Grace Baptist Temple's stated purposes are to spread the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to make converts to the Christian faith, and to carry on divine worship and service. That simply means that we strive to fulfill Mt. 28:19-20.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. It is good to be reminded why we exist as a local church. The tendency at times for us is to become distracted with other things and fail to fulfill the purpose for which this church was established.
Last week we considered the establishment of the cities of refuge within the nation of Israel. Those cities were created with a purpose of providing refuge to all who would need it. Tonight in our study of Joshua 21, we find that God also set aside forty-eight cities for the tribe of Levi and scattered them throughout the nation.
There were three families of the Levites, Kohath, Gershon, and Merari. God did not intend for the tribe of Levi to have their own territorial allotment. He scattered them through the nation in all these different cities. The Levites made their request based on the Word of God previously given by Moses.
Nu 35:2 Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.
Lest we think that God is being 'unfair' with the tribe of Levi, remember that He is sovereign. He does what He chooses to do, and He is always holy and righteous. He never makes a mistake, nor does He sin. It is not a part of His nature and character. So God had a plan and purpose for the Levites, and for the Levitical cities.
I. Levites: Called to worship
A. Review the purpose of the tribe of Levi
1. All throughout the forty years of the wilderness period of Israel's history, the tribe of Levi primarily served the worship life of the nation.
2. They always camped the closest to the tabernacle, literally surrounding the tabernacle as it moved through the wilderness.
3. It was important for the Israelites to have qualified, authorized people to minister in the tabernacle.
4. The Levites had responsibility for transporting the ark of the covenant from place to place.
5. Remember, when the nation crossed the Jordan River, it was the Levites who stood all day in the bed of the Jordan River and held the Ark of the Covenant high.
6. The Levites were in charge of maintaining the tabernacle itself with all its cords and curtains and coverings.
7. They had responsibility for all of the sacred furniture of the tabernacle, all the vessels for worship and sacrifice, and all the poles and boards and bars that held the tent up.
B. The purpose of the Levites, now that they were in the Promised Land.
1. The tabernacle wasn't moving anymore; it was going to be settled first in Shiloh and later in Jerusalem.
2. They would serve in the temple, that place of unified corporate worship in the life of the nation.
3. They would assist in all of the great annual feasts and festivals, the high holy days for the nation.
4. They would lead musical worship in great choirs and orchestras, and become composers of psalms and hymns of praise for the nation.
5. They would be part of the sacrificial system as the problem with sin was dealt with in the life of the nation.
C. But why scatter them throughout the nation?
1. We see from Joshua 21, that God intended them to live in cities throughout the nation. 
2. God didn't want the Levites concentrated around Shiloh, or eventually around Jerusalem.
3. Why? God ordained this so that they could model worship as a lifestyle and teach it as they traveled back and forth between their hometowns and the temple.
4. In addition to their worship leadership, they were to become living examples to the rest of the nation.
5. It made clear that the Levites didn't own the forty-eight Levitical cities or the grazing land around the cities.
6. They simply were to live in those cities side-by-side with the members of the tribes that owned the respective territories.
II. Levites: Called to nurture
A. The second ministry of the Levites in the land was that of nurture, or the teaching of the Law.
De 33:10 They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar.
1. They were to influence each tribe to be faithful to the Lord.
2. So the Levites became the teachers, storytellers, and counselors.
3. In effect, they were ministering the Word of God to all of the tribes.
4. These forty-eight Levitical cities became centers of teaching about God's covenant relationship with His people.
5. They were places where people like Rahab and her family, converts who needed understanding of the Israelite faith, could come to be initiated into the important truths of what it meant to be a people in relationship with God.
2Ch 17:9 And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the LORD with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.
B. This was a very important aspect of their ministry.
1. The common people didn't have copies of the Scriptures available to them.
2. So it was important that the Levites be able to explain the sacred Scriptures to the people and identify with them.
3. These Levitical cities scattered throughout the nation were located such that nobody would ever be too far away from a place where they could have the Scriptures explained to them.
III. Levites: Called to witness and offer refuge
A. Witness to the Heathen.
1. If you look at a map of Canaan and note that the cities formed sort of an oval around the center of the nation.
2. Remember that under Joshua the Israelites had conquered the central section north to south, but there were frontier lands remaining that completely surrounded the nation.
3. These lands were inhabited by the Philistines on the Mediterranean Sea coast, the Sidonians in the north by Tyre and Sidon, and the Amalakites and the Midianites in the desert.
4. God chose not to cluster the cities of the Levites in the center where it was safe and secure, but he scattered them out on the frontiers.
5. The geography suggests that these cities were to be cities of witness, constantly reminding the unbelieving nations all around Israel about the God who had saved that nation out of bondage in Egypt, sustained them in the wilderness, brought them into the land, and led them in the conquest of the land he gave them.
B. All of the cities of refuge were also designated as cities of the Levites.
1. Part of the Levitical ministry was to guarantee safety and due process of law to those who fled to these cities for refuge.
2. Six cities of refuge, but forty-eight Levitical cities.
3. I find that interesting…more important than man's relationship to one another is his relationship to God!
IV. The Application for Our Local Church
A. We are to be a place of worship.
Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
1. Something unique happens when we all gather together as people of God, praising and worshiping, praying together, and being challenged through the Scriptures.
2. We are tremendously privileged to be part of this local church.
3. The Bible teaches us that our worship is to so impact us that our individual lives become instruments of worship and praise of God.
B. We are to be a place of spiritual nurture.
1. A place known for Biblical teaching, training, counseling, and equipping for ministry.
2. The leadership of this church is committed to these things.
3. Every believer needs the local church that we might grow and mature in Christ.
4. That is something that you cannot get from a book, radio, or television…it's only when we come together that find necessary nurturing.
C. We are to be a place of witness to people in our community who don't yet know Christ.
1. Evangelism is not an option, but is the clear mandate of our Lord Jesus.
2. Like the Levites, we are to be a presence in our communities for Christ.
2Co 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
3. If we get close to people in our communities, they're going to see us for who we are.
4. They'll either see the credibility of our witness because of our Christ-likeness, or they'll see the hypocrisy of our lives!
D. Finally, we are to be a place of safety and security.
1. There are many people today, both Christian and non-Christian, who do not see the local church as a place of refuge.
2. They don't it as a place where they can be loved, understood, and accepted, where they can be at home.
3. We must work at this; it is easy for us to lose sight of why we are here.
4. I love the social interaction among our members, but that isn't our primary goal or purpose.
5. Make the effort to seek out those who come through our doors…they may be hurting, seeking refuge…looking for a place they can feel secure.
Stand with me, please: Turn in your Bibles to Colossians 3:12. Paul writes to the church of Colossae and challenges them to be what they should be as a local church. Tonight let's receive that challenge as well. Let's read this passage responsively.