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fertile land March 29 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Joshua 16:1- 19:9; 1Chronicles 4:24-33; Joshua 19:10-51

Claim Your Inheritance

“North to Alaska” was a 1960 comedic movie, starring John Wayne and Ernie Kovacs. It was the story of the last gold rush in Alaska from 1897 to 1899. People came from all over the nation to stake their claims (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_to_Alaska). In a similar “vein,” Israel “struck gold” when God brought them to the land of Canaan. Moses told them

Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey [meaning a very fertile land], just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you-- a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant-- then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:3,11,12, NIV)

Knowing that God had given them a rich inheritance, some families acted in faith and confidence and went right to the task of claiming their inheritance, no matter how challenging it might be. Others were more reticent, needing prodding or encouragement to get them going. Some even preferred others to do all the work. Which are we?

Yesterday, we learned about Caleb. He was one of the original men who spied out the land of Canaan when Israel was at Kadesh-Barnea, the southern border of Canaan. Because Joshua and Caleb trusted the LORD whole-heartedly, they were allowed to live and go into the Promised Land. Caleb was offered his own piece of land there (in Hebron). Caleb was motivated by faith, though he was now eighty-five. With courage, he said he and his men would clear the land of giants with the help of the LORD.

Today, we look at the failure of many of the tribes to act in faith, and we observe the results. Tribe after tribe had this testimony: “When the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely,” (Joshua 17:13, NIV). The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh even whined that Joshua was being unfair, giving them land that they would have to clear themselves, and there were giants in the land; the task was too hard (Joshua 17:16-17). Joshua had no sympathy for them, however, and encouraged them to take up the task to fight for their inheritance. If they would go forth into battle with faith in the LORD, he would help them drive out the Canaanites from their land, even if they did have giants and horses with iron chariots. Though we have an inheritance in heaven we must still fight battles of faith on this earth. When we fight together with the LORD we can accomplish great things.

God did not want Israel to tolerate the presence of the Canaanites in their land because failure to drive out the evil nations completely would be a future snare to them. They would be enticed to worship at the shrines of their enemies, become involved in sexual immorality, idolatry and other detestable practices that would threaten to expel them from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). A job half done is soon undone. As was previously stated in other lessons, sanctification is a dual responsibility of God and us. God makes us holy (set apart as a clean and pure people unto himself), and we are to walk in holiness. Complete obedience to God leads to peace and unimaginable blessings from God. What will we do? Will we walk in holiness with God and experience his peace and blessings, or will we become corrupt, receive his discipline, and lose them?

Joseph was allotted two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, named after his two children born in Egypt. Ephraim's eastern border was the Jordan River east of Jericho and basically went west to the Mediterranean Sea. The tribes of Dan and Benjamin, within the large tribe of Judah were her southern neighbors. The tribe of Manasseh was her northern neighbor. One half of Manasseh's inheritance was to the east of the Jordan River in the land of Gilead, and the other half of Manasseh's inheritance was to the west of the Jordan River. Western Manasseh's southern territory bordered Ephraim at the city of Shechem, near the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. Her eastern border was the Jordan River and her western border was the Mediterranean Sea (map ).

The newly allotted home for God's tabernacle was set up at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). Shiloh was a town in Ephraim and in the center of the Promised Land; its centrality provided the most convenient place for the tribes to meet. It was there that the people were to offer their sacrifices and hold their feasts. It would be a place of sacrifice and rejoicing (Deuteronomy 12:10-14). Why did they not meet in Jerusalem? That would come later during the time of King David. Jerusalem at this time was inhabited by the Jebusites, and they could not be dislodged by the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:63).

The rest of the tribes were reticent to claim their inheritance. Finally, surveys were made of the remaining land, and lots were cast for the last seven Israelite tribes (the Levites did not inherit land).

Issachar was Manasseh's northern neighbor at the city of Taanach, but Manasseh also owned Dor, Megiddo, and Jezreel in the tribe of Issachar. Issachar was a small tribe stretching from the mouth of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee) east to her western border of Zebulun (see map ).

Zebulun was also a small tribe situated between Naphtali to the east and Asher to the west. The Mediterranean Sea was reached through the tributary of the Kishon River. According to Genesis 49:13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon,” (NIV). What happened? This prophecy does not appear to have been fulfilled. Perhaps, like the other tribes, Zebulun had property rights within another tribe, and in this case it was in the tribe of Asher or perhaps Zebulun failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land to claim her full inheritance.

Asher was east and north of Zebulun and settled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the area known today as the southern portion of Lebanon.

The tribe of Naphtali settled in the area of the Sea of Galilee, north of Issachar and east of Asher (see map ). It is here where Jesus would later conduct most of his earthly ministry.

As was said previously, Benjamin and Dan received their allotment within the tribe of Judah because it was such a large land area. Simeon also received her land within the southern part of the tribe of Judah, but her tribe was later absorbed into Judah's.

After the tribes received their allotments of land, their faithful leader Joshua was assigned a portion of land in the town of Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim as he requested.

Lessons to live by:

  • God is faithful. As he brought Israel into their inheritance in the Promised Land, he will bring us into our eternal inheritance, which is now reserved for all who trust in Christ for their salvation (1Peter 1:3-5 ). more...
  • Sanctification is a dual responsibility of God and us. God makes us holy (set apart as a clean and pure people unto himself), and we are to walk in holiness. Complete obedience to God leads to peace and unimaginable blessings from God. A job left half done, however, is soon undone.
  • We must take possession of things God has given us. We must not tolerate evil in our personal lives or it will destroy us.
  • Though we have an inheritance, we must still fight battles of faith. When we fight together with the LORD we can accomplish great things.

Today's Bible memory verses:

1Peter 1:14-15 “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” (NIV)

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