JOSHUA 21:1-22:20 | LUKE 20:1-26 | PSALM 89:1-13 | PROVERBS 13:15-16
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The Levites were initially not to receive any land allotted to them during the great distribution that Joshua carries out. However, it is now determined that Aaron’s descendants also need a place to call their own, and so what happens is that each of the eleven tribes who have already received their inheritance give out of it to the tribe of Levi.
And so Chapter 21 ends like this: 43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
Next we learn of a curious happenstance. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh decide they wish to return to Gilead, the area before the crossing of the river Jordan where they had initially set up camp for a long time before entering the ‘promised land’. Moses had agreed to their request to claim this land for their permanent home, but had advised that they join the rest in the initial migration into the land of Caanan and after the children of Israel were established in that place, they could return.
Well, apparently the time had come for the return, and this large group of people bid their farewells to their brethren, and head east to Gilead. And when they are close to approaching their destination, on this side of the banks of the Jordan, they prepare an altar for the purpose of offering thanksgiving to a god other than Yahweh. This is presumed because when Joshua and the others hear about it, they are outraged at this heresy.
A contingent is sent at once to stop this madness! How can it be that their brethren are thinking of worshiping other gods? Have they no fear? Have they no memory? Have they no devotion? No loyalty? Are they out of their minds in jeopardizing a good thing after all that they’ve been through?
These must have been the thoughts that rushed through the minds of Joshua and his men, and the text tells us that this is exactly what they tell these unfaithful brethren of theirs when they meet up with them. They say:
‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? 17 Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the LORD! 18 And are you now turning away from the LORD? ‘If you rebel against the LORD today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. 19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the LORD’s land, where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the LORD or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the LORD our God.
Turning next to our reading in the book of Luke, we see Jesus continuing with his ministry of teaching and preaching everywhere that he goes. While the poor masses hang onto every word that he says and have complete and implicit faith in this godman whose miracles never cease to amaze, there are also the crafty elders of the Temple who follow Jesus for the sole purpose of attempting to trap him with his own words in order to find substantial grounds for arrest and possible execution. Blasphemy and heresy were sins punishable by death, as everyone knew, of course.
And so, we find here today yet another attempt at entrapment. Jesus is asked a direct question, and Jesus replies with another direct question, but these good and upright elders of the Temple are unable to answer directly. And as if to further make his point about how sorry the lot of them are, Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard and the tenants—a not-so-indirect-way of telling the righteous upholders of the Law that they are in essence the wicked tenants– wicked to the point of becoming murderers.
It is his own death that Jesus is foretelling, and from the look and reaction of the elders, it is clear that the nail has hit the mark. They know that Jesus is referencing them in that story, and they are now even more eager to bring charges—any charges against this man in order that they might arrest him and put him to death.
Well, they do succeed in doing just that, as we will soon find out. Woe is unto them, yes, and woe is unto all of Israel for taking the son of the owner of the vineyard and killing him in cold blood!
We will await the story of how exactly this is accomplished, but before that, we learn of one more thing that Jesus unequivocally states when presented with yet another of those entrapment questions. They want to know if he supports paying taxes to the Roman rulers. And Jesus’ answer to them (and to us!) is yes, pay those taxes, there’s no escaping them, just pay them and be done with it!
Thank you, Jesus, for that clear answer. (I will pay them alright, but did you also mean that I ought not protest if the taxes are raised every so often?!)
The Psalm of the day is one that is attributed to Ethan, the Ezrahite. The Psalms are a collection of writings, many of them authored by king David, and some by others, one of them being Ethan. This is a beautiful psalm of praise, and the first few verses are wondrous in their unabashed tone of worship. Ethan says:
1 I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
4 ‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’”
Finally, the two verses from the book of Proverbs authored by king Solomon are worthy of reflection:
15 Good judgment wins favor,
but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.
16 All who are prudent act with knowledge,
but fools expose their folly.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.