Jehovah Is My Share
“I am your share and your inheritance in the midst of the sons of Israel.”—NUM. 18:20.
1, 2. (a) What was the situation of the Levites as to a land inheritance? (b) What assurance did Jehovah give the Levites?
AFTER the Israelites had conquered much of the Promised Land, Joshua turned his attention to apportioning the land by lot. In doing this, he worked along with High Priest Eleazar and heads of the tribes. (Num. 34:13-29) As for the Levites, they were not to have a land inheritance such as the other tribes received. (Josh. 14:1-5) Why did the Levites have no tribal territory, or share, of the Promised Land? Were they being left out?
2 We find the answer in what Jehovah told the Levites. Underlining the fact that they were not being abandoned, Jehovah said to them: “I am your share and your inheritance in the midst of the sons of Israel.” (Num. 18:20) What a profound assurance: “I am your share”! How would you feel if Jehovah said that to you? Your first reaction might be, ‘Am I worthy of such an assurance from the Almighty?’ You might also wonder, ‘Can Jehovah really be the share of any imperfect Christian today?’ Those questions involve you and your loved ones. So let us determine what that divine statement means. That will help us understand how Jehovah can be the share of Christians today. More specifically, he can be your share, whether you hope to live in heaven or you look forward to life in an earthly paradise.
Jehovah Provides for the Levites
3. What led to God’s taking the Levites for his service?
3 Before Jehovah gave the Law to the Israelites, family heads served as priests among them. When God provided the Law, he arranged for a full-time priesthood and for assistants from the tribe of Levi. How did this come about? When God destroyed Egypt’s firstborn, he sanctified Israel’s firstborn, setting them apart as his, as belonging to him. Then God made this significant adjustment: “I do take the Levites . . . in place of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel.” Since a census showed that the firstborn sons of Israel exceeded the Levites in number, a ransom price was paid to make up the difference. (Num. 3:11-13, 41, 46, 47) Thus the Levites could carry out their role in serving the God of Israel.
4, 5. (a) What did it mean for the Levites to have God as their share? (b) How did God provide for the Levites?
4 What did that assignment mean for the Levites? Jehovah said that he was to be their share in the sense that rather than receiving a land inheritance, they were entrusted with a priceless privilege of service. Being “the priesthood of Jehovah” was their inheritance. (Josh. 18:7) The context of Numbers 18:20 shows that this did not leave them impoverished materially. (Read Numbers 18:19, 21, 24.) The Levites were to be given “every tenth part in Israel as an inheritance in return for their service.” They would receive 10 percent of Israel’s produce and of the increase of the domestic animals. In turn, the Levites were to contribute a tenth part of what they received, “of the very best of it,” for the support of the priesthood.* (Num. 18:25-29) The priests were also given “all the holy contributions” that the sons of Israel brought to God at his place of worship. Members of the priesthood thus had good reason for believing that Jehovah would provide for them.
5 It appears that the Mosaic Law provided for a second tithe, which was set aside for the household’s sustenance and enjoyment during the holy conventions each year. (Deut. 14:22-27) However, at the end of every third and sixth year of the seven-year sabbatical cycle, this tithe was deposited at the gate for the benefit of the poor as well as the Levites. Why were the Levites included as recipients? Because they had “no share or inheritance” in Israel.—Deut. 14:28, 29.
6. Though having no tribal share of land in Israel, where would the Levites reside?
6 You might wonder, ‘If the Levites had no land assigned to them, where would they reside?’ God provided for them. He gave them 48 cities along with the surrounding pasture grounds. These included the six cities of refuge. (Num. 35:6-8) Thus, the Levites had a place to live when they were not serving at the sanctuary of God. Jehovah provided abundantly for those who gave themselves to his service. Clearly, the Levites were able to show that Jehovah was their share by putting their trust in his willingness and power to provide for them.
7. What was required of the Levites for them to have Jehovah as their share?
7 The Law did not include any penalty for an Israelite who failed to tithe. When the people became negligent as to tithing, the priests and Levites were affected. That happened in the days of Nehemiah. As a result, the Levites had to work in their fields, neglecting their ministry. (Read Nehemiah 13:10.) Clearly, the sustenance of the Levitical tribe hinged on the spirituality of the nation. Furthermore, the priests and Levites themselves needed faith in Jehovah and in his means of providing for them.
Individuals Had Jehovah as Their Share
8. Describe the trouble the Levite Asaph faced.
8 The Levites as a tribe were to have Jehovah as their share. It is noteworthy, though, that individual Levites used the phrase “Jehovah is my share” to express devotion to God and reliance on him. (Lam. 3:24) One such Levite was a singer and composer. We will refer to him as Asaph, though he could have been a member of the house of Asaph, the Levite who led the singers in the days of King David. (1 Chron. 6:31-43) In Psalm 73 we read that Asaph (or one of his descendants) became perplexed. He envied the wicked who were leading a prosperous life and went to the point of saying: “Surely it is in vain that I have cleansed my heart and that I wash my hands in innocence itself.” He apparently lost sight of his privilege of service; he failed to appreciate that Jehovah was his share. He was spiritually troubled “until [he] proceeded to come into the grand sanctuary of God.”—Ps. 73:2, 3, 12, 13, 17.
9, 10. Why could Asaph refer to God as his “share to time indefinite”?
9 At the sanctuary, Asaph began to view things from God’s perspective. You may have had a similar experience. Perhaps at one point you lost sight of your spiritual privileges to some extent and began to focus on what you were lacking in a material way. But by studying God’s Word and by going to Christian meetings, you came to see things Jehovah’s way. Asaph perceived what would eventually happen to the wicked. He thought about his lot and realized that Jehovah would take hold of his right hand and lead him. Asaph could thus say to Jehovah: “Besides you I do have no other delight on the earth.” (Ps. 73:23, 25) He then referred to God as his share. (Read Psalm 73:26.) Although the psalmist’s ‘organism and heart might fail,’ God would be his “share to time indefinite.” The psalmist was confident that Jehovah would remember him as a friend. His faithful service would not be forgotten. (Eccl. 7:1) How reassuring that must have been for Asaph! He sang: “As for me, the drawing near to God is good for me. In the Sovereign Lord Jehovah I have placed my refuge.”—Ps. 73:28.
10 Having Jehovah as his share meant more to Asaph than the material sustenance he received as a Levite. What he referred to was mainly his privilege of service and his relationship with Jehovah, the friendship he had cultivated with the Most High. (Jas. 2:21-23) To preserve that relationship, the psalmist had to maintain faith in Jehovah, trusting in him. Asaph had to have confidence that the final outcome of his life would be a rewarding one if he lived according to the divine standard. You can have the same confidence in the Almighty.
11. What question did Jeremiah have, and how was it answered?
11 The prophet Jeremiah was another Levite who recognized Jehovah as his share. Let us consider what he meant when using that expression. Jeremiah lived in Anathoth, a Levite city near Jerusalem. (Jer. 1:1) At one point, Jeremiah became perplexed: Why were the wicked prospering while the righteous suffered? (Jer. 12:1) After observing what was taking place in Jerusalem and Judah, he felt compelled to ‘complain’ about what he saw. Jeremiah knew that Jehovah is righteous. What Jehovah thereafter inspired Jeremiah to prophesy and how He fulfilled those prophetic words gave a solid answer to the prophet’s question. In harmony with divine prophecies, those who obeyed Jehovah’s direction ‘received their souls as spoil,’ whereas the prosperous wicked ones ignored the warning and perished.—Jer. 21:9.
12, 13. (a) What moved Jeremiah to declare: “Jehovah is my share,” and what attitude did he have? (b) Why did all the tribes of Israel need to cultivate a waiting attitude?
12 As Jeremiah later looked over his devastated homeland, he felt as though he were walking in darkness. It was as if Jehovah had made him “sit like men dead for a long time.” (Lam. 1:1, 16; 3:6) Jeremiah had told the wayward nation to return to their heavenly Father, but their badness had reached the point where God had to let Jerusalem and Judah be destroyed. That caused Jeremiah pain, though he was not at fault. Amid his afflictions, the prophet remembered God’s mercies. “We have not come to our finish,” he said. Indeed, Jehovah’s mercies are new each morning! It was then that Jeremiah declared: “Jehovah is my share.” He continued having the privilege of serving Jehovah as a prophet.—Read Lamentations 3:22-24.
13 For 70 years, the Israelites would lack a homeland. It would lie desolate. (Jer. 25:11) But Jeremiah’s expression “Jehovah is my share” revealed his confidence in divine mercy, and it gave him reason for showing “a waiting attitude.” All the tribes of Israel had lost their inheritance, so they needed to cultivate the same attitude as the prophet. Jehovah was their only hope. After 70 years, God’s people were restored to their homeland and had the privilege of serving him there.—2 Chron. 36:20-23.
Others Could Have Jehovah as Their Share
14, 15. Other than the Levites, who let Jehovah be his share, and why?
14 Both Asaph and Jeremiah were of the tribe of Levi, but was it only the Levites who could be privileged to serve Jehovah? Hardly! Young David, the future king of Israel, called God his “share in the land of the living ones.” (Read Psalm 142:1, 5.) At the time that David composed this psalm, he was not in a palace or even in a house. He was in a cave, hiding from his enemies. On at least two occasions, David took refuge in caves—one near Adullam and the other in the wilderness of En-gedi. He may well have composed Psalm 142 in one of those caves.
15 If that was the case, King Saul was the one hounding David, seeking to take his life. David fled to a cave that was hard to approach. (1 Sam. 22:1, 4) In this remote region, it might have seemed to David that no friend was at his side to give him protective support. (Ps. 142:4) That was when David called out to God.
16, 17. (a) What reasons did David have for feeling helpless? (b) Whom could David turn to for help?
16 By the time David composed Psalm 142, he may have learned what had befallen High Priest Ahimelech, who had unwittingly given him assistance when he was fleeing from Saul. Jealous King Saul had Ahimelech and his household killed. (1 Sam. 22:11, 18, 19) David felt responsible for their deaths. It was as if he had killed the priest who had helped him. If you had been in David’s position, would you have felt responsible? Adding to David’s stress was the fact that he had no rest because Saul kept on pursuing him.
17 Soon thereafter came the death of the prophet Samuel, who had anointed David to be the future king. (1 Sam. 25:1) That could have added to David’s feelings of helplessness. Yet, David knew whom he could turn to for help—to Jehovah. David did not have the same privilege of service as the Levites, but he had already been anointed to perform another type of service, eventually to be the king of God’s people. (1 Sam. 16:1, 13) Hence, David poured out his heart to Jehovah and continued to look to God for direction. You too can and should have Him as your share and your refuge as you exert yourself in his service.
18. How did the ones we discussed in this article show that they had Jehovah as their share?
18 Those whom we have considered had Jehovah as their share in the sense that they received an assignment of work in his service. They relied on God for sustenance as they served him. Both the Levites and those of Israel’s other tribes, such as David, could let God be their share. How can you likewise let Jehovah be your share? We will discuss that in our next article.
For details about how the priesthood was maintained, see Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 684.
How Would You Answer?
• In what sense was Jehovah the share of the Levites?
• Asaph, Jeremiah, and David did what, showing that Jehovah was their share?
• What quality do you need if God is to be your share?
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The Levites did not receive a land inheritance. Instead, Jehovah was their share, for they had the great privilege of serving him
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How was Jehovah the share of the priests and Levites?
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What helped Asaph to continue to have Jehovah as his share?