The Wisdom of God at Work in Israel and the Church: 10 Things About Joshua 20–21

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashAfter seven chapters about dividing the land, Joshua 20–21 focuses on two types of cities in Israel—cities of refuge (ch. 20) and cities of Levites (ch. 21). From the role of these cities, we learn a great deal about God and his plans for his people—both in Israel and today. Here are ten things about Joshua 20–21.

1. Joshua 20–21 are unified with Joshua 13–19.

While many commentators legitimately distinguish the distribution of the cities in Joshua 20–21 from the distribution of the land, the order of the chapters shows us how Joshua 20–21 provides balance to a chiastic structure that ranges from Joshua 13–21.

A Introduction (13:1) – Joshua was old and advanced in years

B1 Remaining Lands (13:2–7)
B2a Eastern Lands with Moses (13:8–33)
B2b Western Lands with Joshua (14:1–5)

C Caleb (14:6–15) – Son of Judah Receives the Future Royal City of Hebron

D1 Judah (15:1–63) – The Greatest Emphasis is Placed on Judah
D2 Joseph (16:1–17:18) – Ephraim and Half of Manasseh

E Levi (18:1–10) – The Center of Israel’s Worship at Shiloh

D1’ Benjamin/Simeon (18:11–19:9) –  2 tribes associated with Judah
D2’ Five (19:10–48) –  5 tribes associated with Joseph

C’ Joshua (19:49–51) – Son of Ephraim

B1’ The Cities of Refuge (20:1–9)
B2a’ The Levitical Cities Outlined (21:1–8) – Primary Focus on Sons of Aaron
B2b’ The 48 Levitical Cities Listed (21:9–42) – Primary Focus on Aaron and Hebron (vv. 9–19)

A’ Conclusion (21:43–45) — All that God had promised the forefathers has been fulfilled

The importance of this literary structure is what comes in the middle, namely the arrangement of the land around the tabernacle (Josh 18:1–10). From this central feature, we are keyed to see how the association of Aaron with Hebron foreshadows the later connection between David and the priesthood. Moreover, the role of the Levitical cities helps us to understand how the whole nation was blessed by the Levitical priesthood and how the Levites directed the attention of the people to God’s dwelling place.

In what follows, we will see how these priestly themes recur in Joshua 20–21. Continue reading

The Church as New Covenant Levites (Numbers 25; Malachi 2–3; Ephesians 4)

priestcolorThe Church as New Covenant Levites (Sermon Audio)

I am __________.

In individualistic cultures, these words are usually filled with various accomplishments, activities, or vocations. I am a musician. I am a doctor. I am a (recovering) alcoholic. However, in more communal cultures, this sentence is more likely completed with relational predicates. I am a son. I am a mother. I am a husband.

Of course, studies that have employed this fill-in-the-blank test have only produced general trends. Nevertheless, it is interesting to consider what words you use to introduce yourself. Are you first and foremost defined by what you do? Or by who you are with? Or is it some combination of the two?

This Sunday we will again consider the priesthood in Israel and how the family vocation of guarding the temple defined the Levites. At the same time, we will see how the events of their history inform the backstory to our own priestly calling. As Isaiah 66:21 says of the nations who will come to Christ in the new creation: “Some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites.”

Indeed, for those in Christ we find that we both have family and a vocation that fills in the blanks of our life and gives us both redemption and service in God’s kingdom. Like the Levites given to the priest to serve God in his house (Num. 8:19), we too are servants given to Christ, who in turn has given us to the church (Eph. 4:8, 11–12).

Therefore, learning the history of the Levites is not just learning someone else’s family history. If you are in Christ, it is your family history, not to mention a key part in how God has brought redemption to the world.

This week’s sermon can be heard online. Response questions are below, as additional resources.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading