Friday, December 23, 2011

Inheriting the Landlord (Joshua 18-19)

Josh 18:1-7 The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there. The country was brought under their control, but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. So Joshua said to the Israelites: "How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. You are to divide the land into seven parts. Judah is to remain in its territory on the south and the house of Joseph in its territory on the north. After you have written descriptions of the seven parts of the land, bring them here to me and I will cast lots for you in the presence of the Lord our God. The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the Lord is their inheritance. And Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. Moses the servant of the Lord gave it to them." 

The land had rest from war, but only 4 of the 12 tribes had settled in their own allotments. Joshua was peeved by the remaining seven tribes for their delay in  taking possession of their lands: "How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?" The 12 tribes can be divided at this juncture thus:

  • 4 tribes had taken possession of the land: Judah, Gad, Reuben and Manasseh/Ephraim 
  • 7 tribes had not taken taken possessions of the land: Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Napthali & Dan
  • 1 tribe had no land to take possession of: Levi, whose inheritance is the priestly service to the Lord.

The three categories could easily represent three kinds of believers:

(1) Those who have received the lands: The first category of believers are represented by the 4 tribes that have received what was promised. As explained before, God has blessed us with "every spiritual blessing in Christ" and that all the promises of God are "yes" in Christ (Eph 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:20). The war with Satan is over; the enemy has been defeated at the Cross. Jesus has received from God the "promise of the Father," viz., the Holy Spirit. All the spiritual blessings of God are ours by virtue of the fact that we are in Christ. The conduit of these blessings is the Holy Spirit. Like electrical wires, we are all plugged into the divine power sockets, ready to draw on all the spiritual blessings through the electricity of the Holy Spirit. But the switch is on our sides: we need to turn on the switch to  let the spiritual blessings flow into our lives. The switch is asking in prayer. Faith is not just believing but receiving by asking in prayer: "Ask and you will receive!" So the first category refers to Christians who not only believe in God's promises but have received them by asking in prayer.

(2) Those who have not received the lands: The second category of believers are represented by the 7 tribes. They believe the promises of God but have not received the blessings that are already theirs in Christ because they did take possession by asking for these blessings in prayer. As the Apostle James lamented in James 4:2, "You do not have, because you do not ask God." Jesus himself has said of such believers in John 16:24, "Until now you have not asked anything in my name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete." The biblical vehicle for receiving is not confessing but asking--in prayer. Confessing is believing--but asking is receiving. Demons confess Jesus too: "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!" (Mark 1:24), but demons do not receive anything because they will never ask God for anything. It's in asking that one receives.

(3) Those who receive no land but the Landlord: The last category of believers are represented by the Levites who served in the temple. They had no land allotted to them, only cities. But they had something far more valuable - they served the Landlord! The Landlord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth! So the psalmist declares in Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." And New Testament believers are the new priesthood, and therefore we do not just own lands but the Landlord! Praise the Lord! God's Word affirms this great truth in Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

Father, thank You that we do not possess only the lands but also the Landlord! For You have given us on Christmas Your Son and we know together with Him, You will also give us all things! Amen.

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