But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them…
This is the inheritance Moses had given when he was in the plains of Moab across the Jordan east of Jericho. But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.Joshua 13:14 & 32-33
On the one hand, the Levites and priests were provided for by the offerings of the rest of the people of Israel. They were to eat certain portions of certain animal and grain offerings. They wouldn’t have land to raise animals or to farm produce so they would be completely dependent on the offerings of the people.
Yet, in another sense, their inheritance wasn’t just the offerings of the people but the Lord Himself. So their dependency wasn’t primarily on the people but on God Himself to provide. This is how the Lord said it to Aaron when He first set up the priestly system this way:
Then the Lord said to Aaron, “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion, your perpetual share. You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin or guilt offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons.Numbers 18:8-9
What God was saying is not only would the priests and Levites have a portion of the sacrifices, but that God himself was their portion. God would take what was given to Him and give it to them. This is what the Psalmists meant when they declared that God is their portion.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;Psalm 16:5-6
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Whom have I in heaven but you?Psalm 73:25-26
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
I cry to you, Lord;Psalm 142:5
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
These Psalmists weren’t necessarily priests talking about God’s provision. They were lovers of God crying out to Him about wanting Him above all other things. Beyond what God could give them, these worshipers wanted God Himself. They were more interested in intimacy with the Lord than His provision. Nearness to Him was their primary inheritance.
As followers of Jesus, how much more is this true for us. 1 Peter 2:9 says that followers of Jesus are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” Beyond God’s provision for us–which He does have for us–we are invited to see intimacy with God as our inheritance. He is our portion. The greatest gift we’ve been given is the gift of Himself, God with us, Immanuel, Christ in you the hope of glory, the Holy Spirit.
Let us not be so focused on God’s provision and the tangible inheritance He has for us in His Kingdom that we miss the truth that He is our portion. Nearness and intimacy with Him is the greatest gift we’ve been given.
Father, we cry out the words of Moses, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here“(Exodus 33:15). We stand in agreement with the Psalmists and declare, “you alone are my portion!”