Joshua 20-21 & Acts 1

Joshua 20-21

    Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood. He shall flee to one of these cities and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city. Then they shall take him into the city and give him a place, and he shall remain with them. And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past. And he shall remain in that city until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time. Then the manslayer may return to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled.’”

    So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. And beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh. These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation.

    Then the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites came to Eleazar the priest and to Joshua the son of Nun and to the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the people of Israel. And they said to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, “The LORD commanded through Moses that we be given cities to dwell in, along with their pasturelands for our livestock.” So by command of the LORD the people of Israel gave to the Levites the following cities and pasturelands out of their inheritance.

    The lot came out for the clans of the Kohathites. So those Levites who were descendants of Aaron the priest received by lot from the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, thirteen cities.

    And the rest of the Kohathites received by lot from the clans of the tribe of Ephraim, from the tribe of Dan and the half-tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.

    The Gershonites received by lot from the clans of the tribe of Issachar, from the tribe of Asher, from the tribe of Naphtali, and from the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.

    The Merarites according to their clans received from the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.

    These cities and their pasturelands the people of Israel gave by lot to the Levites, as the LORD had commanded through Moses.

    Out of the tribe of the people of Judah and the tribe of the people of Simeon they gave the following cities mentioned by name, which went to the descendants of Aaron, one of the clans of the Kohathites who belonged to the people of Levi; since the lot fell to them first. They gave them Kiriath-arba (Arba being the father of Anak), that is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah, along with the pasturelands around it. But the fields of the city and its villages had been given to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as his possession.

    And to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands, Libnah with its pasturelands, Jattir with its pasturelands, Eshtemoa with its pasturelands, Holon with its pasturelands, Debir with its pasturelands, Ain with its pasturelands, Juttah with its pasturelands, Beth-shemesh with its pasturelands—nine cities out of these two tribes; then out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with its pasturelands, Geba with its pasturelands, Anathoth with its pasturelands, and Almon with its pasturelands—four cities. The cities of the descendants of Aaron, the priests, were in all thirteen cities with their pasturelands.

    As to the rest of the Kohathites belonging to the Kohathite clans of the Levites, the cities allotted to them were out of the tribe of Ephraim. To them were given Shechem, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands in the hill country of Ephraim, Gezer with its pasturelands, Kibzaim with its pasturelands, Beth-horon with its pasturelands—four cities; and out of the tribe of Dan, Elteke with its pasturelands, Gibbethon with its pasturelands, Aijalon with its pasturelands, Gath-rimmon with its pasturelands—four cities; and out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Taanach with its pasturelands, and Gath-rimmon with its pasturelands—two cities. The cities of the clans of the rest of the Kohathites were ten in all with their pasturelands.

    And to the Gershonites, one of the clans of the Levites, were given out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Golan in Bashan with its pasturelands, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Beeshterah with its pasturelands—two cities; and out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishion with its pasturelands, Daberath with its pasturelands, Jarmuth with its pasturelands, En-gannim with its pasturelands—four cities; and out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with its pasturelands, Abdon with its pasturelands, Helkath with its pasturelands, and Rehob with its pasturelands—four cities; and out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with its pasturelands, the city of refuge for the manslayer, Hammoth-dor with its pasturelands, and Kartan with its pasturelands—three cities. The cities of the several clans of the Gershonites were in all thirteen cities with their pasturelands.

    And to the rest of the Levites, the Merarite clans, were given out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with its pasturelands, Kartah with its pasturelands, Dimnah with its pasturelands, Nahalal with its pasturelands—four cities; and out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with its pasturelands, Jahaz with its pasturelands, Kedemoth with its pasturelands, and Mephaath with its pasturelands—four cities; and out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with its pasturelands, the city of refuge for the manslayer, Mahanaim with its pasturelands, Heshbon with its pasturelands, Jazer with its pasturelands—four cities in all. As for the cities of the several Merarite clans, that is, the remainder of the clans of the Levites, those allotted to them were in all twelve cities.

    The cities of the Levites in the midst of the possession of the people of Israel were in all forty-eight cities with their pasturelands. These cities each had its pasturelands around it. So it was with all these cities.

    Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

(Joshua 20-21 ESV)

Acts 1

    In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

    And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

    So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

    Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

    In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

    “‘May his camp become desolate,
        and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
    
        and

    “‘Let another take his office.’
    
        So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

(Acts 1 ESV)

Something to Consider

Joshua 21: Our God is a God of order, and our God is a God who works His purposes for the ultimate good of His people. The scattering of the Levites among forty-eight cities within the land fulfills the instructions given to Moses (Number 35). However, they do so with an added twist. This 'twist' reveals the unique way in which God works all things for the good of His people. 

The Levites were grouped into three distinct people descending from each of Levi's original sons (Genesis 46). Their being scattered within the land was not only an instruction given to Moses but was actually the fulfillment of a prophesied curse placed upon the descendants of Levi by his own father Jacob:

“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel." (Genesis 49)

The descendants of Simeon have been given land within the territory of Judah (Joshua 19), and now here, the descendants of Levi are given territory scattered throughout the land of Israel. God would use the curse of Levi as a way of blessing His people. Not only are they divided as promised, but their division means all the tribes in Israel would have priests (Levites) among them to "teach [them] all the statutes that the Lord has spoken" (Leviticus 10). As the curse upon Levi cultivated blessings for Israel; we might consider how much more the curse upon Christ has cultivated the ultimate blessings for us.

 

Acts 1: There seems to be a very basic principle within these last words spoken by Jesus to His disciples: We ought not to concern ourselves with things that are beyond our understanding and simply focus on that which has been clearly understood. It is not for us to know when God is going to deliver on certain promises and why God does some things the way that He does. It is our concern to receive the power of God dwelling within us - the promised Holy Spirit - and to go be a witness of His gospel to everyone around us.

It’s striking to realize that the word here translated as 'witnesses' is the same Greek word from which we get the term martyrs. Is it our great commission as our Lord's disciples to be martyrs for the sake of advancing His Kingdom and glory here on earth? 

Perhaps His answer would scare us and offend us at the same time. But then again, His initial invitation to be His disciple was clear that martyrdom was going to be the cost. If I’m going to be a true Christian disciple then denying myself, taking up a cross and losing my life is the requirement. I must suffer the death of living for myself in order to fully live for Him. After all, no man is willing to suffer a physical death for God's sake who hasn’t already suffered the death to his own selfish-desires.