The past few weeks as we read through Numbers and Deuteronomy, you’ve seen how God progressively called the priests from the tribe of Levi, how he gave them specific tasks, specific clothes to wear, and ways to act. After all of this he consecrated them for their work at the tabernacle. They were honored above the other tribes in their service to the Tabernacle.
Like all the other tribes they were no doubt looking ahead to the promised land, to having a place of their own after being slaves for generations. Trekking across the dusty desert, maybe they dreamed of a little patch of land with a home that they didn’t have to take down and move and maybe a little garden or vineyard.
Then God told them something they probably didn’t want to hear.
The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites” (Numbers 18:20, repeated in Deut. 18:1-2).
No inheritance in the land. What kind of a reward was that?
We silently ask the same questions
If your life is wholeheartedly centered on serving God, you probably won’t get all the things others get in this world. Much of it will be by choice; some may not be.
The reason you won’t get what many others do is not because what many people have: comfortable lifestyles, dining out and expensive entertainment, large homes and wardrobes, hobbies isn’t because they are evil or sinful things, but because–
- You don’t have time for them or
- You don’t choose to use your resources for them
You don’t do this because you think self-denial in and of itself is a virtue, but because you measure choices in light of eternity.
An example, given with fear and trembling
I hesitate to give this example and please know it’s not a condemnation of anyone or a prescription for everyone. But it is an example that challenged me years ago when I was working for Compassion Intl. I was interviewing people who supported children through Compassion for an article I was writing. There was one couple who supported 5 children, more than anyone did at the time. When I called to find out why, I learned that it wasn’t because they had excessive resources. In reality one of them was disabled and they had a limited income. They supported 5 children because they felt it was more important than eating out or going to movies.
I was humbled because I don’t think I could do that. An ECC member shared similar thoughts with me recently:
Where did we get the idea that we need excessive entertainment? Entertainment like what we see advertised on TV, where families spend thousands of dollars to take their kids to some phony place where they can spend their days learning how to live self-indulged fantasties.
Yes, the Bible talks about taking time off, but in the OT time off was for: worship, praising God and rest. The Old Testament celebrations focused completely on God. People rested, feasted, performed acts of sacrifice and worship, but it was never about them, it was about God.
When my friends say, “You need time off, you work so hard at a demanding job, you deserve it.”
I think “Maybe. But don’t the children in Africa deserve clean water or the refuges a safe haven, food, and comfort?” When I think about those things I can’t be comfortable spending big amounts of money on myself.” A movie or play might not seem like much, though many are quite expensive these days, but I’d rather give it to groups doing something about these basic life necessities. I can’t bear dieting for a week; I can’t imagine being constantly hungry or cold or not having a safe place for my children to sleep.
Yes, there are times when my friends at work are planning a trip to LA to see a live play that a big part inside me wants to go also. I could afford it; I could do it. But then, here’s what I do. I open computer to the pictures NASA has of the stars, the galaxies up close and I tell myself someday–that will be my entertainment. I will walk with my Lord in wonders that will make the memory of these earthly distractions images seem like faded photos. Someday I will rest eternally in His salvation. For now, I want to spend my time, not on an empty, self-absorbed distractions, but on doing whatever I can, spending what resources I can to help as many people as possible get to know Jesus.
We are all priests today
Today, the priesthood is no longer set aside for a special few. If you know Jesus as Savior, you are a priest–one who can represent God before people as 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) reminds us:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Though it’s easy to forget, like the priests, we aren’t to get too invested in this present world. As Peter goes on to say, not only are we priests, but this world isn’t our home:
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 1 Pet 2:11
What is it that wars against our soul? Land may not be a big deal for us, but we all have something that beckons us for devotion rather than God. Whatever it is, we need to let it go from its grip on our hearts.
Like the priests also, we let go, not simply for the sake of empty self-denial but to make room for our Lord because then and always, he promises: “I will be your inheritance.”
And we can respond:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. Ps. 73: 25,26