The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel…
From the limitations of the monarchy, Moses next turns to the provision for the "priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi." They were not to receive any estate in Canaan beyond the suburbs of certain cities. They were to take "the Lord as their inheritance." We have already seen that Palestine was a good land for training up a spiritual people; it was a land where dependence upon God was constantly enforced. Bat among this people, thus invited to depend upon God, there was a tribe whose dependence upon God was to be further stimulated by the absence of any tangible inheritance. Their life was thus to be a life of trust in God's continual care. In these circumstances the Lord made certain laws about the priests' due. He took good care of the tribe that trusted him. It has been supposed that the animals, of which the priests were to have a definite part, were not merely sacrifices, but also those privately slaughtered, and the words (לֺזבְחֵי הַזֶּבַח) translated "them that offer a sacrifice" will bear the rendering "those who slaughter animals." Still, it seems more probable that it was by the central altar that the priests and Levites were to live. Assuming this, then, the following lessons are here taught.
I. THOSE WHO TRUST GOD SHALL NEVER BE DISAPPOINTED IN THEIR ALLOTTED PORTION. For as a matter of fact, "the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw" were deemed dainty portions of the animal. The best portions ascended to God in the altar fire, and then the second best were assigned to the priests and Levites, while the offerer was content with what was left. God and his ministers were regarded as the guests of the Jewish worshippers, and, as the guests enjoy the best which we can offer in the exercise of our hospitality, the support of the priests and Levites was amply secured. These dues of the priests and Levites seem to have been regularly paid while the people remained true to God; of course, their support would suffer in sinful and idolatrous times, yet, even when they suffered with the neglect of God's altar, it was suffering with God. And as a rule those who trust God are not disappointed with his provision. Even when it is limited in amount, he is sure to give sublime compensations. Though ministerial support is not what it ought to be, there is no class of men who enjoy life so much as God's servants.
II. THOSE WHO ARE THE LORD'S CHOSEN SERVANTS ARE CALLED PRE-EMINENTLY TO THE LIFE OF TRUST. There is a great temptation to encircle ourselves with so much worldly possession as that trust in God will be difficult and seem superfluous. In other words, there is an effort to be able to live by sight rather than by faith. But the Master whom we serve is realized by faith, and his kingdom must be propagated by faith. Hence he so arranges the lot of his servants that a loud call for faith is always ringing in their ears, and they should never neglect that call. The priests and Levites were at liberty to purchase land and leave it to their children, and doubtless many of them so far "made assurance doubly sure, and took a bond of fate." Yet the life of faith, the dependence upon God's altar, was better and wholesomer than the life of sight.
III. THE PEOPLE HAD NO RIGHT TO WITHHOLD THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES DUE BECAUSE OF ANY PRIVATE PATRIMONY INDIVIDUALS MIGHT POSSESS. A good deal of deficient ministerial support is due to the people very unfairly discounting private incomes and often exaggerating them, so as to save themselves. Ministers may inherit means through the kindly consideration of parents and friends; but this is no reason why people should hold their hand in the matter of ministerial support. The Lord specially provided that the Levite (ver. 8) should have like portions to eat beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony. The truth is that private means invariably go to make a public ministry more effective, if the ministry is true at all. They are not selfishly utilized, but used as a matter of' stewardship. In such circumstances, instead of being a hindrance to liberality, these private possessions should be a stimulus, as they are so much more in the line of things devoted to the Lord.
IV. DUE RESPECT SHOULD BE SHOWN TO A DEVOTED SPIRIT. The case of the Levite here referred to corresponds to a minister who has responded to a Divine call, against what one might call the dictates of worldly prudence. He has followed the inward impulse (ver. 6), and come to aid the priests at the central altar from his snug patrimony at home. Such devotion is to be considered and rewarded. The Levite, who was so interested as to relinquish his country life and patrimony, deserved the payment of the dues at the altar. So with the generous devotion of the ministers of God. When men relinquish good worldly prospects for the Church, their doing so should be considered. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance.