Thursday, December 22, 2011

Making Decisions We will Regret (Joshua 16-17)

Josh 17:12-18 Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.  
The people of Joseph said to Joshua, "Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people and the Lord has blessed us abundantly." "If you are so numerous," Joshua answered, "and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites." The people of Joseph replied, "The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel." But Joshua said to the house of Joseph — to Ephraim and Manasseh — "You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out." 

The house of Joseph (comprising the two half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh) was the second largest tribe after Judah. By virtue of their number, they wanted from Joshua a greater allotment of the land, but yet they were unwilling to drive out the Canaanites but prefer the easier of option accommodation by subjecting them to forced labour. However, this act would cause Israel to suffer constant harrassments from the Canaanites in later generations and the Canaanites became "thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you" (see Judges 2:27-3:3).

What lessons can we learn from the bad decision of the house of Joseph?

(1) Compromise ("However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely"): The Canaanites were idolatrous worshippers of Baal and Astheroth, the god and goddess of fertility who practised sexual immorality and human sacrifices. They represented spiritual and moral corruption within Israel, which later became a snare as Israel forsook the Lord to serve the Baals & Asthoreths: "They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths" (Judg 2:12-13). Accommodation to sin will lead to acceptance and finally adoption of the sin.

(2) Pride ("Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people and the Lord has blessed us abundantly."): In effect, the house of Joseph was telling Joshua: "We are are such great people but you are not giving us due respect by alloting to us so small an land area." Pride is a bad motivation to asking for more. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were blessed with "numerous people" and had become proud. When we have become rich and powerful, we have to watch out for pride seeping into our attitude, because pride can produce a terrible fall. In this case, pride blinded Ephraim and Manasseh from their real problem (Canaanites) towards peripheral issues--we needed more land.

(3) Excuses ("all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel"): Joshua was obviously irritated by the house of Joseph's demand for more land. His sarcasm is obvious: "If you are so numerous, and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites." The house of Joseph's excuses: (1) the hill country is not enough even if we clear some forests (2) the Canaanites in the plains have iron chariots. Joshua's response to these two excuses: (1) Clear the forest completely, and there will be enough land (2) though the Canaanites have iron chariots, you can drive them out.

Bad decisions are the result of compromises with sin, pride in ourselves, and excuses we make to avoid the difficult choices.

So what does it take to make good decisions? The exact opposites:

(1) Ethical Integrity: Make no compromise with what is shady and wrong. Practise integrity in our actions and no accommodation with unethical behaviour.
(2) Modest Attitude: Even if we think we are successful and powerful, we should avoid leverage on that but adopt an attitude of teachability & humility.
(3) Divine Presence: Remember that God is with us and He is bigger than all the excuses we can think of.

Father, help us to do Your will wholeheartedly by getting rid of compromises, pride and excuses. Amen.

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