Jehovah Is My Share
“I am your share and your inheritance in the midst of the sons of Israel.”—NUMBERS 18:20.
1, 2. (a) What was the situation of the Levites when Jehovah gave a share of the land to all the other tribes of Israel? (b) What was Jehovah’s promise to the Levites?
AFTER the Israelites had conquered much of the Promised Land, Joshua, High Priest Eleazar, and the leaders of the tribes divided the land into portions, or parts. These portions were the tribes’ share of the land. (Numbers 34:13-29) Jehovah gave all the tribes a share of the land, but the Levites did not get a share. (Joshua 14:1-5) Why did the Levites not receive a territory, or share, of the Promised Land? Were they forgotten?
2 The answer is in what Jehovah told the Levites. Jehovah promised not to abandon them. He said: “I am your share and your inheritance in the midst of the sons of Israel.” (Numbers 18:20) When Jehovah said: “I am your share,” he made a wonderful promise to the Levites. How would you feel if Jehovah said that to you? At first, you might ask, “Would Jehovah promise that to someone like me?” You might also ask, “Can Jehovah really be the share of any imperfect Christian today?” These are important questions because they involve you and the people you love. So we will look at what it means for someone to have Jehovah as his share. That will help us understand how Jehovah can be the share of Christians today. More specifically, we will understand how he can be your share, whether you hope to live in heaven or in a paradise on earth.
JEHOVAH TOOK CARE OF THE LEVITES
3. How did it happen that God chose the Levites for his service?
3 Before Jehovah gave the Law to Israel, family heads served as priests for their own families. But when Jehovah gave the Law to Israel, he chose some from the tribe of Levi to serve as priests and assistants. How did this happen? Jehovah said that when he destroyed the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, he “sanctified” for himself every firstborn son of the Israelites. This means that they belonged to him for his service. But then Jehovah decided that “in place of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel,” he wanted to use the Levites for his service. Because the other tribes of Israel had more firstborn sons than there were Levites, Jehovah told the other Israelites to pay a price in exchange for those who were “in excess of the Levites.” (Numbers 3:11-13, 41, 46, 47) So the Levites could now start their service to the God of Israel.
4, 5. (a) What did it mean for the Levites to have God as their share? (b) How did God take care of the Levites?
4 When Jehovah chose the Levites for his service, how did he become their share? Instead of giving them a land inheritance, Jehovah gave them something precious, a very important work to do. “The priesthood of Jehovah” was their inheritance, or share. (Joshua 18:7) Numbers chapter 18 helps us to understand that they would still have the material things that they needed. (Read Numbers 18:19, 21, 24.) The Levites got “every tenth part in Israel as an inheritance in return for their service.” This means that they received a tithe, or one tenth, of what the land produced and of the increase of the domestic animals. Then the Levites contributed a tenth part of what they received, “of the very best of it,” for the needs of the priests. * (See footnote.) (Numbers 18:25-29) The priests also received “all the holy contributions” that the sons of Israel brought to God at his place of worship. So the priests could trust Jehovah to take care of their needs.
5 Some believe that the Israelites gave a second tithe. Israelite families used it for food, drink, and enjoyment during the holy conventions each year. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) But there was another use for this tithe. The Israelites celebrated a Sabbath year every seven years. At the end of every third and sixth year of this period of seven years, the Israelites used this tithe to help the poor and also the Levites. Why were the Levites included in this law? Because they had “no share or inheritance” in Israel.—Deuteronomy 14:28, 29.
6. Even though the tribe of Levi did not have a share of the land, where did they live?
6 If the Levites had no share of the land, where did they live? God took care of them. He gave the Levites 48 cities along with the fields around these cities. These cities included the six cities of refuge. (Numbers 35:6-8) So the Levites had a place to live when they were not serving at the sanctuary of God. Jehovah took very good care of the needs of those who gave themselves to his service. So how could the Levites show that Jehovah was their share? By trusting that Jehovah had the power to give them what they needed and that he wanted to take care of them.
7. What did the Levites need to have for Jehovah to be their share?
7 There was no punishment in the Law for an Israelite who did not give the tithe. But when the people did not obey Jehovah’s law about the tithe, the priests and Levites suffered. That happened in the time of Nehemiah. As a result, the Levites had to work in the fields and could not do their work as ministers. (Read Nehemiah 13:10.) The Levites could have what they needed to sustain them only when the nation obeyed Jehovah’s Law. And the priests and Levites needed faith in Jehovah and in the ways that Jehovah used to take care of their needs.
INDIVIDUAL LEVITES WHO HAD JEHOVAH AS THEIR SHARE
8. What troubled the Levite Asaph?
8 The Levites as a tribe had Jehovah as their share. But some individual Levites also used the words “Jehovah is my share” when they spoke about their own friendship with God and their trust in him. (Lamentations 3:24) For example, the Bible talks about a Levite singer and composer who spoke of Jehovah as his share. We will call him Asaph, though he could have been a member of the family of Asaph, the main singer from the Levites in the time of King David. (1 Chronicles 6:31-43) We read in Psalm 73 that this Asaph became jealous of the wicked and could not understand why they seemed to have a good life. He even said: “Surely it is in vain that I have cleansed my heart and that I wash my hands in innocence itself.” It seems that Asaph forgot for a while that the work Jehovah had given him to do was very special. He forgot that Jehovah was his share. He was troubled until he “proceeded to come into the grand sanctuary of God.”—Psalm 73:2, 3, 12, 13, 17.
9, 10. Why could Asaph say that God was his “share to time indefinite”?
9 At the sanctuary, Asaph began to change his way of thinking. Maybe something like that has happened to you. Maybe you too forgot for a while how special your service to Jehovah is and began to think about the material things you could have. But by studying the Bible and by going to Christian meetings, you again started to think the way Jehovah thinks. Asaph understood what would finally happen to the wicked. He thought about the good things that he had as one of God’s servants. He said that Jehovah would hold his right hand and lead him. And he could say to Jehovah: “Besides you I do have no other delight on the earth.” (Psalm 73:23, 25) Then he said that Jehovah was his share. (Read Psalm 73:26.) Asaph wrote: “My organism and my heart have failed.” But he continued, saying that God was his “share to time indefinite.” He knew that Jehovah would remember him as a friend forever and would not forget his faithful service. (Ecclesiastes 7:1) This must have been very comforting to 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.”—Psalm 73:28.
10 So when Asaph said that God was his share, he was not talking about just the material things he received as a Levite. He was mainly talking about his service to Jehovah and the friendship that he had with the Most High. (James 2:21-23) To continue to be Jehovah’s friend, Asaph had to keep his faith in Jehovah and trust in him. He had to be sure that Jehovah would reward him with a happy future if he obeyed Jehovah. You can be sure that Jehovah will do the same for you.
11. What question did Jeremiah ask Jehovah? How did Jehovah answer his question?
11 Another Levite who said that Jehovah was his share was the prophet Jeremiah. Let us talk about what he meant when he said that. He lived in Anathoth, a Levite city near Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 1:1) There was a time when Jeremiah too asked Jehovah why the wicked had a good life but those who did what was right suffered. (Jeremiah 12:1) When he saw what was happening in Jerusalem and Judah, he made a complaint to Jehovah. Jeremiah knew that Jehovah is righteous. Jehovah answered Jeremiah’s question by telling him to preach a message of destruction, and then Jehovah made this prophecy come true. Those who obeyed Jehovah survived, but the wicked did not pay attention to the warning and died.—Jeremiah 21:9.
12, 13. (a) What made Jeremiah say: “Jehovah is my share”? What attitude did he show? (b) Why did all the tribes of Israel need to have the same “waiting attitude” as Jeremiah?
12 Later, when Jeremiah looked at his homeland and saw how empty and ruined it was, he felt as if he were walking in darkness. It was as if Jehovah had made him “sit like men dead for a long time.” (Lamentations 1:1, 16; 3:6) Jeremiah had told the Israelites to return to their heavenly Father, but they had become so bad that Jehovah had to destroy Jerusalem and Judah. That made Jeremiah feel hurt, even though he had done what was right. Even in that time of sadness, Jeremiah said: “We have not come to our finish.” He said about Jehovah’s mercies: “They are new each morning.” It was then that Jeremiah said the words: “Jehovah is my share.” He still had something very special. It was his work as Jehovah’s prophet.—Read Lamentations 3:22-24.
13 For 70 years, the homeland of the Israelites would be empty and ruined. (Jeremiah 25:11) But Jeremiah’s words “Jehovah is my share” showed that he trusted in Jehovah. And his trust in God gave him reason to show “a waiting attitude,” that is, to wait patiently for Jehovah to act. All the tribes of Israel had lost their inheritance, so they needed to show the same attitude as Jeremiah. Jehovah was their only hope. After 70 years, they returned to their homeland and had the opportunity of serving Jehovah there.—2 Chronicles 36:20-23.
OTHERS COULD HAVE JEHOVAH AS THEIR SHARE
14, 15. Other than the Levites, who else had Jehovah as his share? Why?
14 Both Asaph and Jeremiah were of the tribe of Levi, but it was not only the Levites who could be privileged to serve Jehovah. Young David, the future king of Israel, called God his “share in the land of the living ones.” (Read Psalm 142:1, 5.) When David wrote this psalm, he was not in a palace or even in a house. He was hiding from his enemies in a cave. At least two times, David had to hide in caves. One time it was near Adullam and the other time it was in the wilderness of En-gedi. It is possible that he wrote Psalm 142 in one of those caves.
15 If David wrote this psalm in a cave, it is because he was hiding from King Saul. Saul wanted to kill David, so David escaped to a cave that was hard to get to. (1 Samuel 22:1, 4) In that isolated place, David probably felt that he had no friend to protect him. (Psalm 142:4) That was when David asked God for help.
16, 17. (a) Why could David have felt that he had no one to help him? (b) Whom could David ask for help?
16 Before David wrote Psalm 142, he might have heard about what had happened to High Priest Ahimelech. Without knowing that David was escaping from Saul, Ahimelech had helped David. Jealous King Saul ordered the death of Ahimelech and his family. (1 Samuel 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 situation, would you have felt responsible? To make things even more difficult, David had no rest because Saul continued to chase him.
17 Soon after what happened to Ahimelech, the prophet Samuel died. He was the one who had anointed David to be the future king. (1 Samuel 25:1) That could have made David feel alone, as if he had no one to help him. But he knew that Jehovah would help him. He did not have the same special work that the Levites had, but he had been anointed to do another kind of special service. He was going to become the king of God’s people. (1 Samuel 16:1, 13) So David talked to Jehovah about all his thoughts and feelings and continued to trust in Jehovah. You too can have Jehovah as your share. You can trust in him while you continue to do your best in his service.
18. How did the ones we talked about in this article show that they had Jehovah as their share?
18 For the servants of Jehovah whom we have talked about in this article, what did it mean to have Jehovah as their share? It meant that they all received an assignment of work in his service. They also trusted that Jehovah would take care of them. The Levites and those of other tribes, such as David, could have God as their share. How can we be like them and have Jehovah as our share? We will talk about that in our next article.
^ par. 4 To learn more about how Jehovah took care of the needs of the priests, see Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 684.
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Material things: Things such as money, food, and clothes
▪ Sanctuary: A place of worship
▪ Assignment of work: A specific work someone gives you to do
WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
▪ In what way was Jehovah the share of the Levites?
▪ What did Asaph, Jeremiah, and David do that shows that Jehovah was their share?
▪ What quality do you need to have God as your share?
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Jehovah cared for the needs of the Levites
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Asaph and Jeremiah trusted that Jehovah would act
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David trusted in God
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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?