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fertile land March 29 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 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. 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 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. Although he was now eighty-five, the Lord had given him the strength of a young man, and with courage he told Joshua that he and his men would clear the land of giants. Caleb was motivated by faith in God.

Today, we look at the failure of many of the tribes to act in faith, and we observe the results. This testimony is given many times and describes their incomplete obedience: “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 whine that Joshua is being unfair, giving them land that they have to clear themselves, and there are giants in the land; the task is too hard (Joshua 17:16-17). Joshua expresses no sympathy for them, however, and encourages them to take up the task to fight for their inheritance. If they will go forth into battle with faith in the LORD, He will help them drive out the Canaanites from their land, even if they do have giants and horses with iron chariots. Although 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 does not want Israel to tolerate the presence of the Canaanites in their land because failure to drive out the evil nations completely will be a snare to them. They will be enticed to worship at the shrines of their enemies, become involved in sexual immorality, idolatry and other detestable practices that will 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 His people of every age. God makes us holy (set apart as clean and pure unto Himself), and we are to walk in holiness. Complete obedience to God leads to peace and unimaginable blessings from the LORD. 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 is allotted two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, named after his two children born in Egypt. Ephraim's eastern border is the Jordan River east of Jericho and traverses west to the Mediterranean Sea. The tribes of Dan and Benjamin, within the large tribe of Judah are her southern neighbors. The tribe of Manasseh is her northern neighbor. One half of Manasseh's inheritance is east of the Jordan River in the land of Gilead, and the other half is west of the Jordan River. Western Manasseh's southern territory borders Ephraim at the city of Shechem, near the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. Her eastern border is the Jordan River and her western border is the Mediterranean Sea (map ).

The newly allotted home for God's tabernacle is set up at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). Shiloh is a town in Ephraim in the center of the Promised Land. Its centrality provides the most convenient place for the tribes to meet. It is here the people are to offer their sacrifices and hold their feasts. It will be a place of sacrifice and rejoicing (Deuteronomy 12:10-14). Why do they not meet in Jerusalem? Jerusalem at this time is inhabited by the Jebusites, and they cannot be dislodged by the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:63).

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

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

Zebulun is also a small tribe situated between Naphtali to the northeast and Asher to the west. The Mediterranean Sea is 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 has property rights within another tribe, and in this case it is in the tribe of Asher, or perhaps Zebulun failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land to claim her full inheritance.

Asher is west and north of Zebulun and its tribe settles along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the area known today as the southern portion of Lebanon.

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

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

After the tribes receive their allotments of land, their faithful leader Joshua is 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 His people of every age. 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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