This past Wednesday, my family was driving up to Lake Havasu for several eye appointment for the kids. At some point our oldest makes the comment, about how her life isn’t fun. She says that, once in a while it's fun, but not all the time. And when she said this, I have to tell you that it kind of annoyed me, because this little girl has experienced more extravagant fun in her short life than I had as a kid. She’s been to almost every western state, she goes on many road trips both to her grandparents homes and when I have to travel. At least once a year she goes to Chuck E Cheese either for an adoption celebration or because her grandparents take her. And thanks to her grandparents she has experienced several trips to Disneyland and one trip to Hawaii.
That’s a lot for a kid that just turned ten this year. And at first, I started to get really upset, because I realized how much she has experienced and how little she appreciates it. But then the next day, I began to realize when I was a kid, I always dreamed about having more than what I did. I used to think that my parents were actually really rich, and that one day they would reveal it to me. And I would dream of all the cool things I could buy with my new found wealth. I wanted more than what I had, because for a kid, all you want is fun. Just like she said her life wasn’t fun, I realized that though I might not have said it like that, I always wanted more fun too. But then I had to do un-fun things, like mow the yard, or clean up after the dogs, or go to school. And since my parents didn’t have a lot of money, we didn’t go on the expensive trips that I thought I needed. I wanted the easier life where I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, and have as much fun as I could.
And instead of getting easier as an adult, when you think that with freedom from your parents everything is going to be easier and more fun, you realize that it’s even harder. Because now you have more responsibilities and less time for fun. That easier life that you thought you would get from leaving your parents’ home, actually becomes harder.
And it’s this idea of having an easier time that we want both as children and as adults that brings us to Joshua chapter 17 verse 14 today. Which is a part two of sorts from last week.
So far in the last two weeks we’ve been talking about the reactions of the people of Israel to Joshua dividing up the land of Canaan just as God had instructed him. The first response we talked about was from Caleb. The man who originally went with Joshua into the land over forty years prior to the events of the book of Joshua. In the land God promised Caleb, Caleb faced the conflict that was ahead of him because he knew God was with him, and peace came out of it. From which we talked about how, we to need to face conflict early so we can experience God’s the peace more often.
The second response we talked about was from the tribe of Levite. These people were never going to get the land allotments that their fellow Israelites were to get. Instead, they received a few cities and pasture lands for their cattle. Rather than gaining large swaths of land like the other tribes, God set them apart to work for him. This made them unique among the tribes, because it brought them to a different place of relationship with God. From the Levites we learned that we need to accept the situations God gives us, because through them he is bringing us closer in relationship with him.
This brings us to the third response to Joshua’s dividing up the land between the tribes of Israel. We’ll pick this third response up in Joshua chapter 17, starting in verse 14. Where Joshua is giving the half tribe of Manasseh and the of Ephraim an allotment of land where the Canaanites are being exceptionally difficult to deal with.
14 Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?” 15 And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16 The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” 17 Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, 18 but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”
First off, we need to understand that Manasseh and Ephraim are not a part of the original twelve sons of Israel. They were the two sons of Joseph, Israel’s 11th son. God gave them a special blessing and used them to represent both Joseph’s allotment and Levi’s (Genesis 48-49). This is why they are called the people of Joseph when they approach Joshua, because they are Joseph’s decedents.
Secondly, we need to understand that when they come before Joshua, they give him two reason why the land that is given to them is not acceptable.
First, it’s too small. Let’s consider what all of the tribes allotment look like and roughly how many fighting men were in each tribe. (If you are reading this, click here to see a map - https://www.biblestudy.org/maps/division-of-promised-land-to-twelve-tribes-israel.html) In Judah there were 76,000 fighting men; in Dan there were 64,400; Issachar had 63,300; Zebulen had 60,500; Asher had 53,400; Benjamin had 45,600; Nephtali had 45,400; Reuben had 43,730; Gad had 40,500, and Simeon had 22,200. We need to know this because when Ephraim and Manasseh come to Joshua, their two tribes are sitting at 85,200 fighting men. That means that they had more than any of the other tribes.
Secondly, they said that the land that they had been given contained some of the most battle ready enemies that were in Canaan. We’re told that the Canaanites that lived in this area of land had iron chariots. Which was one of the most advanced military technologies for this time period. These Canaanites are not going to give up easily, because they’re ready for battle.
It’s for these two reasons that Manasseh and Ephraim told Joshua that their land wasn’t acceptable. They had too many people for the land, and their enemies were too powerful.
These two tribes’ reaction is the exact opposite of both Caleb and the Levites. Not only are they given more than that of the Levites, who have just a few cities, but they have more land area than any other tribe. In addition, combined, they have more fighting men that of Caleb, who also faced overwhelming odds in his enemies.
So instead of being thankful and willing to fighting whatever lies before them, like the first two tribes we saw did, these two tribes complain about the land being too small, and the enemies being too big.
Even if we separate these two tribes out into what their allotted lands actually were, the half tribe of Manasseh is still the sixth largest tribe, with still the first or second largest land area.
So why are they complaining? I think we can glean why through Joshua’s words in verse 17, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, 18 but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”
Joshua’s words are an encouragement, because it seems to me that these tribes have forgotten who is giving them their allotment and who will drive out their enemies. Caleb understood God would drive out the enemies, the Levites understood it was God who gave allotments. But these tribes have forgot both, and it seems like it’s because they wanted more. They weren’t satisfied with the land dimensions, even though it was one of the largest, and they weren’t happy with the caliber of enemies, even though they were one of the largest tribes.
And I think it stems from this belief that we as humans can cultivate in our lives that thinks that God should take us down easier roads. That because I follow God, I deserve an easy life. That I should have the best house, the biggest bank account, the funnest life. In fact their are people who profess to be Christians that teach others this exact thing. They teach things like, “If you give God money, he’ll have to bless you. If you have tell God to do something God enough times, he has to do it. God wants you to have an abundance of material things and have most prosperous life.”
The reality is though, God calls us to a different life. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24-26, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
In Luke 12, Jesus tells a story of a man who had it made to the easy life. Jesus says this, “…The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (14-21)
When two of Jesus’ disciples wanted to sit at the two sides of greatest power and authority in his kingdom, this is what Jesus said to them in Mark 10, “You don’t know what you are asking,…Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with…” (10:38-39)
This cup and baptism that Jesus was referring to a cup and baptism of suffering that he was about to go through on the cross. And indeed both these disciples did drink from a cup and be baptized with suffering. The disciple James had stones thrown at him, and when that didn’t kill him, they clubbed him to death. The other disciple John was boiled in oil, and when that didn’t kill him, they exiled him to an island to die. (https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/whatever-happened-to-the-twelve-apostles-11629558.html)
The way of God is always the harder way. And for Christians ,we’re told to embrace it. The book of James, not the disciple we just talked about, but another guy with the same same, says this in his book from the second verse, "2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
If we have put our faith into Jesus as our Savior, we need to get past this desire for an easy life and embrace the life that God has for us to live. Being content in what God gives us and rejoicing when the hard parts come.
It’s one of the hardest realities to accept in our walk with Jesus, because it goes gains everything that we desire, and what the world tells us we should have.
So how do we get the mindset of God and rejoice in suffering, and not desire the easy life?
First, we need to understand our situation compared to our fellow believers around the world. Open Doors USA reports that 1 in 9 Christians are being persecuted in an extreme way right now. Every month, 105 churches are attacked, either being destroyed or highly damaged. Every day, 11 Christians are killed for their trust in Jesus as their Savior. (https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/christian-persecution-by-the-numbers/?/?initcid=19SRP4&initpkg=19SRP4-0&cid=7010b000001kd4HAAQ&pkg=a150b0000045WY6AAM&keyword=christian%20death&b&g&327341371673&1t1&c&1674535876&61124779090&gclid=Cj0KCQjw5MLrBRClARIsAPG0WGyaIU_kMqh3tEDtFG6jvVUYpU5wh_IweTcbSZPrFpUnXm75zzye__4aAi13EALw_wcB)
The BBC reported that Christian persecution, in the world outside of western countries, is at genocide levels. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48146305)
We need to realize how good we have it. Ephraim and Manasseh forgot how good they had it. They were the largest both in land and in numbers, they had more than anyone else, yet they forgot the key that others didn’t, it was the life God called them into. We need to remember that God has called us into this life, and we need to not discount that, because others are called into much harsh lives than us.
Second, we need to thank God for what he has given us. 1 Thessalonians 5 says, “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (16-18)
That means, that were not just sending up quick prayers of thank you, but rather prayers that convey an acknowledgement of the things that God has brought into our lives that are intended to bring us closer to him, and we are thankful even in the hard parts.
And if you ever wonder what God’s will is for your life, it states it here. God’s will is that we rejoice, pray continually, and give thanks in everything.
This week I want to challenge you to do two simple things. First, pray for Christians around the world. Pray for peace, pray for strength, pray for what you could do for them. This will remind us of what God has brought us into, and it will put our situation in perspective. Second, thank God for the life he has given you, rejoice in it, even if it’s hard. And ask him to bring you closer to him through it.
Let us become the people who move forward with thanksgiving in whatever God brings into our lives, so that we may experience the great work he has for us. Amen.