Grace Abounding - Part Four

THEME: A Great Prophecy

This week’s lessons review our study in Joshua, and demonstrate how the grace of God is seen even through His judgment against sin.

SCRIPTURE:
Joshua 21:1-45


At the end of Genesis, in chapter 49, Jacob gives a great prophecy that concerns the future of each of his sons and the people who should come from them. And when he gets to Simeon and Levi, it is this incident from Genesis 34 that he remembers. Here are his words: "Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel" (vv. 5-7a). You see, even all those many years after that event, the horror of it still stuck in Jacob’s mind. And then he pronounced this prophecy: "I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel" (v. 7b). 

How many more years went by? Here were Simeon and Levi, Jacob’s sons, under this great judgment. It was something they didn't experience themselves personally. They were in Egypt during these years. They grew old and died, and their offspring grew old and died. Over all these years, their descendants multiplied as did the descendants of the other tribes. God then sent Moses, who led Israel out of Egypt. Then there were the years of the wandering in the wilderness. And then finally came the conquest, which we’ve learned about in our study of Joshua. 

It’s there in the middle portion of Joshua, where we find the distribution of the land by all these tribes. It’s at this time in the story that the prophecy that Jacob made about these two brothers in Genesis 49 on the basis of the evil that had been committed and recorded in Genesis 34 is finally fulfilled. We realize that Simeon and Levi both had a place in which to live. It’s true, of course, that Simeon was given territory within the tribe of Judah. But as we read other portions of the Old Testament and follow this through, we find that Simeon’s tribe seems to have wandered from place to place. They were scattered, just as Jacob said. In fact, many of them were scattered even beyond the boundaries of Israel in later days. 

The same thing happened to Levi but in a different way. When Jacob said that they were going to be scattered in Israel, what that prophecy meant on the surface was that the descendants of these two sons were to have no territory of their own. That was to be their judgment. But in Levi’s case, his tribe was scattered throughout all these towns of the Levites. So that which was a judgment actually turned, in the kindness of God, to be a blessing, a blessing to the Levites themselves and also a blessing to the people among whom they were scattered. The reason for this is that the Levites produced the priests, who were those entrusted with the knowledge of God and the teaching of the ways of God to the people. The Levites were entrusted with the temple sacrifices and with the other duties associated with the temple worship in Jerusalem. Even in God’s judgment upon them, they were used as vehicles of blessing to the nation. 

There were many Levites; in fact, during the time of King David, as recorded in I Chronicles 23:2-5, there were 38,000 Levites above 30 years of age—that is, the  men who were old enough to serve in the priesthood. Of these, 24,000 were sent to the service of the temple. They took turns, and lived in the Levite cities. Six thousand were established as officials and judges—that is, they had administrative responsibility throughout the land. Four thousand were gate keepers, and 4,000 more were appointed to praise the Lord with musical instruments. 


STUDY QUESTIONS:

  • What was the judgment placed upon Simeon and Levi in Genesis 49 for their earlier actions against the Shechemites?
  • How was that judgment specifically worked out in the division of the land?  

REFLECTION:

Why do you think a judgment that was made concerning two people was still being visited among their descendants hundreds of years later?  What does that teach us about God and his dealings with people?

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