The Satisfied Life
“Unto the tribe of Levi, Moses gave not any inheritance. The Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said unto them” (Joshua 13:33).
The first verse of Joshua 13 begins with the Lord’s reminder to Joshua, “there remains yet very much land to be possessed.” We have seen how true that is in relation to the spiritual experience of us all. We remind ourselves that possession of the land by Israel was by lot. In other words, God determined the precise area which each tribe was to occupy, and each was responsible for applying the principles they had learned in the united warfare to the possession of that area which God gave them. We recognize that it is often because we refuse to accept our lot that we fail to possess all that God has for us in Christ.
I want to talk up that thought, and to speak a word, the Lord helping me, to those who are discontented with their lot. I come across many lonely lives today. Some are lonely because they are utterly disillusioned. Bright hopes of early years have been shattered. Ill health has dogged their footsteps, and they seem incapable of ever being or doing any good to anybody. In other cases, the marriage which began so hopefully has proved disastrous, and now they are left stunned amid the wreckage of what once was a home. Somehow they feel they can never be the same again. Even some Christians look upon them with suspicion, and the awful stigma of divorce seems to be beyond their power to remove.
Still others are facing life with no home at all. What was once a cherished dream has faded into the background and they feel unwanted. Yet others have lost the one whom God had given to them, and they are left with the care of children—utterly alone and crushed with the responsibility that seems just too great to bear alone.
If in the process of the years you have almost been tempted to build up a sense of resentment against God, and you are in danger of becoming bitter and sour, with your life being a mere endurance of a painful existence, I believe that God has something to say to you from this text of Scripture. Listen: “The Lord God of Israel was their inheritance.”
If you link that verse with Deuteronomy 10:8-9, you will grasp something more of its significance. There you will read, “At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord, to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name until this day. Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren. The Lord is his inheritance, according as the Lord thy God promised.”
I ask you first to observe, please, the honor that was allotted to these people. They were called to a life of worship. The Lord God of Israel was their inheritance. They possessed Him—all His resources, all His power, all His blessings, were to come to them, and then through them to others. No relationship of secondary importance was to be allowed to hinder their communion with their God. Their interests were to be undertaken without any possible distraction whatsoever.
They were called, moreover, to a life of work. They were to stand before the Lord to minister unto him. Their work was in the sanctuary. Their influence on others was that of the intercessor, the greatest influence in all the world. There they stood before the Lord and ministered unto Him.
They were called to a life of witness. They were to bless in His name. They were to be two-way channels, as it were, channels through whom others could come to God, channels through whom God could come to men. At His command, as we were told in Numbers 35:2, that although they were without inheritance in the land, the other tribes were to allot 48 cities for the use of the Levites. When they were free from the work of the sanctuary, they came to those cities to live. Straight from the presence of God, filled with the joy of His service, and with the glory of His presence, they brought the hallowing influence of the presence of the Lord everywhere they went. In the sanctuary they brought men to God; in the city they brought God to man. Such was the unique honor allotted to the Levites—a life of worship, a life of work, a life of witness. The Lord God of Israel was their inheritance.
Is that the life to which some of you are being called? He has given you no inheritance in the land; yet He has given you all, for He is your inheritance. Can there be any frustration in that life? Does not that cause your resentment against God to fade. Does not that open before you a new and limitless horizon, a life of boundless opportunity? Does not that change the stigma of loneliness and remove the pain of being unwanted into a great thrill when you realize that Christ is yours and you are His. He wants you for Himself for the greatest service in all the world, to go into the sanctuary for men and to go out into the city for God.
Let me ask you to observe here, in the second place, the history which prepared the tribe of Levi for this honor. The history of that tribe is the Old Testament is of outstanding significance. I want you to see what it was that led them to have this unique place in the economy of God. In Genesis 34:25-31, you would read where Simeon and Levi, brothers by birth, became involved in murder, and were rebuked for it by their father, Jacob, who said that because of it they had dishonored his name among the people of the land.
Even on his deathbed, Jacob could never forget their cruelty and their foul deeds, and so, instead of pronouncing upon Simeon and Levi a blessing, he pronounced upon them a curse. In Genesis 49:7 we read concerning Simeon and Levi, “Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”
There was nothing in early years, therefore, which indicated God’s future purpose. They had brought disgrace upon themselves, and upon their families. But, my friend, is it not true that God restores the years that the cankerworm hath eaten? Does he not take soiled hearts and cleanse them? Does he not take clay that has been marred in the hands of the potter and make it again another vessel? Never does our God allow past history, however unpleasant, or however sinful, to prevent Him from allotting us to a unique place in the service of God.
Of course, there was a turning point. There was a moment when the curse allotted to Levi was turned into a blessing. The curse upon Simeon ran its course, and as a tribe they faded out of existence. But not so with Levi; the Lord God became their inheritance. How did that happen? In Exodus 32:26 we find the answer to that question.
Moses, you remember, had returned from the mountain where he had received God’s commandment, to find that all the people were given over to idolatry. He stood in the gate of the camp and cried to the whole people, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come unto me.” And as a man, the Levites responded, repented of sin, turned to God. From that moment they were marked out for blessing. It was then God called them for priestly service. It was then He decreed that He was to be their inheritance.
The judgment of Simeon took its course, but the judgment of Levi was turned into a blessing. The one failed to repent, the other repented, and inevitably the operation of God’s government followed all through their lives. Please observe that Levi made their choice of their God not when they were in the land of blessing, but when they were in the wilderness. Then God’s promises seemed obscure, and His purposes seemed unknown. The future was dark and the journey was wearisome. Sin and idolatry abounded all around them and yet they turned to the Lord in that situation and sought His face. At that moment, at that crucial, critical moment in their lives, they chose the Lord.
What precious words God has to say to some of you from this text—indeed, to all of us. God chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world. He knew all about you before you were born. He watched you through your infancy, through your childhood, through your adolescence, through early manhood and early womanhood—never has there been a moment of your life when you have been out of His gaze, out of His care. Even in years when you turned from Him, His eye was always upon you—when you flung away your life in a marriage that was out of God’s will, or when you resolutely determined never to become involved in such an alliance, and you deliberately chose a path of loneliness, desiring at all costs to be right with God; when the temptation to get back into the world with its fascination and its thrills and its glamour got hold of you; when the price of going on with God seemed too hard to pay, and the journey was hard and wearisome and lonely and tough and dark. My friend, whatever the past has held for you, “He knoweth the way that I take.”
Most especially does the heart of our God recall when, in the wilderness, surrounded by sin and temptation and idolatry and second-best choices, you sold out for Christ, and you refuse to let anything or anybody to pull you back into the world. Oh, how glad was the heart of our God that day. And from then onward, the question with which He has faced you is this, “It is not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own?”
Yes, in selling out for Christ you sold out your right, for from that moment you were His. To some, He has given no inheritance in the land. He has given no home, no earthly love, only a way which seems so full of hardship and so crushing of burden. Perhaps you have come to believe that God has been punishing you for all your past failure and sins, and reminding you that you are disqualified forever from His service because you bear a stigma upon you.
How different is the truth! The Lord God of Israel is your inheritance. Yours is the unique privilege, the unique opportunity of testing the preciousness of His grace and His pardon, His love and His power, and His offer to you is a life of worship and work and witness if out of the darkness of wilderness days you chose Him as your undisputed Lord. To imagine that because someone has, for instance, entered into a matrimony that has proved disastrous, they must carry all through their lives the stigma of it, is to place a burden upon them which is utterly contrary to the book and which the grace of Christ utterly removed.
Thank God, in the moment when someone has been crushed beyond despair, and the things that they cherished most in life have crashed around them, and they are left among the shattered wreck of what once they thought was a home, that Jesus comes just at that moment. Thank God He takes the clay that has been marred, the precious, soiled, broken life, and He makes it again, and moulds it a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use. And to some He says, “From this moment onward the Lord thy God is thy inheritance.”
But there is something else that I must add. I have tried to point out to you the honor which was allotted to the tribe of Levi, the history which prepared them for that honor. I must ask you also to observe the hope which that honor inspired in their hearts. “The Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as He said.”
In other words, it was planned that it should be so. What happened to them was no mistake, no second best, but was in the counsel of a God Whose ways are past finding out, and Whose wisdom is altogether perfect.
To put all the floodlight of truth upon our text, we need to remind our hearts that the epistle of Paul to the church at Ephesus is the New Testament commentary upon the book of Joshua. And in Ephesians 1:11 we read that “the Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom also we have attained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him that worketh all things according to the counsel of His will, that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in God.”
Do you get that language? “In Whom we have obtained an inheritance”—a chosen inheritance, a lot, a portion ordained in the counsel of God. We were chosen according to His purpose, who planned everything according to His will, which is inscrutable. Why? In order “that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.” That is our side, as it were, of the picture. We have an inheritance in Jesus Christ, the Lord God of Israel, is our inheritance.
But our side is to be matched by God’s side. The partnership must be complete. The inheritance which we have in Jesus must have a response if there is to be perfection. That response is indicated in Ephesians 1:18, where Paul prayed for his hearers that “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Our inheritance in Christ is matched by Christ’s inheritance in His people. Our possession of Him is to be matched by His possession of us. Regardless of whether you may be among the people whom I have especially been thinking about in this message, of some of us it may be said, on the human level, that we have been more fortunate, some whom God has blessed with happy homes and godly children and enough of this world’s goods to keep us from poverty—some upon whom others might look with envious eyes. I speak to you as I would speak to my own heart—let us beware that the things which God has given us do not mar His inheritance in us, and give Him a response in our hearts which is unworthy of His grace and His love.
To the lonely heart, to the disillusioned life, the life that has no inheritance in the land, God says to you, “The Lord thy God is thine inheritance.” And that same God waits for you to answer Him and acknowledge that He has every bit of the inheritance of your heart, and you are His without any dispute.
And for those of us whom God has blessed in human life with happy homes, it is still true that the Lord God of Israel is our inheritance. He is waiting until He finds an utter, complete inheritance in all His people. He has been denied that by some of us because of the very gifts with which He has entrusted us. I wonder if that is the reason why, in so many Christian hearts and homes that have been blessed with earthly things, God often allows them to go through darkness and terror, to discover human, material things stripped from them. Maybe God has not been able to trust us with these things, for they rob Him of His inheritance here in us.
The Lord God of Israel is thy inheritance! Do you know these words?
Love with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know,
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so.
Oh, this full and perfect peace,
Oh, this transport all divine:
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine.
His forever, only His,
Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss
Christ can fill the loving heart.
Heaven and earth may fade and flee,
Firstborn light in gloom decline,
But while God and I shall be,
I am His, and He is mine.
Lonely? Frustrated? Resentful? Unwanted? God forbid! Free, rather; possessing Jesus, possessed by Jesus; living for Him, witnessing for Him; a vessel sanctified, meet for the Master’s use.