Making wise divisions….
Now that the boundaries of the Promised Land have been established, it is time to assign the land fairly and appropriately to the remaining nine and a half tribes of Israel (the other two and a half – the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh – have elected to return to settle on the other side of the Jordan). This difficult job of assigning the inheritance of the land to the tribes is given to Joshua (the leader to come), Eleazar (the High Priest) and one leader from each of the tribes (including Caleb from the tribe of Judah).
Notice how Moses is beginning to hand over responsibility to Joshua. He is preparing for his departure. He is trusting Joshua and the others to make wise divisions.
Which led me to think about whether we make wise divisions. We probably do not own land to be divided up as an inheritance (although some of us have probably faced a few of these sensitive and difficult decisions in drawing up a will). I was thinking more about our own lives and how we divide up what we have. Here are some questions for you to ponder. If you really want to give it some serious thought, you could draw a pie chart for each question and colour in the slices in different colours. There’s probably an app for that.
And whilst this may be a helpful exercise as a snapshot of your present reality to consider in the last few days of 2014, the conclusions you draw need to be seen in the context of your whole life. Everything has its season. Everything is just a phase. Maybe at the moment, you are working on a particularly time-consuming project at work or much of your time is spent on caring for a relative. Maybe you are facing a large expense right now with one of your children. Maybe suddenly you have a space in your life – through loss of a job, a bereavement or a child leaving home – and you have time on your hands (and an aching void in your heart) that you are not sure how to fill. But maybe there are trends that continue through all seasons. Maybe you will never have any time for yourself. Maybe you will always find it easier to give attention to one child than another. Maybe work will always consume every available moment. Maybe church activities will always come before family. Maybe…..
Anyway, that said, here goes:-
- how do I divide up my time?
- what do I spend my money on?
- who do I give my care and attention to?
- how do I use my energy?
- who and what occupies my thoughts?
- how do I use the gifts and talents and creativity that God has given me?
Reflect. Evaluate. And take steps to adjust where required.
The Levites have not been forgotten. They cannot work the land as they all have roles in the tabernacle to perform, but they are always provided for and never forgotten –
Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will possess. And give them pasturelands around the towns. Then they will have towns to live in and pasturelands for the cattle they own and all their other animals.
“The pasturelands around the towns that you give the Levites will extend a thousand cubits from the town wall. Outside the town, measure two thousand cubits on the east side, two thousand on the south side, two thousand on the west and two thousand on the north, with the town in the centre. They will have this area as pastureland for the towns.” Numbers 35:2-5
The Levites are to be given 48 towns in total, 12 of which are to be cities of refuge, where someone who has murdered someone accidentally can seek sanctuary and find refuge. This doesn’t mean they will escape judgement completely, but does ensure they will receive a fair trial. These towns are to be taken from the other tribes in proportion to what they have been given –
Take many towns from a tribe that has many, but few from one that has few. Numbers 35:8
This reminds me of a verse in the New Testament, which I always struggle with the grammar of, but embrace the sentiment –
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48
Fair does not mean the same. It means a fair and equal proportion of what we have. Therefore direct comparisons are meaningless and futile. You can set yourself free from them right now. You never need to say phrases like ‘You put me to shame’, ‘You do so much more than me.’, ‘How do you find the time to achieve so much?’ and ‘Where do you get all your energy from?’ again. And just as importantly, from judging others for the little that they appear to do and give. Just get on with doing and giving and sharing what is right for you in your situation right now.
Back to the accused and avengers…..if the accused is found not guilty, he is to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. If he leaves the city before this time and the avenger of blood finds him, the avenger is allowed to seek revenge for what he has done and kill him, without judgement.
This is to have the force of law for you throughout the generations to come,wherever you live. Numbers 35:29
Because bloodshed pollutes the land. It defiles the land where God lives with His people. Therefore there can be no compromises. Judgement can never be brought on the testimony of only one witness. There can be no ransom for the life of a murderer. There can be no ransom to allow an accused to leave the city of refuge before time.
Finally we return to Zelophehad’s daughters. In chapter 27, they had argued their case to receive part of the inheritance as Zelophehad had had no sons. The family heads of the clan of Gilead to which they belong are worried. If Zelophehad’s daughters marry n=men from other Israelite tribes, then the land assigned to the wife’s tribe will transfer to the husband’s tribe and when the Year of Jubilee comes, this will be made permanent.
And God agrees. The girls are to be allowed to marry whoever they want – from within their own tribe. Assigned land must never be passed from one tribe to another.
So Zelophehad’s daughters did as the Lord commanded Moses. Numbers 36:10
And that’s it. The final story in our Numbers journey. Not exactly an Eastenders boom, boom, boom moment…no suspense, no cliffhanger…..just this –
These are the commands and regulations the Lord gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. Numbers 36:13
We did it! We made it through Numbers! See you next year as we delve into the Book of Deuteronomy (which is similar but different, I believe). Looking forward to a couple of lie-ins before then!