Last among the tribes to know the particular inheritance assigned to them came the Levites, since they were not to occupy a distinct territory, but certain selected cities in each district. By this arrangement each tribe recognised the duty of providing for the support of the service of God, and had religious instructors abiding within its borders. The sacred historian having finished his narrative of the partition of the land, deems it a fitting opportunity to bear witness to the fact that God had proved equal to His word. He had brought His people into their possession, and they were busily engaged in arranging their habitations, tilling the soil and other occupations of landed proprietors. The Israelitish dispensation was typical, foreshadowing the dispensation of the fulness of times, of which theirs was but a dim anticipation, an emblem and a shadow. As mind is superior to matter, and spiritual are preferable to bodily satisfactions, as righteousness is more important than wealth, and elevation of soul more desirable than prowess in war, so do the advantages of which believers in Christ are partakers immeasurably outweigh all that was the portion of the Israelites in their brightest period.
I. AN ENUMERATION OF PRIVILEGES .
II. SOME GENERAL OBSERVATIONS upon the text.
THIS SUBJECT RAISES OUR THOUGHT TO HEAVEN , as the place to which perfect rest and enjoyment of our inheritance are reserved. We have here "the spirit of promise as the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of our purchased possession." This is the morning twilight, that the noon; this the portico, that, the inner palace; this the foretaste, that the banquet; this the type, that the reality. Here "we groan being burdened," there we have the house eternal, the body that is the out-flashing glory of the spirit. Here we slake our thirst and appease our hunger, and soon we crave again; there "they hunger no more, neither thirst any more," for the Lamb doth feed them, and lead them to living fountains of water. Here we revive under the physician's touch, and fall ill again; there the inhabitants never have to say, "I am sick."—A.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
"The Lord is not a man that He should lie, or the Son of Man that He should repent." His promises are "yea and amen." This is the great truth brought home to us by the beautiful conclusion of the partition of the land of Canaan. "The Lord gave to Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass" (verses 48, 45). Heaven and earth may pass away, but the word of the Lord must stand.
And the Lord gave. The LXX . adds before this passage: "And Joshua completed the division of the land in its boundaries, and the children gave a portion to Joshua, by the commandment of the Lord. They gave to him the city for which he asked, Thamnath Sarach gave they him in Mount Ephraim, and Joshua built the city, and dwelt in it. And Joshua took the stone knives, with which he had circumcised the children of Israel, which were in the way in the wilderness, and he placed them in Tamnath Sarach." The repetition is very much in the manner of the sacred historian, and it is possible that we have here an authentic passage, which some copyist has omitted in the Hebrew text. All the land. As has been before remarked, the Hebrew כל must not be pressed to mean literally "all." Yet, in a sense, the word is true here. The land had been put in their power. They had only to exert themselves to complete its conquest. This they failed to do, and not only so, but violated the conditions under which the land was granted them. Thus they soon fell under the dominion of those who had been their own vassals. Ritter thinks that the Asherites and Danites submitted to the inhabitants of the land in consequence of being allowed equal citizen rights with them. He draws this inference from 5:17 , supposing that these tribes addicted themselves to the commercial and maritime life for which the Phoenicians were so famous.
The ecclesiastical settlement of Canaan.
Though the ecclesiastical institutions of the Christian Church differ, in some respects materially, from these of the Jewish, yet inasmuch as the law and the gospel came from the same All-wise Hand, we may naturally expect that the main principles of each will be the same. Perhaps we have insisted too much of late on the fact that the law was "done away in Christ," and too little on the qualifying truth that Christ came "not to destroy, but to fulfil it." It may be well, therefore, to consider briefly what the duties of the priests were under the old covenant. From this we may be able to infer what their duties should be under the new. The New Testament Scriptures contain some information on the point, but not so much as to render it unnecessary to seek some enlightenment from the Old. The reaction from an obedience to powers unduly chimed and unjustly used, has rendered it an the more necessary that we should recur to first principles in the matter. The hatred of what is called "sacerdotalism" has resulted on the part of the laity in general to something like an undue impatience of the just influence of ministers of religion, and this can only lead to disorder in the Christian body. We may observe, then,
I. THE LEVITES RECEIVED THEIR INHERITANCE LAST OF ALL . This self abnegation was fitting among those who were specially appointed to the service of God. So, in like manner, should the ministers of Jesus Christ, instead of grasping eagerly at power or pelf, be desirous of being "last of all and servant of all," in imitation of Him who was among His own disciples as one that serveth. It may be added in a spirit, not of boasting, but of thankfulness, that never was there a time, since the hour of the first fervour of the gospel in the days of the Apostles, when this spirit was more abundantly displayed than in our own age and country—when there were so many ministers of God content to serve God in the sanctuary, without the prospect of earthly countenance or reward. Let them not murmur if men take these things as a matter of course, but look forward to the "recompense of the reward."
II. PROPER PROVISION WAS MADE FOR THE SERVICE OF GOD . The Levites were carefully dispersed throughout all the tribes of Israel, not, of course, for the service of the sanctuary, which was kept up at one place only, but obviously in order to diffuse among the tribes a knowledge of and attachment to the law of God. A similar provision has been made in all Christian countries. At first, bodies of men were gathered together in the chief cities of a country, from whence the rural districts were gradually evangelised. Thence, by an extension of the principle of Levitical dispersion, came our present institution of a resident minister or ministers in every village. To this institution, more than to any other, do we owe the diffusion of Christian principles throughout the whole land. It would be the sorest of all calamities were any untoward event to overthrow it.
III. PROPER PROVISION WAS MADE FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF THE CLERGY AND MINISTERS OF RELIGION . Here we may do well to quote Matthew Henry, who says, referring to the words, "The Lord commanded by the hands of Moses," and observing that the Levites based their claim, not on their own merits or services, but on the command of God: "Note, the maintenance of ministers is not an arbitrary thing, left purely to the goodwill of the people, who may let them starve if they please, but a perpetual ordinance that 'those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel' ( 1 Corinthians 9:14 ), and should live comfortably." Many other passages in the New Testament enforce this truth (e.g; 1 Corinthians 9:7 , l 1; Galatians 6:6 ). The clergy may feel a natural repugnance to enlarge upon that in which they themselves have a personal interest, and which their flocks might find in the word of God. But they should not be deterred by an over scrupulous feeling from doing their duly. They are bound to declare the whole counsel of God. And if, by an insufficient provision for God's ministers, the cause of God is likely to suffer (and it is to be feared that such is now very often the case), if the energies which should be devoted entirely to God's cause are dissipated in worldly anxieties, in endeavours to keep the wolf from the door, in efforts to eke out a too scanty income by other labours than those of the sanctuary, it is plainly their duty to speak out. Instead of "living of the gospel," it is to be feared that there are many clergymen and their families starving of the gospel, though they have too much self respect to let the fact be known. And while the spectacle of ecclesiastics rolling in riches and living idly and luxuriously is a hateful one, on the other hand, our present haphazard regulations, which deprive a good many estimable clergymen of the wherewithal to purchase their daily bread, and keep a good many more in anxious suspense, whether it may not one day be so with themselves, are no less an offence in the eyes of God.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
I. WE MAY ASSURE OURSELVES OF GOD 'S FAITHFULNESS BY A CONSIDERATION OF THE GROUNDS ON WHICH IT RESTS .
(a) in nature—in changeless laws, as of light and gravitation, and in geological uniformity;
(b) in revelation, the development of which is like that of a tree retaining unity of life and growing according to fixed principles.
(a) the novel circumstances under which they will be required to redeem their word, and
(b) the breadth of the issues to which their promises may lead them.
When God promises He knows
(a) all future circumstances to which His word may apply, and
(b) all that is involved in the pledge He gives.
II. WE MAY ILLUSTRATE GOD 'S FAITHFULNESS BY A REVIEW OF THE INSTANCES IN WHICH IT HAS BEEN PROVED TO US .
III. WE MAY STRENGTHEN OUR BELIEF IN GOD 'S FAITHFULNESS BY AN EXAMINATION OF APPARENT EXCEPTIONS . These may often be explained by noting important circumstances.
IV. WE MAY APPLY THE PRINCIPLE OF GOD 'S FAITHFULNESS TO OUR OWN EXPERIENCE BY NOTING THE REGIONS OVER WHICH IT EXTENDS .
HOMILIES BY E. DE PRESSENSE