Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 14: Grateful for Where God Has Put Us

A word of advice, if you don’t want upset or whiny children on your hands, never buy something for one child, and not their sibling.
I learned this lesson early one with our kids. If you buy something for one child, their sibling will want the same thing. Even if you buy them both the same thing, if that thing is the not the same color, one will usually want what the other has. This happened several times when our kids were younger, and every once and a while the opportunity will come come up. Just the other day our family was up in Havasu and it was really, really hot. As I checked out of one of the stores we were visiting I thought it would be a good idea to buy some Gatorades for the family. But I knew that a fight could happen if I didn’t buy the kids all the same one. So They all got blue ones, while the adults got white ones. There was no fighting, and no whining children. 
But then, on Saturday our boy Izzy was helping me with a project for Marika’s birthday. I got him a drink like I usually do when one of the kids helps me. While we were at the checkout stand, an older lady start to talk with Izzy. He was looking at the little scorpion suckers that they have for sale, and for some reason, without his prompting mind you, she bought him one, which he saved it until he got home. 
The first thing out of our youngest’s girls mouth was, “I want one,” in this high pitch whine.  There it was, she was upset because Izzy got something she didn’t and she felt like she deserved the same thing. 
But why would they get upset over something so trivial as not getting the same juice or a sucker like their sibling? It’s because they think that their sibling is getting a better deal than they are. They think, for some reason, that they’re not getting the best, and someone else is. And they want the best for themselves.

It’s this idea of thinking that someone else might be getting something better than us, that brings us to where we’re at in the book of Joshua chapter 13 today. And as we get into the book of Joshua chapter 13, let’s quickly go over what we’ve covered in the last two weeks to bring us here.

Two weeks ago we covered eight chapters in the book of Joshua, where we talked about how God was calling Joshua to a trust that kept working while it waited for God’s work to be done. Joshua was coming to the end of his life, and though God had accomplished a lot of great things through him, there was still a lot to do. That’s when God assured Joshua that he would take care of the Israelites after Joshua had passed away. But before Joshua died, God still had work for him to do. And it’s in the place where Joshua had seen many things done, and yet there was still work to be done, that Joshua wrote that God had accomplished everything he said he would. Because Joshua’s trust in God was built on the fulfilled promises of God. And so, as we wait for God to fulfill what he has promised, we need to be doing the work he has already given us to do.
Then last week we returned to the eight chapters that we covered, where we said we were going to look at three responses to Joshua dividing up the land of Canaan. Last week we covered the man Caleb, who was willing to face monumental odds in battle, because he knew that God had promised him the land. We talked about how Caleb was willing to face conflict and because of that, the land experienced peace. So just as Caleb was willing to face the conflict with the goal of peace, we too need to face down conflict in our lives, so that the peace of God can reign.

This brings us to this week, where we will see a second response to Joshua’s dividing up the land among the nation of Israel. 

Now as we get into this week, we are going to be jumping four times through these eight chapters, because the people’s response we are dealing with, only gets small mentions through these eight chapters. So I’ll give you a brief explanation of which tribes are being talked about, and then we’ll read the passage of the people we are focusing on. 
The first section starts in chapter 13, where we’re told about the two and a half tribes of Israel who received their land on the east side of the Jordan River. So let’s start in verse 14 of chapter 13, where it reads, 

14 But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them.

Following this verse, we get a more in-depth look at these two and a half tribes’ land area, and we’re told again in verse 33, 

33 But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.

Moving into chapter 14 verse 3, we again read the same thing about the tribe of Levi,

3 Moses had granted the two and a half tribes their inheritance east of the Jordan but had not granted the Levites an inheritance among the rest, 4 for Joseph’s descendants had become two tribes—Manasseh and Ephraim. The Levites received no share of the land but only towns to live in, with pasturelands for their flocks and herds.

Now from chapters 14 to 20, we’re told of all the land that gets divided between the nine and a half tribes of Israel. And nestled in there in chapter 18 verse 7 we get another reference to the tribe of Levi. Verse 7 of chapter 18 reads, 

7 The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the Lord is their inheritance.

Now, let’s stop right there, because there might be some questions that we need to answer here. First we have 13 tribes. When referencing the tribes of Israel there are always 12, so why now is there 13?
This goes back to the book of Numbers chapter 18, verses 23-25, where God says, “23 It is the Levites who are to do the work at the tent of meeting and bear the responsibility for any offenses they commit against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. 24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’”

So God was very specific that the tribe of Levi would not receive an inheritance like that of the other tribes of Israel, i.e. the land. But God had promised that the land would be divided up between twelve tribes. He accomplishes this through the blessing of Jospeh’s two sons in Genesis chapters 48 and 49. This blessing made them half tribes and gave them the twelfth portion of inheritance God promised to the nation of Israel.

But why did God not give land as an inheritance to the tribe of Levi? Well, it was due to the role that the Levites played in how God organized the social and religious structure of the Israelite nation. The Levites were the priests; they were set apart from the other tribes to do the work of taking care of the things of God. Such as the tent of meeting where the leaders of Israel interacted with God, and eventually, the temple that would be built.
God in turn gave them the tithes and offerings from the people to do this work, since God himself didn’t need the physical things. 

This is why in the verses we read, we saw phrases that talked about how the Levites didn’t get an inheritance, because their inheritance was God himself. 

But God did give them places to live. If we jump over to chapter 21 and read through it, we find out that God did supply them with towns to call their own, and land to cultivate. 
In fact, each one of the tribes gave the Levites cities and the surrounding land of those cities. In doing so, God provided work, stability, and safety for this tribe in the time between when they served God directly on behalf of the rest of the nation. 

And this is what I find interesting about the whole situation. As the tribes are being given their land, the Levites are sitting there, fully knowing that they are not included in this monumental occasion. For 500 years, Abraham’s decedents have been waiting for this day. For the last several decades these Levites have experienced the same loss, and victories that their fellow Israelites had.
Now, even though they know they are not to have any land of their own, they don’t demand to be included because they understand what their inheritance was. But that inheritance doesn’t seem to be much compared to their fellow Israelites; a few cities and the land around them isn’t really comparable to the large swaths of land the other tribes are getting.
And I could easily see a grumbling start to happen, because they didn’t get the best like their brothers did. I mean if we remember, it was the Levites that had to go into the Jordan River as it was still flooded, not knowing that it would recede. It was the Levites that were on the frontlines of Jericho as they marched around the city. The Levites were in the middle of battles, and now it could seem that they are getting the short end of the stick. And if that was in their mind, this whole situation could have turned out different. Because we as humans have a tendency to want the best for ourselves, and when we see someone else get something we believe to be better, we tend to allow it to make us bitter. Both to what we have and to what others seem to have.

But God gives us what is best for us. And that’s really the key here. God specifically set the Levites apart with a unique inheritance that the other tribes didn’t have. Because God doesn’t give us what’s best for someone else, but rather what is best for us. 

I get the question a lot, why did God put me in this situation? The simple answer is, because in that situation you are meant to learn to trust God. Your relationship with him can grow in that situation, so he has allowed it to happen to bring you closer to him. 
Now sometimes that can be in the easy things, like a small inconvenience. And sometimes it can be hard things, like the loss of a loved one. But what we cannot get into, is this mindset that God is giving someone else a better time than me, and therefore I reject what God has given, desiring something else instead.

  The Levites could have rejected God’s promised inheritance in order to gain what their fellow Israelites had, but instead, they trusted that God was giving them what was best.

And it’s this idea of receiving what God has for us knowing that it is for our best, that carries over from the nation of Israel to the Church in the writings of Peter and Paul. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

And then in 1st Corinthians 2:9 Paul says, “…What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him.”

Paul speaks to the mindset that what I have isn’t good, by going to the extreme and saying, that even when we suffer, it isn’t comparable to the future things God has for us. No matter how bad our situation seems, we can rejoice that God has put us here, because it is where he wants us to be. And this situation we are in, is bringing us into the inheritance that he has for us.

Peter looks to this future inheritance that God has in store for his people, in his first chapter of his first letter. “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,”

This is what God is calling us into. He is calling us into the mindset that accepts whatever he gives us, because through it, we will experience our inheritance that is beyond imagine. 

The Levites didn’t get large swaths of land, but what they got was incomparable to what their fellow Israelites got. The Levites were set a part for the work of God. You and I, when we accept Jesus as our Savior, have been set a part for the work of God. That means we will not necessarily get the things that the world sees as the best. But our inheritance is even greater because it is rooted in what God is doing to bring us closer to him.

And if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we have the first taste of this inheritance in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Ephesians 1:13-14 reads, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

We have just begun to experience the inheritance God has for us. So my challenge for you this week is to wake up each morning and thank God for the circumstances you find yourself in, whether good or bad; asking him to bring you into closer relationship with him through them.  And when you get into bed each night, thank him for what happened during the day that was meant to bring you closer to him, whether good or bad. 
Let us have the same attitude of the Levites, that waited patiently for their inheritance, not grumbling because others had greater than they did.

Today, let us embrace the circumstances that we have been given, knowing that God is working in them to bring us into the fully experience of the inheritance he had for us. Amen.

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