In the last three blog entries we’ve been talking of the inheritance of the Christian. We mentioned that this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament by Israel coming into Canaan the promised land. We pointed out that theirs was a temporal and earthly inheritance; the Christian’s is eternal in the heavenlies, the realm of the Spirit.
There’s another way our inheritance is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. God told the tribe of Levi—the priestly tribe—that they were to have no inheritance with their brethren when they came into the land of Canaan. Rather, “I am their inheritance,” God said.
At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before Him to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name, unto this day.
Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him (Dt. 10.9).
You mean, when the children of Israel began enjoying their beautiful acreages in the land of Canaan there was nothing reserved for the tribe of Levi? All they got was… God?
What a letdown, eh? All they got was… God? All they got was the priesthood, the anointing?
…He that hath an ear let him hear.
There came a time when God uprooted Israel from their heritage because of their disobedience. He sent Nebuchadnezzar his servant to destroy the beloved city and temple they boasted in, and evict them from His land, and take them captive to Babylon. Jeremiah the prophet was heartbroken, and overcome with anguish. He was so bitter he felt he was drunk with bitterness.
He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.
He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
And Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
And I said, my strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall… (Lam. 3.15-19).
Suddenly it seems that Jeremiah, the tears streaming down his cheeks… he remembers something. He is a priest of the tribe of Levi (Jer. 1.1).
And he says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope… The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him” (Lam. 3.21,24).
All was gone! The heritage of Israel had been obliterated, utterly desolated! Yet in the midst of it all Jeremiah discovers hope, because God is His portion, His inheritance, His lot. He has fellowship with God in the midst of the desolation, weeping together with Him… and rejoicing in hope with Him as well. He knows God’s compassion will not fail, that His mercies are new every morning; out of the desolation a new day will dawn, and out of the ashes God will bring forth something even greater than what was lost. So Jeremiah wipes away his tears; he will wait in patience for the faithful God to reveal His great salvation.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
David, too, while not of the priestly tribe… light dawned on him as well one day, and he saw that the portion God had given the priestly tribe of Levi was prophetic of His desire for all of His saints. For He would have them all to be a kingdom of priests. I think it likely that David wrote this psalm in the days when he was, as he said, being “driven out from the inheritance of the Lord” (see 1 Sam. 26.19). And so David said:
The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage (Ps. 16.5,6).
This is very beautiful. If not for this we might feel envious of our Christian brothers and sisters who seem to have a better inheritance than we do. We look over the fence and envy their lot. They have it so good. They are free of afflictions and troubles. It seems God has blessed them with things He has not blessed us with; they have happy circumstances, fulfilling relationships, while we ourselves are going through such hard things.
It’s a formula for bitterness isn’t it.
…Not when the Lord draws nigh, and reveals that He Himself is our portion, our inheritance, our lot. Now we are able to say—and mean what we say—“the lines (the boundary lines) are fallen unto me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” Why so? Because in the midst of our suffering and pain we are beginning to see that… God Himself is our inheritance.
Pleasant—it means pleasing, delightful. We have a goodly heritage right there in the midst of unhappy and hard things. What heritage? God Himself. His Presence. His peace. His love. His joy… Himself. The hidden beauties of His own heart and character, the greater things He gives us in the very things life seems to deny us, things that perhaps we would never have known were even there if we could have chosen to live our lives happily ever after with all that we wished for. But no man or devil or circumstance of life can separate us from the inheritance of God. It is a wondrous, wondrous secret—that the cross we must carry, the way of the cross which seems such loss to us, and which seems to lead in the wrong direction, actually leads to Life.
“Thou wilt shew me the Path of Life,” David concludes his psalm. “In thy Presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This is where the lines were drawn for David the outcast who had nowhere to lay his head, and he knew that it was because a loving God had drawn those lines to include this territory for him.
“Thou maintainest my lot,” David said.
…Lord, we ask that you maintain our lot too, the heritage that is You yourself. Some things are so beautiful and so high that we worry we might miss out on them. Not if it is You looking after this on our behalf, Lord. So we lean on You to do this; look after this for us, dear Lord, maintain it, protect it, keep it for us, tend it with care; uphold our lot, Lord, that we might continue to enjoy the riches and beauty of this pleasing and goodly heritage—You yourself—regardless of our earthly circumstances. Amen.