably shouldn't of been there.
The text doesn't tell us that explicitly berates something happened that was a bad mark on his family had a daughter, Dina, and she was attacked one day and raped by the son of the king of Shechem was bad in itself, of course, but it was I suppose that the kind of thing that was not all that uncommon and the situation it turned out to lease from the Jacobites point of view is good as you could expect thing like that baby. Instead of simply repudiating the girl or having nothing to do with her son on a more the king came to his father and said I really want to marry this girl and father who just accepted this sort of thing that is done well you know boys will be boys came with his son, Jacob, and made a proposal of marriage for his son to involve Dina. This was something Jacob did know how to handle so he said he'd wait a bit and consult with his son when his sons came and he shared what happened with them and they began plot step in the direction of treachery, which was far worse than the thing the Shechem lights of done. First of all, they pleaded that it was impossible for them to have a marriage like that of marriage of the two people because they said you Jacobites are uncircumcised and we Jews are circumcised with the sign of the covenant with us and we just can't have any interim mingling of our peoples.
However, they said if you would consent to the side of the covenant. All the males in your city would consent to be circumcised, well then we could agree to the marriage and we would mingle with you we'd share all the property I say that was a far worse thing than what the Shechem lights at dawn because the sons of Jacob had no intention of allowing this thing to go forward. They were simply using it as a means by which they would retaliate with utter vengeance on the Shechem lights to lead in this where Simeon and Levi after the Jacobites agreed to their plan circumcised him as the Bible says were sort of the third day Simeon and Levi got their swords and went into the city and massacred them all this killed them all of them and then they took all of their property.
Largely their livestock brought it back home. Jacob, their father, although he had been distressed of the treatment of his daughter was even more horrified at what is sons Don and he said you made me a stench in the nostrils of the Canaanites, it's a story that happened as I said in the 34th chapter of Genesis. In the years went by, we have the story of Joseph and his being taken down to Egypt and rising to a position of power there over many years and finally being revealed to these brothers and the time of the famine they going back and getting their father and Jacob coming down there and then Jacob growing old and Egypt and finally coming to the time when he was to die the very end of this book Genesis in the 49th chapter 1 chapter before the ending. Jacob gives a great processing the concerns the future of each of these sons of his people who should come from, and when he gets Simeon and Levi. It is this incident from the 34th chapter of Genesis that he remembers hear his words.
Simeon and Levi are brothers their swords or weapons of violence may not enter their counsel. Let me not join their assembly. They have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they please curse it be their anger so fierce in their fury so cruel, it's even all these many years after that event, the horror of it still stuck in Jacob's mind and then he pronounce this prophecy. I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel. How many more years went by here where Simeon Levi, Jacob sons under this great judgment was something they didn't experience themselves personally. They were in Egypt during these years they grew old and died in their offspring grew old and died over all these years. Their descendents multiplied, as did the descendents of the other tribes.
God sent Moses was the exodus over the years of the wandering in the wilderness and then finally came to conquest, which is told about in this book of Joshua that we been studying and there in the middle portion of the book for third of these four sections, we find the distribution of the land by all these tribes and it is at this time. In this story. That's the prophecy that Jacob made about these two brothers in the 49th chapter of Genesis, on the basis of the evil that had been committed, and recorded in the 34th chapter of Genesis is finally fulfilled. Simeon is scattered we read this and we realized Simeon and Anna place which to live. The Levites had a place in which to live as well, but Simeon was scattered and that Simeon was given no real fixed territory of his own people of Simeon were given territory within the territory of Judah, and not only did that happen. As we read other portions of the Old Testament follow this through, we find that they seem to wondered from place to place and many of them were scattered even beyond the boundaries of Israel. In later days in first Chronicles one through 11 were the descendents of the sons of Jacob are listed by clamant territory cities or Simeon which are given in Joshua 19 are given again within the text says that some of them went to the outskirts of the door to the east and under the leadership of some other men.
Some of them went on and invaded even the hill country of seer that is even where Jacob's brother Esau had gone so the Simeonites really were scattered the same thing happen to Levi, but in a different way. And here in the 21st chapter we find how this happened.
When Jacob said that they were going to be scattered in Israel. What that prophecy meant on the surface, was that these descendents of these two sons were to have no territory of their own. I was to be there judgment and it was true in the case of Simeon was also true in the case of Levi, but with this difference. Levi was scattered throughout all of these towns of the Levites, yet that which was a judgment as we begin to measure what happened actually turns in the right kindness of God to be a blessing. A blessing to the Levites themselves in a blessing to the people among whom they were scattered because you see the Levites were the priests and Levites were those who are entrusted with the knowledge of God and the teaching of the ways of God to the people Levites were entrusted with the temple sacrifices and with the other duties associated with the temple worship in Jerusalem, so they became people who even in God's judgment upon them were vehicles of blessing the nation a lot of Levites David in his day is recorded in verse Chronicles 23, two through five counted them that time there were 38,000 Levites above 30 years of age.
That is the man that were old enough to practice the priesthood of these 24,000 number sent to the service of the temple I took turns.
They lived in the Levites, cities may went up by turn 6000 were established as officials and judges that is they had administrative responsibility throughout the land.
4000 were gatekeepers and 4000, Morgan appointed to praise the Lord with musical instruments. Interesting. I think that this judgment upon this son and his descendents turned out to be such a great blessing. We began to think of some of the great leaders in the Old Testament we find that a number of them were Levites, probably the greatest leaders came from the tribe of Judah. That's because Judah was the tribe gave the Kings. Most of the kings were from the tribe of Judah, but apart from that, the tribe of Levi produce magnificent leaders. Moses, for example, was Saul the tribe of Levi Moses was a man who was raised up by God to be effective in the Exodus made his mistake says all of us do it one point in his life.
He bought rightly that he was to be one through whom the deliverance would, but he concluded wrongly that it was to come by human methods and so we began by killing an Egyptian he said. After all that's where you start revolutions you start killing people and other people come along and they kill more in the first thing you know, etc. people frame didn't work that way.
Moses had to flee spend 40 years of our side of the desert committee and it was only at the end of that time the dog came to him again. He was 80 years old at the time said let my people go by then Moses said were great lessons in what it meant to walk with God. He was a humble Lambert told he was a meek man, at least at that point came back trembling, no doubt, but obedient to God. He said the words of God, let my people go in God intervened and brought the people out of the mighty hand the book of Hebrews writes about Moses says that this man though he could have enjoyed all the pleasures of sin in Egypt.
Perhaps as we look at it, he could become the next Pharaoh could have enjoyed all that power all that prestige. Moses nevertheless commented an honor to be reckoned with the oppressed people of his own people for the sake of the glory of God whom he desired to serve Moses you see was a great Levite parent was a Levite. Aaron was the first high priest, and was appointed as high priest by God, and it was said of Aron, that God was going to establish his priesthood as a lasting priesthood and Adidas was Aron made his mistakes as well.
Aron hung in there with Moses over all those years just as God gave the law through Moses, so did God show the way of salvation through Aron, and what the other high priests did Phineas was a Levite Old Testament's wonderful story about Phineas people had been involved in sin with the Moabites or had been a great deal of inner marrying at the time wasn't allowed Phineas and priest were told was jealous of the Lord's cause started punish the people with a plague that was sweeping over them and killing them right and left and Phineas when he saw one of the Israelites going to attempt with the Moabite woman took his spear and went and thrust it through the Israelite and the woman killing both of them and God honored that and stop the plague Aeneas was an upright man in the promise that was given Aron that this would be a lasting priesthood was reiterated in the case of Phineas was said that the priesthood wouldn't depart his family because of what he had done. Eli served as a leader in Israel for more than 40 years behind his 90s was a Levite, Ezra observed with Nehemiah at the time of the restoration was a Levite, John the Baptist was a Levite know that his father received the revelation of his birth when he went up to Jerusalem to do his weeks of temple services.
All the Levites did in curtains from their Levitical cities was while he was there that the angel appeared and said that John Baptist.
His son, the forerunner of the Messiah would be born even though Elizabeth Zacharia's wife was old and years and he didn't believe him on pronounced judgment on him. He wasn't going to be able to speak of the son was born, God named the Sonia Collin Johnny said when his father named him John. His tongue was loosed, and he began to praise God and John.
Another Levite began his great ministry as a forerunner of the Messiah. He preached repentance in Israel.
Many turned to faith because of what John the Baptist did you see how important this is. When we talk about God's judgment on sin is we must if we are faithful to the teaching of the Word of God. We stress that God cannot tolerate sin and God will not tolerate sin in his people sometimes you know we we get so excited about the theme of judgment we preach and or talk about it as if God is almost anxious to pour out judgment when sins committed sin is not the case. God is a gracious God, and even when God judges his people as he will do if you persist, sin, God nevertheless does it reluctantly. He does it minimally. None of us in God's judgments of ever received in full, what we deserve and God is always ready if we draw close to him to transmute that judgment and the blessing have you found that to be true you look back in your life. Printer times when you ran away from God. Times when you know that God was telling you to do one thing you did another God was telling you not to do that thing you did it anyway and you suffer the consequences for it. You can't sin against God not suffer consequences that always has consequences when you look back on it now is God's work in your life to bring it back to himself as the true as you look at that. In your life. You say all praise God I didn't get what I deserved is Matrox that God was gracious to you and that that he kept you from the worst of the consequences that could have happened. And if you think about it carefully. Isn't it also true that in his own way. In spite of the fact that it was a judgment he brought blessing out of it.
I don't know how we did that in your particular case we all have to look into our own hearts in our own lives to see that that is true but that is true, that is the way God operates you know if that's how God does operate doesn't follow that it is wise for us not to flee from them is in it wise for us to draw near. Even when God exercises judgment Washington Irving had a saying in in which he said this, he said it lightens the stroke draw near to him who wields the rod so it does.
God is bringing judgment into your life. If he is causing you to suffer the consequence of some sin. Don't allow that judgment to push you from God allow it to draw you near you'll find that as you are drawn near God will turn even the judgments of the blessing for you because it will cause you to grow and for others because you become a blessing in their lives to spray our father.
Plus this study to our hearts. We confesses we look back upon our lives that there have been many times when we go on our own way rather than yours. And not just in ignorance done it many times, knowing precisely what it was we were doing and we suffered for it. Consequences of sin. Inevitably, especially saw what were your children and yet we find that you were gracious with this. Even in the judgment you use even that draw us to yourself or father if there are those who were in that situation now use that very thing and this study and this proof turn them away from any rebellious spot instead draw them close to yourself in responsive love that they might find in your presence, that forgiveness and cleansing which will equip them to go forth again be a blessing to others in this world. We predict things in the name of Christ our Savior. You are listening to Bible study hours with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Reich and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse.
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