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Chapter 12:44-13:3 (ESV)

Posted on November 15, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 12:44-13:3 (ESV) - On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.

On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. And in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.

Question to consider: How does today’s passage relate to the church today?

Today’s passage seems like a fitting end to the story of the restoration of Israel to the land. It would be nice if it could have been closed with “and they lived happily ever after.” However, as we’ll see in the epilogue to this account, there always seems to be something that works against the people of God. The world views good and evil as equal and opposite forces that are eternally engaged in a struggle for dominance. I can see where they get this idea since all of recorded history seems to follow this pattern. However, God has revealed through His word that the world and everything in it was created good, and that evil entered into the world through the corrupting nature of sin. 

From the moment that sin entered into the world, God professed a curse upon the deceiving serpent which would be delivered by the seed of the woman thousands of years later. The serpent would strike the heel of the promised seed by seeing Him murdered on a Roman cross, but in doing so, he would be crushed since the innocent, bitter sufferings of Christ would result in the perfect sacrifice for sin. So even though evil has existed in the world for thousands of years, its end is assured, and our hope is in a resurrected Christ.

People raise objections over “organized religion”, but as outlined in today’s passage, God has given His people varying vocations in which to steward His good gifts, and the fellowship of believers is a vital part of our walk with God. Among the good gifts of God are the tithes and offerings of the people. Just like there are those who corrupted the Sabbath by turning God’s blessing of rest into a burden, so there are some who turn the firstfruits offerings and tithes into the faithless obligation demonstrated by Cain in Genesis 3. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, an idiomatic expression that means everything belongs to God. God blesses people with a portion of it to care for themselves, their families and their neighbors. How people choose to spend their portion reveals the motivations of their heart. The portion that people give back to God is meant to be a blessing. In it, we get to experience the joy of helping to facilitate the worship of God and His work in the world.

The reason we refer to the church gathering as a service is that God serves His people through His word and sacraments. His word is facilitated by those who read it, those who teach it, and those who sing God’s praises through it. It is through His word that we desire to confess our sins and receive absolution by Christ. This absolution is declared verbally but experienced physically when people are washed clean in the waters of baptism and inwardly receive the body and blood of Christ in communion. In the same way that the people participated in the sacrifice of the Passover lamb by consuming it, so we participate in the perfect sacrifice of Christ in receiving the bread and wine.

At the end of today’s passage, the people separated themselves from those of foreign descent. This was done as a means of removing from the assembly those who worshiped after other gods or would introduce sinful idolatry into the assembly. When Jesus came, much of His ministry was to call Israel to Himself, even those who had been put out of the synagogue or walked away. When the church was born, and God’s promises to Israel were completed, the gospel went out to the Gentiles. So today, we gladly worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.


Dear heavenly Father, please give us a desire to use the gifts and abilities You have given us to serve one another in Christ and proclaim His name to people from every tribe and nation. Help us to set aside our desire for the things of this world which are perishing and focus our eyes on the eternal things in Christ. Amen.