The Bible teaches that God is omnibenevolent. This means that God is the source of all things that He considers to be good. That which is genuinely good and beneficial according to the righteous standards and eternal promises of God come from God and only from God. In fact, something cannot be considered good if it does not come from His essence according to His will and purposes. This truth was made evident in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. God examined the effects of His own work and considered it to be good. God does not examine the effects of human effort and consider it good unless that work is motivated and equipped by His Spirit. Understanding this truth, one must examine the work of God with gratitude. Since His work is good and is intended to eternally benefit His people, the people of God are expected to acknowledge God for His awesome favor and show thanks through humility, worship, and service.
The scriptures explain that God has specific expectations for His people when it comes to how His people respond to His work, which is considered good. The people of God do not have the liberty to show thanks according to their own ideas, wisdom, or opportunities. The people of God are expected to thank God according to His instructions. Since God is omnibenevolent, this simply makes sense. If one expects one’s gratitude to be considered “good” by God, then one’s gratitude must be of the Lord since He is the source of all goodness. This truth was powerfully exemplified in the testimony of Joshua. In Joshua 24:1-33 the Bible explains that Joshua gathered Israel and the elders, judges, and other leaders together in Shechem before he died. Knowing that his time on earth was near an end, Joshua sought to ensure the spiritual focus of the people in the same way that Moses did. Joshua wanted to make sure that the children of Israel knew of the extent of God’s grace, and responded to it appropriately as the Law commanded so that the children of Israel would be sure to continue to receive the good benefits that God was giving.
Joshua 24:1-33 begins by reminding the children of Israel about the extent of God’s grace and how far back in Jewish history it went. Joshua reminded the children of Israel that God called to Abraham. Abraham did not call to God. Abraham was not seeking God. In fact, Joshua reminded the people that Joshua didn’t even know God since he learned from his dad to worship the false gods of the culture he was living in on the other side of the Euphrates River. Thus, while the children of Israel loved and cherished God’s promises to Abraham, history shows that those promises were made on the foundation of grace according to God’s own kindness and goodness. Abraham did not merit such promises. Abraham didn’t even know God could produce such promises until God took it upon Himself to reveal Himself to Abraham. Thus, the promises that God made concerning Israel being a great nation, receiving the land and the Blessing were on account of God’s own goodness and demand an appropriate response of gratitude.
The first thirteen verses of Joshua 24:1-33 remind the children of Israel about the work that God did to put Israel in the position that they were in under Joshua. God started by reminding them about how He called Abraham, and then described how He gave Isaac his children, how He gave Esau his inheritance in the mountains of Seir, how He gave Jacob his children, how He delivered the descendants of Jacob from the bondage of Egypt, how He sent plagues against Egypt, how He put darkness between Israel and Egypt before destroying Egypt with the Red Sea, how He provided in the wilderness, how He brought victory over the Amorites, how He quenched and rejected the curses of Balaam, how He turned those curses into blessings, how He destroyed all of the inhabitants of the Promised Land, and how He have Israel good land that they did not prepare, and good food that they did not plant. In these thirteen verses, God uses the personal pronoun “I’ seventeen times to emphasize how He was the Author of Israel’s increase and success. God reminded Israel that they were simply the beneficiaries of God’s incredibly powerful and gracious work.
Upon hearing the Lord speak these things through his own mouth, Joshua took a stand to lead by example, showing the children of Israel the appropriate way to respond to the incredible grace and goodness of God. Since God had already done all of these wonderfully good things, Joshua commanded the children of Israel that they should show gratitude by fearing the Lord that was powerful enough to do such a thing. Joshua commanded the children of Israel to serve the Lord that was gracious to provide such benefits. Joshua commanded the children of Israel to forsake any and all false gods and idols, recognizing that Yahweh Elohim was responsible for His promises and the fulfillment of them, not the pagan idols of other cultures. Joshua publicly proclaimed that he and his household would indeed serve the Lord with fear, forsaking other gods to honor the One that had done such wonderfully good things to benefit the people.
As Joshua addressed the children of Israel, he told them all that they also had a choice to make. This choice is reflective of the choice that every living individual has to make: the choice concerning whom one will serve. Joshua asked the people if they would serve the omnibenevolent God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that made incredibly amazing promises of benefit on the platform of grace and fulfilled them according to His own mercy and power; or if the people would serve the gods that Abraham used to serve that showed no affection, no ability, and were humiliated and destroyed by the One True Living God. Joshua only gave the children of Israel these two options as these are the only two options that actually exist. There is God, the Author of life, faith, and goodness; and then there is the fabrications of flawed human thinking that serves to mimic God in futility. One will ultimately serve God or serve self. Since God is omnibenevolent, one that does not serve Him will not receive that which He deems as good.
Understanding this to be true, the children of Israel responded favorably to the leadership of Joshua. Joshua swore that he and his family would faithfully serve the Lord. The children of Israel agreed and vowed to do the same. Joshua warned the people that, as a holy and righteous God, He will not accept mere verbal proclamations fueled by emotion as a valid form of gratitude and service. God expected the children of Israel to deny the temptations of their flesh to pursue other gods. Joshua explained that those who serve the Lord must fear and serve Him exclusively, forsaking other false gods and idols. Israel continued in agreement and rejoiced in the opportunity to serve the One True Living God that had brought so much favor to them as undeserving people. They publicly acknowledge God, His grace, His goodness, and swore to exclusively serve and worship Him in fear.
Joshua 24:1-33 explains that Joshua took the opportunity to renew the covenant that Moses had made with Israel before they crossed over the Jordan River. As the people swore before the Lord to serve Him and Him alone, Joshua documented the oath according to the Law. The scriptures explain that Joshua took the Book of the Law and documented Israel’s commitment to the Law that day. He also took a stone and documented Israel’s vow on it, and displayed it in Shechem before the people, proclaiming the stone to be a witness against the people should they deny God, serve other gods, and reject God’s goodness. Joshua was candid to state that God would not forgive the children of Israel for serving other gods without repentance. In other words, the children of Israel would not be forgiven if they served other gods and did not seek forgiveness. They would be forced to endure the consequences of rejecting God and His goodness. The stone that Joshua set up would serve as a public reminder of the agreement the children of Israel made according to the Law.
This action is important to consider. The Bible testifies that a “stone” served as a “witness” against the children of Israel concerning “worship” by the standards of God’s “righteousness” according to “the Law.” This stone then becomes a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the “Stone of Israel” as the Messiah. Jesus Christ is the witness against His all people concerning the righteousness of God as documented in the Law. Jesus is the public accountability that all people must honor according to God’s promises. As the stone that Joshua set up served to be a public demonstration and reminder about the people’s accountability to God in response to His promises and goodness, Jesus serves the same role as Judge. In fact, Jesus told the children of Israel that if He would not have come, there would be no knowledge of sin. Thus, as Jesus did come and publicly testify of the goodness of God, coming as God in flesh, the people of God are accountable to respond to the goodness of God in the appropriate manner that scripture prescribes.
Joshua 24:1-33 concludes by documenting the death of Joshua. He died at 110 years old. Eleazar the high priest died soon after. The scriptures also declare that the bones of Joseph that were taken from Egypt when they left, were later buried in the land that Jacob bought in Shechem according to the faithful request of Joseph before he died. Hence, Israel settled in the land, renewing their covenant with God, enjoying the benefits that He provided over the course of hundreds of years. The scriptures conclude by stating that Israel was faithful to their vow and honored the renewal of the covenant all the days of Joshua, and even up until the time that the judges were alive that served when Joshua was alive. When God’s people recognize the goodness of God and submit to His ways in gratitude according to His Word, it is a beautiful thing!
The Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). When one understands that much of the Bible is simply the documented history of Israel, one can come to understand how the Bible is intended to build faith. God’s people are to look to the past things that God did for the children of Israel to understand His identity, character, temperament, patterns of work, and of course, His promises. As one examines the past works that God did, one can be assured of His current ability to do the same, as well as His future ability to do as promised. Since the Bible shows that God fulfilled His promises to Israel despite their ability many times, one can be assured that God will continue to fulfill His promises in spite of human ability. Since the Bible shows that God judged the disobedience of Israel in the past, one can be assured that God will judge disobedience in the future just the same. When one examines the work of God through the history of Israel as documented in the Bible, one can learn to trust in the things of God more simply, and thus be able to respond appropriately to receive the benefits of His works rather than the painful consequences of it.
The Bible explains that Joshua sought to teach the children of Israel this exact principle. In Joshua 23:1-16 the Bible explains that Joshua gave the children of Israel a final address and warning as their leader. The scriptures state that, long after Israel had settled in the land and had rest in the land, Joshua addressed the congregation of the elders of Israel. Joshua admitted that he was old and ready to die. His role as Israel’s leader had been fulfilled as the children of Israel were dwelling in the land that God had promised with peace and rest. Knowing that his time with his people was short, Joshua wanted to leave Israel with a final reminder about how to appropriately respond to God’s work just like Moses did. Recall that before Moses went up to the mountain to die, he reminded Israel to examine the past work that God had done as a means of assurance that He would continue to lead the people to the fulfillment of His promises. Moses warned the people to stay connected to God and God alone; and the method by which the people were to do so was by the Law. Joshua simply repeated the same things that Moses did, showing that God’s people often need to be reminded of the same basic things concerning God.
Joshua 23:1-16 states that Joshua pointed to the current circumstances of Israel at that time as evidence that God, and God alone, was worthy of all praise and worship. Joshua reminded the children of Israel that it was Yahweh that fought on their behalf. The people were settled and rested in the land because of the work that God did; and the people all saw it happen! The current position of peace and benefit was on account of the work that all the people verified was the work of God as He indeed went out to fight the people. The people would have been still wandering in the wilderness had it not been for the Lord. Since the people were well aware of this truth, Joshua urged the children of Israel to honor God through the Law. The people were to show thanks and gratitude to the Lord by worshiping and loving Him, and Him alone. Joshua reminded the people that the gods of the native inhabitants of the land had failed. God – Yahweh Elohim, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – was the One responsible for the favor that Israel had received. Therefore, Joshua reminded the people to keep away from other gods, idols, ideas, philosophies, and lifestyles that would separate them from God and His Law. God had proven Himself worthy of exclusive honor, praise, and worship. Joshua urged the people to remember this truth in his absence.
Joshua reminded the children of Israel that every bit of God’s promises concerning the land had been fulfilled. All of the good things that God swore upon Himself to do for Israel had been completed. Even though Israel had not destroyed all of the native inhabitants of the land, God assured Israel that He would do so when the children of Israel mustered up the faith to advance against them (which they had not done yet). Since God’s promises were according to His Word and God proved His Word to be faithful, Joshua urged the children of Israel to remain connected to God by His Word, specifically in the Law. Joshua told the children of Israel not to turn to the right or the left from the Law. God’s Law was the documentation of God’s righteousness, and since God had proved His will and purposes to be right and good through the victories He gave Israel, it was reasonable for the people to stay fixed on His righteousness through the Law. God proved His ways and Word to be good. Why should the children of Israel stray from that which was proven as a blessing?
The reminder of Joshua served as a plea from God to express thanks on account of the work He did to fulfill His promises. God desires that His people examine the good things that He does out of His grace, and express thanks by keeping His commands as a demonstration of affection for His righteousness. Joshua 23:1-16 explains that the children of Israel were to express “love” by keeping the law that God gave through Moses. In similar fashion, Jesus stated that those who love Him are those who keep His commandments. Hence, one’s attention to the Law is an expression of love towards God and His righteousness, and the means by which He expects His people to show thanks for the gracious benefits He brings.
Additionally, Joshua warned the children of Israel of the surety of judgment if the children of Israel strayed from God and His Law. When Moses taught the law to the people, he repeatedly warned that those who stray from God to serve other gods and idols would be destroyed. Those who disconnect from God by departing from His law will ultimately disconnect themselves from His protection, His victories, and His promises and blessings. Since God’s ultimate purpose is to purge sin – including the false gods and idols that non-believers invent in place of God – those who pursue such gods and idols will be destroyed with them as God promises. Joshua’s warning was logical. He stated that, since God was faithful to bless Israel on account of faithfulness, He would also be faithful to judge Israel on account of rebellion. The destruction of the native inhabitants of the land was proof that God will judge sin at the right time. Thus, while the conquests of the Promised Land were helpful to serve as encouragement that God will fight on behalf of His faithful people, the conquests were also helpful to show that God will judge and destroy sin as promised. God promised to bless the faithful and judge the unfaithful. The conquests that God authored in the Promised Land prove that God is faithful to do both!
Examining the warning of Joshua, one can trust God’s word to be true. The history of Israel shows that when they were faithful (as in the testimony of Joshua), God was faithful to fulfill His promises by increasing His people according to the things He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The history of Israel also shows that when they were unfaithful (as in the wilderness journey, or throughout the Book of Judges, and the writings of the prophets), God was faithful to judge His people as promised in the Law. One can examine the history of Israel to know that God is faithful in either regard. He truly does reward faithfulness according to His promises, though the true essence of God’s rewards is eternal in nature. Likewise, God truly does judge those who are unfaithful to Him, denying and rebelling against Him to pursue the affections of the flesh through the worship of human-made ideas, philosophies, and concepts. The history of Israel is proof that when one expresses love for God and pursues His righteousness through His Word, God takes care of His people and provides victory in spite of circumstances, divine protection, and assurance of His ultimate blessings in eternity. The history of Israel is also proof that when one despises God’s righteousness by creating false forms of self-righteousness, God will judge in harsh ways that lead to destruction. Both testimonies show that God is faithful to do everything that He says in the Bible, and the history of Israel is tangible and verifiable proof that God’s Word is true!
The Bible instructs all people from refraining from “judging.” However, while the English Bible tells God’s people not to judge (Matthew 7:1), the English Bible also tells God’s people to judge in other portions of scripture, and to judge with “righteous judgment (John 7:24, 1 Corinthians 6:5).” So which is it? Are people supposed to judge or not? This is where it helps to have some understanding of the original language. While the English Bible uses the same word in these seemingly opposing commands, the original language uses different words. The New Testament actually uses three main words to describe “judging.” The first word that Jesus used to command people to refrain from judging is the Greek word “krino.” This word refers to rendering a final verdict. This word refers to the highest level of authority to come to conclusions and determine outcomes and consequences. The scriptures teach that this form of judgment is for God alone – specifically Jesus Christ. The reason that Jesus commanded all people from judging in this way is because people cannot see the heart to know motives. God uniquely is able to see the heart so that He is uniquely able to know what all people are doing and why they’re doing it, whether its for His glory or not. Since people cannot make these determinations, they shouldn’t try.
When the Bible does tell God’s people to “judge,” the original language uses the Greek words “diakrino” and “anakrino.” The Greek word “diakrino” means to “judge through” something, or “discern” something. In other words, the people of God are to examine circumstances and determine right and wrong according to the standards of scripture. The people of God are to judge through the scriptures, using it as the basis to know right from wrong. This does not mean that God’s people are able to gage motives based on Bible knowledge. This does not mean that God’s people are to assume the eternal outcome of people based on what they know of the scriptures. There are plenty of examples that show how some people tried to assume how some others would end up, and God proved them wrong. God’s people are simply to compare life circumstances to the scriptures to measure whether or not those circumstances are in line with God’s will and purposes, based on the previous declarations of God in the Bible. Likewise, the Greek word “anakrino” refers to the series of questions that a believer is to ask to have an understanding of the facts in order to judge through the scriptures. God’s people are not to jump to conclusions without seeking to know the facts and then compare them to scripture to determine whether God would be pleased or not.
The Bible shows that bad things happen when God’s people express pride and self-righteousness by jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, and seeking to exercise the authority of God to render verdicts in flawed manners. This exact thing happened to the children of Israel, nearly starting a civil war! In Joshua 22:1-34, the Bible explains that Joshua sent the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh to the east side of the Jordan River so that they could settle in the land that God had given over to them. Joshua confirmed that those tribes had fulfilled their obligations according to the commands of the Lord. As Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh faithfully fought the native inhabitants of the land and assisted their brethren in conquering the land, God was faithful to give them the land they had requested on the east side of the Jordan River. Joshua 22:1-34 explains that those tribes crossed into their land, divided up the incredible amount of spoil that God had provided through their conquests, and sought to enjoy the rewards and benefits God had provided.
The children of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were greatly thankful to the Lord. The Bible explains that they sought to exalt the Lord and glorify Him by building an altar to Him. Having received so much and having experienced the fulfillment of God’s gracious promises, the tribes on the east side of the Jordan River wanted to make extra efforts to acknowledge the Lord in thanksgiving in a way that their future descendants could honor God just the same. Therefore, they built an altar to remember the Lord and the work that He did to put all of Israel in the land. The scriptures explain that some of the people of Israel on the west side of the Jordan River heard about the efforts to build the altar and made false assumptions. They assumed that the tribes on the east side of the Jordan River were trying to rebel against God and begin their own religion apart from the tabernacle that was in Shiloh. Those people then took their false assumptions to the elders of Israel, who then responded zealously and impulsively so that the Bible states that all of Israel assembled together to go to war against Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh.
To warn the tribes on the east side of the Jordan River, the rest of Israel sent Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the high priest, with 10 delegates from the remaining tribes of Israel. When Phinehas arrived on the other side of the Jordan River to address the 2 ½ tribes, he spoke in incredible ignorance and made several insulting comparisons in error that were offensive to Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. First, Phinehas, speaking on behalf of all of Israel, assumed that the 2½ tribes on the east side of the Jordan River were seeking to rebel against God. Phinehas immediately accused the east-side tribes of building an altar to themselves, as if they were seeking to glorify themselves. Phinehas then compared the efforts of the 2½ tribes to the iniquity of Peor, which was an accusation of idolatry. Phinehas also compared the 2½ tribes to Achan, the man that hid the idols under his pillow causing Israel to loose the battle of Ai. Phinehas’ address and confrontation showed that Israel made a ton of false assumptions while coming to conclusions, and in the process insulted and offended their brothers, even seeking to war against them.
Joshua 22:1-34 explains that the elders of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh responded against the false accusations to defend their intentions and motives. The 2½ tribes explained that they were not building an altar to try and exalt themselves, worship idols, or start a new religion. Recognizing their distance from the rest of Israel, and the natural divider of the Jordan River, the people of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh sought to build an altar as a memorial to connect their people with the rest of Israel. Fearing that their future descendants might feel disconnected from their Jewish brethren, Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh sought to build a replica of the altar in the tabernacle to show future generations that Israel was indeed one nation. They wanted the altar to serve as a way to identify them as children of God and heirs of His promises even though they were living in a separate region divided by the Jordan River. The 2½ tribes wanted to connect themselves to God and remain unified with His people, not rebel against Him. The assumptions of the rest of Israel were completely backwards and way off base.
After hearing the explanation of the 2½ tribes, Phinehas was pleased to hear their motives and rejoiced with the elders of Israel that were with him. They went back to their people on the west side of the Jordan River and explained the situation at which point the rest of Israel rejoiced and spoke of war no more. The children of Israel were unified in their rejoicing in the Lord for the wonderful works He had done to fulfill His promises concerning the land. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh completed their altar as they desired, and did so without objection or conflict. They called the altar “Witness,” letting their future generations know, “It is a witness between us that the Lord is God.” Thus, the children of Israel that grew up on the east side of the Jordan River would know that they were also descendants of Abraham despite the natural boarder or the river, they were indeed children of God, and were indeed heirs to His eternally unconditional promises on account of the work God did Himself.
This testimony shows the dangers that can take place when God’s people disobey God’s commands concerning judging. The 10 tribes on the west side of the Jordan River saw something they felt was wrong and did not do as the Law commanded. Rather than verify the works and motives by the mouths of two or three witnesses to discern whether the people had transgressed the Lord, they jumped to conclusions, and rendered a final verdict that Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh had to be killed. Had the 10 tribes on the west side of the Jordan River proceeded to war, there would have been great tragedy in loss of life as no one had done wrong. This is what happens when people try to do the work of God, coming to conclusions, and making assumptions about motives when all people lack the ability to do so. God commanded His people to ask questions and discern: figure out the facts and measure them to God’s righteousness as documented in scripture. God’s people are to determine right from wrong according to the Word, but then leave the final verdict up to God since He alone is Judge. Once determining right from wrong in discernment, God’s people are to trust God’s judgments and the timing of them since He alone can measure the heart and know who is really deserving of condemnation.
In Genesis Chapter 12, God started one of the most unique works known to mankind. Genesis Chapter 12 explains that God called a man named Abram and out of the abundance of His grace, promised to give him a great land inheritance, make him a great nation, and also promised that he would bless him so that all of the families of the earth would be blessed by his descendants (one in particular). The Lord repeated these promises to Abram several times throughout the scriptures. God was so committed to these promises that He later changed Abram’s name to Abraham in order to identify Abraham as His own child and heir to these eternally unconditional promises. As time went on, God was sure to express His faithfulness to the promises that He swore upon Himself to fulfill. In Genesis 26:3 God repeated these promises to Abraham’s son Isaac in order to identify Isaac as the heir to God’s promises. Later in Genesis 28:4 God repeated these promises again to Jacob in order to identify Jacob as the heir to His promises. Thus, God swore that He would do this work and identified the family that He would increase in number and through the land inheritance. God identified that the children of Israel/Jacob would be the heirs to God’s promises originally made to Abraham.
The testimony of Joshua 21:43-45 explains that God was faithful to fulfill the promises that were made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though Israel experienced great trials and expressed many failures, God was faithful to do that which He said. Joshua 21:43-45 explains that the Lord gave Israel “all the land of which He had sworn to their fathers.” When God first made His promises to Abraham, He was specific to identify the region and specific boarders that his descendants would inherit. Those regions and boarders were later identified to Isaac and Jacob. The testimony of Joshua explains that God gave the children of Israel those specific and exact regions and boarders to possess as their own. After fifteen years of fighting and administrating the division of the land, the children of Israel had settled in the goodness of God’s promises, and took the land as their own possession.
The scriptures explain that the children of Israel were to be given a great land inheritance as well as become a great nation. Though Abraham died with only one true heir, and Isaac the same, Jacob gave birth to twelve children that multiplied to the extent that they were able to fill their land inheritance. God indeed made them a great nation, not only in multiplying their population, but in the victories He provided so that the children of Israel could possess the land. Joshua 21:43-45 reminds readers that the Lord stood against the enemies of Israel in order to provide victory for them, purging the land from the sins of the people that first dwelt in Canaan. God had delivered all of Israel’s enemies into their hands and Israel was successful in their conquest according to God’s promises. The scriptures are detailed to explain that there wasn’t a single enemy that stood against the children of Israel at that time. Though other nations were larger in number, richer in resources, mightier in strength, and more experienced in warfare, the Lord ensured that Israel defeated them according to His promises so that their greatness was on account of God’s own greatness.
Additionally, the Bible explains that the Lord gave rest to the children of Israel. One must consider the testimony of Israel since God made His promises to the patriarchs in order to appreciate the value of rest that Israel received. Abraham lived as a nomad, only taking possession of a small portion of land within the Promised Land (a tomb to bury his wife in). Isaac lived in a similar manner, moving from place to place; never taking full possession of the land that God promised. Jacob, while he lived in the region that God promised, died in Egypt. Shortly after the death of Joseph (Jacob’s son), the children of Israel that were dwelling peacefully in Egypt were enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians for 400 years. Later, Moses was able to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt according to God’s promises, but only to wander in the wilderness for 40 more years. After God dealt with the unbelief of the rebellious generation in Israel, Joshua led the people across the Jordan River and fought against the native inhabitants of the land to take possession of it. After fighting for seven years and dividing up the land to settle in it eight years later, the children of Israel were able to rest and enjoy the benefits of God’s work!
Clearly, the promises of God take a long time to fulfill. There was much that the children of Israel had to endure in order to finally receive rest from war, from wandering, and from wondering when God would fulfill His promises. Then one must also consider that God had not yet fully fulfilled His promises, for Israel was still waiting for the blessing – the Messiah King of Israel, which is Jesus Christ (not to come for close to 1,500 years later). Nevertheless, no matter the amount of elapsed time, the scriptures show that God was faithful. Joshua 21:43-45 explains that there wasn’t a single word from God that failed. God did exactly as He promised, regardless of how much time it took and how much difficulty was experienced. Joshua 21:43-45 explains that, concerning the land, all of God’s promises came to pass, and not a single good thing that God promised had failed. God did what He said He would; and while the children of Israel didn’t fully conquer all of the land that God commanded, He was faithful to give it over to Israel. God gave all of the Promised Land to Israel though Israel was not faithful to receive it all. Yet still, the Bible shows that, no matter how much time passes, no matter how many challenges arise, no matter how difficult the task may seem, God’s Word is fulfilled, His will is done, and His faithful goodness is proved to be exactly as the Bible proclaims!
The Bible teaches that all things ultimately come from the Lord. The breath that one takes in any given moment comes from God. The physical and mental ability that one has to perform any task ultimately comes from God. The job that one might have ultimately comes from God. The finances and material resources that one might have ultimately come from God. The Apostle Paul plainly wrote, “For who makes you differ from one another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7).” Previously, the Bible stated, “Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all (1 Chronicles 29:12).” Lastly, the Apostle James contributed to this point by writing, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).”
Seeing that everything comes from God, everything that one has is actually the possession of God. One must also consider that one’s own body and life belong to God as a child of God. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).” Paul later wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that whether one eats or drinks, whatever one does, one should do to the glory of God. This means that one should examine one’s life and one’s possessions as the possessions of God as stated in scripture, and use each to the glory of God, according to His commands, for His purposes, to promote the fulfillment of His Word. Everything a believer has and possesses should be given over to the Lord’s purposes concerning salvation and the fulfillment of His Word!
The Bible documents the beauty of obedience concerning these points. In Joshua 21:1-42 the Bible explains that the heads of the families of the Levites approached Joshua about their living circumstances. This portion of scripture documents the events that took place after all of the other tribes had been given their land inheritance through the casting of lots. After each tribe received their portion, the heads of the families of the Levites reminded Joshua about the command of the Lord concerning the “common land” for the Levites. The tribe of Levi was not to receive their own land inheritance. They were not to be given a portion of land out of the Promised Land as the other tribes. The priesthood was their inheritance. The inheritance of the Levites was centered around the opportunity to serve the Lord by leading the people in worship and sacrifices throughout Israel.
Since the priests were supposed to be dedicated to this responsibility full-time, they would not have been able to cultivate land and have other opportunities to earn a living for themselves. This is why God allowed the priests of the tribe of Levi to take from the sacrifices given unto the Lord. Joshua 21:1-42 explains the process that Joshua and Eleazar executed to fulfill the commands of God concerning the tribes of Levi. Though the priests were not given their own land to possess, the Lord commanded Israel to divide up portions of land considered “common land.” This land was considered “common” in that, it was generally the territory and possession of Israel, but managed by the priests for purposes dedicated to worship, sacrifice, and some of which served as the cities of refuge. These portions of land were dedicated to public purposes that all of Israel could benefit from. Though the priests were in charge of managing these portions of land, they were not owners of the land and were to live in these places as servants, dedicated to serving the needs of anyone that desired to make use of the land in the areas of worship, sacrifice, or according to the laws of the cities of refuge.
Joshua 21:1-42 explains how the children of Israel were in agreement to put this God-ordained process into place. The Bible explains that there were 3 major families that made up the Levitical priesthood, one of which was divided in half. There were the Kohathites (divided in two), the Gershonites, and the Merarites. Each of those tribes were spread out throughout Israel in order to be accessible to the children of Israel in their purposes. As such, God commanded that each of the tribes of Israel give up portions of their inheritance in order to contribute to the needs of the Levites. Joshua 21:1-42 explains that each tribe gave up a significant portion of their inheritance in order for the priests to serve in their duties. The tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin contributed 13 of their cities to half of the Kohathites so that they could perform their service. The tribes of Ephraim, Dan, and the west half of Manasseh contributed 10 of their cities to the other half of the Kohathites, enabling them to perform their service. The tribes of Issachar, Asher, and Naphtali gave over 13 of their cities to the Gershonites so that they could perform their priestly service. Lastly, Zebulun, Reuben, Gad, and the other east side half of Manasseh gave over 12 of their cities to the Merarites so they could perform their service unto Israel.
The scriptures explain that, even though God gave each tribe their inheritance to cultivate and flourish in, each tribe collectively gave up 48 cities to the Levites! Having received of the Lord through miraculous victories, the children of Israel understood their need of the Lord. They understood the importance of worship, sacrifice, and the administration of the Law. The children of Israel understood that God appointed the Levites to conduct this work, and that the work was difficult as a full-time effort. God called the priests to be holy and separate as leaders of His people, being dedicated to serving the spiritual needs of His people full-time. There were great sacrifices that the priests had to accept in order to do their jobs. For example, they were not given their own land inheritance, nor able to pursue the other types of opportunities and profits that the rest of Israel was entitled to. The rest of the children of Israel understood this, accepted this, and contributed towards this according to the commands of God. They took what was given to them and rejoiced in the opportunity to give it unto God’s purposes, trusting God’s purposes to be right and true.
The Bible later explains that the priests were fully equipped to do their jobs. While Bible history shows that the priests failed in their duties in many ways, it wasn’t for a lack of resources. The Book of Joshua explains that the children of Israel gladly received their land inheritance from the Lord and were obedient to give up a significant portion of it according to God’s purposes. The children of Israel were in agreement concerning God’s plans for the Levites and gave to them in order that their spiritual needs could be addressed. The testimony of Joshua 21:1-42 explains that the people in Israel valued their spiritual health more than their physical and material possessions. The children of Israel were more committed to obeying God’s commands to facilitate proper worship and sacrifice than increasing their own individual enterprises. As such, the children of Israel were well equipped to glorify God through obedience!
The Lord is a God that desires life and not death. The Bible teaches that, even though the wages of sin is death, God does what is necessary to promote life amongst His people. The Bible shows that God was constantly imploring His people to repent in order to live spiritually. The Bible also shows that God provided tons of helpful insights concerning His righteousness according to the Law that were intended to be helpful to Israel in extending their lives and improving the quality of it. God wanted good things for His people, the Law shows that He desires each of His people to have a fair and equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of His righteousness.
The scriptures explain that God put many commands within the Law that were intended to promote God’s desire for life and justice within it. Though the Law called for the guilty to die according to the wages of sin, the Law also had elements in it that protected those who were not offenders and transgressors. The Law had commands within it that protected the children of Israel from death so as to ensure the promises of God to Israel were longstanding. An example of such is God’s commands for the cities of refuge. God, knowing the hearts of His people, commanded the children of Israel to build six cities of refuge scattered throughout Israel. These cities were intended to be safe havens to protect those who had been involved in the accidental death of another person. God, knowing the hearts of His people, knew that the close family members and/or friends of the deceased might seek to avenge the one that died, but since the death was accidental, judgment was not required. God implemented the cities of refuge to protect His people from the emotional responses of those who experienced loss in order to minimize the continued loss of innocent life.
The testimony of Joshua 20:1-9 explains that when Joshua finished casting lots for the children of Israel to distribute their land inheritances, God reminded Joshua about the cities of refuge. The scriptures explain that Joshua had distributed the land to all of the tribes of Israel and lastly took possession of his own inheritance. After such, God was compelled to remind Joshua about the need to establish the six cities of refuge. This shows that the cities of refuge were on the mind of God and were important to Him. God wanted to ensure that these cities were established and ran properly. Joshua 20:1-9 explains that God not only reminded Joshua to establish the cities, but also reminded him about the purpose of the cities. God reminded Joshua about His desire to facilitate and promote life. God reminded Joshua about His desire to protect those who were not guilty of certain points of the Law. God reminded Joshua about His desire to deal with the fleshly responses of His people in ways that were righteous and just.
As Joshua received the reminder from God, he made obedient efforts to establish the cities according to God’s command. The Bible explains that Joshua set up the six cities of refuge across Israel. Joshua set up a city of refuge in the region of Naphtali in northern Israel, just north of the Sea of Galilee in the city of Kadesh. Joshua set up another city of refuge in central Israel in the territory of West Manasseh, on the west side of the Jordan River, in between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim in the city of Shechem. Joshua set up a third city of refuge on the west side of the Jordan River in southern Israel in the region of Judah, south of Bethlehem, in the city of Hebron. Joshua set up three more cities of refuge on the east side of the Jordan River as well so that those dwelling in the regions of East Manasseh, Gad, and Reuben would have reasonable access to safety in times of need. Joshua set up a city of refuge in the north, just east of the Sea of Galilee in East Manasseh in the city of Golan. Joshua set up a fifth city of refuge in the central region of northern Gad on the far east side of Israel’s boarders in Ramoth Gilead. Lastly, Joshua set up the sixth city of refuge in the southern part of Israel on the east side of the Jordan in the region of northern Reuben, on the far east side of Israel’s boarder in Bezer, just south of Heshbon.
The arrangement and placement of each of these cities was strategic in nature. The centralized and accessible locations of these cities show that God desired His people to be safe when dangers threatened them. God did not make the safety impossible to receive. God spread out the cities of refuge so that, no matter where in Israel a person lived, they would be able to escape until the time of release. The scripture explain that those living as refugees in these cities would be permitted to return home safely at the time of the high priest’s death. When the high priest of the time died, the refugees could return home and not face threats of vengeance for the accidental death. In this way, the cities of refuge show God’s heart to provide safety and life for His people, and also that the high priest (prophetically referring to Jesus Christ) is the one that will ultimately set His people free from danger.
There are some who think that, “God helps those who help themselves.” This is incorrect. The Bible NEVER says this. The scriptures do not imply this. The Bible teaches that God helps those who humbly submit to God and His purposes in faith. Though a person may need to respond in action according to one’s faith, the Bible explains that God is ultimately the one performing any work that is considered good, or that leads to the fulfillment of His eternally unconditional promises. The increase of God’s people is not earned by merit. The opportunity of God’s people is not based on one’s performance. Instead, the scriptures teach that the increase and opportunity of God’s people is based on His grace and comes from the abundance of His own possession. Therefore, when one examines the increase of God’s people, one must acknowledge God as the cause and the means by which such an increase took place; even if it appears that one produced effort to attain such an increase.
In Joshua 19:1-51 the Bible documents the work that Joshua did to divide up the Promised Land for the children of Israel. The Book of Joshua explained that, prior to Joshua 19:1-51 the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah had all been accounted for. They had received their inheritance and the boarders of their territories were defined. The tribe of Levi was not to receive a land inheritance because the priesthood was their inheritance. That left seven tribes unaccounted for. Joshua 19:1-51 explains the process that Joshua and Eleazar the high priest undertook to give the rest of Israel their inheritance. While they were in Shiloh, Joshua and Eleazar cast lots to divide up the land evenly and fairly. Though the casting of lots, God assumed the responsibility of dividing up the land. Neither Joshua nor Eleazar would be able to express partiality in the dividing up of the land through the casting of lots. Since they casted lots to distribute the land, God would use the circumstances that seemed accidental to exercise His sovereign control to put His people where He wanted them.
The scriptures explain that each tribe was given a fair amount of land. Joshua 19:1-51 explains that the tribe of Simeon received thirteen cities and their villages, Zebulun received twelve cities and their villages, Issachar received sixteen cities and their villages, Asher received twenty-two cities and their villages, Naphtali received nineteen cities and their villages, and Dan received seventeen cities and their villages. The regions that seemed to have more cities had smaller portions of land, but were more densely populated with resources. Those who received regions with fewer cities had more space and room for expansion in habitation. Thus, the distribution of the land was equal and fair.
In fact, the scriptures provide additional details to explain the fair nature of God’s distribution. When Joshua and Eleazar appointed Simeon’s lot, the Bible explains that their lot was within the lot of Judah. This means that Simeon was inside of the region of Judah so that the region of Judah surrounded Simeon. The scriptures are clear to indicate that God did this because the share of Judah was too much for them. The region that had been given over to Judah was too large for the amount of people that made up the tribe of Judah. God did not want the land and the resources within the land to be of waste and so put Simeon within the region of Judah in order to evenly distribute the land and the resources within the land. Likewise, Joshua 19:1-151 explains that the tribe of Dan was able to grow in their inheritance. The scriptures explain that their boarders went beyond that which was originally determined by Joshua and Eleazar because they went up to fight against the people of Leshem. Remembering that God originally commanded the children of Israel to utterly destroy all of the people within the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan obeyed and fought against Leshem. Since God originally promised to provide victory to Israel on account of their faithful advances against the native inhabitants of the land, Dan was able to defeat these people and expand their portion. They changed the name of the city of Leshem to Dan as a result.
These two instances shows that, while Israel was able to take possession of the Promised Land, it was only on account of God’s provision. God acknowledged the circumstances and was determined to put certain people in certain places as He saw fit. God was willing to fulfill His promises towards those who desired to see the will of God be completed. Dan was able to grow because Dan desired the total fulfillment of God’s promises, which was a contrast to Ephraim and Manasseh. The resources and inheritance of Israel was on account of God’s providence, sovereignty, and faithfulness – not the efforts of His people. Joshua 19:1-51 further explains that after all of the lots were cast and the land was divided, Joshua took his inheritance in the mountains of Ephraim. The Lord had previously promised Joshua a certain portion of land. Even though Joshua waited until everyone else had their portion to take his own portion, the Bible explains that God’s promise to Joshua was fulfilled. Joshua did not have to take his portion first to ensure it would remain. Joshua was not concerned about someone else taking his portion based on how many other tribes needed to receive their inheritance. Joshua patiently waited to be last, trusting that the his inheritance would come on account of God’s promises – not his maneuverability. Hence, when all was said and done, Joshua’s portion remained and he was able to claim it according to God’s will. No one in Israel, including Dan and Joshua, was forced to “help themselves.” Instead, the people of God simply trusted in God’s promises and relied on His sovereignty to fulfill those promises. As such, they were able to enjoy the benefits of His work!
It is hard to imagine that there are some people who do not want the eternally awesome things that the Lord desires to give. The Bible teaches that God is a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him. The Bible describes that the Lord desires to share His authority, His possessions, and His quality of life with everyone, but is only willing to do so with those who believe. Yet the scriptures explain that sometimes, even believers neglect the rewards and good things that God desires to give. The Bible explains that, even though some people might know God, trust in His Son, and possess His Spirit, still don’t have very much affection for His promises. The Bible shows that sometimes, God’s people get stuck in ruts. The Bible shows that sometimes God’s people get complacent in the idea of God’s promises and are not willing to walk in faith to receive the full benefits of His promises. Sometimes people get lazy. Sometimes people get scared. Sometimes people get distracted. Either way, God’s people are called to get out of these ruts and remember the magnitude of goodness that God desires to give, faithfully walking in the Spirit towards the fulfillment of His promises. While God does do all the work to bring fulfillment of His promises, the people of God are expected to get up and walk by faith.
This idea is illustrated in the history of Israel. In Joshua 18:1-28 the Bible explains that the children of Israel got complacent in their position. After fighting the native inhabitants of the Promised Land for 8 years, the Bible explains that Joshua had a bit of a hard time getting the children of Israel to actually possess the inheritance they fought for. The Book of Joshua explains that Joshua let Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh take their possession on the west side of the Jordan River. The Book of Joshua explains that Joshua cast lots for the other half tribe of Manasseh and Ephraim so that they were able to receive their land inheritance. Joshua was able to get the tribe of Judah settled as well, but after that, the people got stagnant. Joshua 18:1-28 explains that the remaining tribes all went together to Shiloh, which was in the territory of Ephraim. The people set up the tabernacle there, and the remaining seven tribes stayed around the tabernacle for some time.
After some time, Joshua recognized that the people weren’t leaving. God had told Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that their descendants would possess all of the land of Canaan as their own. God had led the children of Israel in some great conquests over the previous 8 years, but the remaining seven tribes of Israel were not taking that which God fought to give them. The people of the land were destroyed, with very few threats remaining. However, Joshua 18:1-28 candidly explains that the people were “neglecting” their inheritance. God’s will was for the children of Israel to settle in their own areas to inhabit the full Promised Land. Yet seven of the twelve tribes were growing comfortable with the idea of settling together around Shiloh. They did not desire the full fulfillment of God’s promises. They did not desire to receive the total fruits of God’s efforts. They did not desire to settle in the land that God appointed to them. Rather than spread out to take the full extent of God’s inheritance, they wanted to stay compacted in a tiny region, missing out on the rest of the goodness that God had appointed to them.
Recognizing this issue, Joshua had an idea. The Bible explains that Joshua called men to go “survey” the remaining areas of the Promised Land. Joshua was not undertaking a new method of distributing the land, but was trying to assure the people about the quality of the land. The scriptures explain that Joshua would still cast lots to divide up the land according to God’s command through Moses. However, Joshua commissioned the survey in order to document the quality and condition of the land that remained in order to assure the remaining seven tribes of Israel that God’s inheritance was good and worth settling in. It is interesting to note that this is the second time the children of Israel demonstrated these characteristics regarding God’s inheritance. Though God’s gift and promises were good, the children of Israel neglected them before as well. Recall that when Moses sent twelve spies into the land to strategize their advance, ten of them returned in fear, convincing much of Israel that the land was not as good as promoted. Their affection for the things of God were consumed with their fears and fleshly desires to stay with the status quo. Joshua, being one of those original twelve spies, was familiar with the flawed mindset of the people, and so came up with the idea of the survey to address this issue.
Joshua 18:1-28 explains that the men completed their survey, wrote down the things they saw, and Joshua was able to confirm the goodness of the land that God had promised. The book that the surveyors complied served as documented evidence that God’s promises were indeed good. The book the surveyors complied served as documented evidence that God does give good gifts and desires good things for His people. The book that the surveyors complied served as documented evidence that the things of God are better than the foolish, limited, and temporal ideas of His people. In other words, the survey proved that God’s promises are worth desiring more than the affections of the flesh. After this book was completed, the scriptures explain that Joshua proceeded to make efforts again to distribute the land. He began by casting lots and the first lot fell to the tribe of Benjamin. After giving Benjamin the land that rested between Judah and Ephraim, he made efforts to settle the rest of God’s people according to God’s promises that were proven to be better than the ideas and perspectives of His people.
The Bible teaches that it is impossible to please God without faith. The Lord has amazing gifts and rewards that He desires to give to His people, but He requires that His people believe that this is true. The Apostle James wrote that faith without works is dead. This means that the quality of faith that God is looking for is faith that is more substantial than a verbal proclamation. God wants faith that is outwardly demonstrated by conduct. The Bible explains that the quality of faith that please God is faith in which one’s conduct is motivated by one’s inward convictions concerning God and His promises. If one trusts in God and His promises, then one’s decisions in life should reflect such trust. Since God’s promises are holy and centered on eternity, then one’s conduct should reflect holiness and one’s life perspective should be eternal. If one truly trusts in the almighty and sovereign authority of God to bring victory in the areas of life that God promises, then one should confidently advance in a forward direction towards the fulfillment of His promises regardless of what physical circumstances might appear like. The scriptures explain that it has always been this way.
In Joshua 17:1-18 the Bible testifies that Joshua had to remind the descendants of Joseph of this truth. The Bible explains that Joshua made efforts to divide up the land for the other half tribe of Manasseh after the lot fell to Ephraim. Joshua was faithful to include the daughters of Zelophehad in the allotment as the Lord previously commanded (since Zelophehad had no sons and wanted him to be included in the land inheritance). As Joshua explained the boarders for the tribe of Manasseh, the descendants of Manasseh and of Ephraim complained. They asked Joshua for a larger inheritance on account of their size. The scriptures explain that Ephraim and Manasseh were great in size, and such was why half the tribe of Manasseh was allowed to dwell on the west side of the Jordan River. However, the part of the reason that the allotment for Ephraim and Manasseh was too small was because they were unfaithful to finish the work that the Lord had commanded. God commanded the children of Israel to utterly destroy the native inhabitants of the land, but in spite of their size, Ephraim and Manasseh did not do as they were told. Joshua Chapter 16 explained that Ephraim did not utterly destroy the people of Gezer when overtaking their portion. Joshua 17:1-18 explains that the people of Manasseh also didn’t utterly destroy the Canaanites, but instead took them as slaves.
Upon bringing their complaints to Joshua, the Lord used Joshua to remind Ephraim and Manasseh about His promises and desire to give them all the land that He had already determined. God had already defined the boarders that He desired to give Israel, but the children of Ephraim and Manasseh were afraid. Joshua 17:1-18 explains that Joshua commanded Manasseh to over take the forest country and the hill of Ephraim. Since they were so big, and used the basis of their “greatness” (size) to justify their need of more space, Joshua told them to exercise such greatness and take those regions of land. When Joshua gave that command, the people of Manasseh objected. Though the people of Manasseh had seen God dry up the Jordan River, bring down the walls of Jericho, and provide impossible and improbable victories over great kings aligning together, the people of Manasseh looked at the people n the forest and the valley with fear. They told Joshua that they would not be able to overtake those areas of land since the Canaanites in those areas had “chariots of iron” and had giants in the region. The children of Manasseh were looking at the physical circumstances with fear, not trusting God’s ability to continue to do what He had been doing, and thus, compromising their opportunity to receive what the Lord ordained for them to possess.
The scriptures provide a stark contrast between the tribe of Manasseh and the individual Caleb. The scriptures explain that Caleb was motivated to approach Joshua to go take his inheritance according to the promise God made through Moses. Caleb didn’t care about the native inhabitants of the land. Knowing that his inheritance contained giants and some of the most powerful people in the region, Caleb was determined to finish the work God appointed, even at 85-years old! Caleb remembered the promises of God, the past works of God that proved His faithfulness, and trusted that God would continue to do whatever needed to be done to fully execute His promises. In contrast, the tribe of Manasseh was untrusting. Rather than being determined to finish the work God commanded, they compromised and allowed some of the native inhabitants of the land to live. Hence, their space was occupied and overcrowded. They were not able to enjoy the space that God provided. When Joshua commanded them to take more land by continuing in the Lord’s work, trusting in His power to fight on their behalf, the people of Manasseh complained in fear, looking at the resources of men rather than the power of God. The children of Manasseh did not trust that God would fulfill that which He promised, feeling the people of the land were greater than God, discrediting the past victories God had already brought. Therefore, their unbelief caused them to be discontent.
The testimony of Joshua 17:1-18 explains that compromise to God’s commands stems from unbelief in God’s promises. This compromise led to discontentment, which then led to fear, which then led to more unbelief. Nothing good comes of unbelief! Though God desired His people to have a great land inheritance filled with good things, the half tribe of Manasseh were not sure of God’s promises, and so were not able to fully enjoy that which God desired to give. They had enemies dwelling with them as slaves, and were crammed in the land they took because their unbelief caused paralyzing fear. They were not able to move forward in faith, trusting God to continue bringing victories according to His promises. Joshua sought to remind his people that God would continue to drive out the Canaanites, fighting on behalf of His people as He had done previously. Joshua tried to remind the children of Manasseh that the iron chariots and size of the people was not a factor for God. The truth of God’s promises, God’s ability, and God’s willingness to be faithful was already declared. Hence, God’s people were expected to trust these things as true in order to receive all of the benefits that God desired to give.
The Bible teaches that the Lord is merciful and gracious by nature. He is forgiving to an extent that many find hard to believe. He is patient and kind, understanding the weaknesses of His people. However, these attributes of God do not always excuse God’s people from the full extent of consequence when mistakes are made or transgression is committed. While it is true that God is slow to anger and wrath, when God’s people compromise or try to cut corners concerning the commands of God, the Bible shows that God does allow His people to deal with the fallout. Though God protects His people from total destruction and eternal condemnation, the unbelief, laziness, stubbornness, or pride of God’s people can cause circumstances that cause more difficulty than necessary.
Sometimes these compromises can seem harmless in nature. Sometimes these compromises concerning the commands of God can seem as if they’ve been resolved to a certain degree. However, God’s commands are clear so that if one does not depend on His Spirit in faith to do exactly as God commanded, one can expect less-than-desired results. In Joshua 16:1-10 the Bible explains that Joshua divided up the land inheritance attributed to Joseph, beginning with Ephraim. Recall that Joseph did not receive his own inheritance. Instead, the inheritance of Joseph was to be split between his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. The scriptures previously explained that half the tribe of Manasseh was to dwell in the land on the west side of the Jordan River with Reuben and Gad. Joshua 16:1-10 explains that as Joshua continued to divide up the land, the lot fell to Ephraim to dwell in the southern section of Israel, just north of the region of Judah.
There is a subtle, yet important detail given at the end of the description of Ephraim’s inheritance. Joshua 16:1-10 explains the boarders and the cities that the descendants of Ephraim were to inhabit. Yet at the end of the defining boarders, Joshua explains that the children of Israel did not drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer, which was a city that was close to the east coast of Israel. Joshua 16:1-10 explains that the children of Israel were strong enough to enslave the people of Gezer, but they were unwilling to utterly destroy them according to God’s original command. When God first commanded the children of Israel to overtake the land, He commanded them to utterly destroy everything and everyone in sight. When God originally promised that the descendants of Abraham would inherit the land, He stated that His gift of the land would also serve as a method to purge the land from sin by destroying the wicked people that dwelt in the land. Thus, as the children of Israel merely enslaved the people of Gezer, they allowed the sin that God sought to purge to remain in the land as well.
Though the tribe of Ephraim was able to settle in the land and enslave the people of Gezer, their compromise was not pleasing to God. It might have seemed like the children of Israel did well according to earthly standards since Ephraim was able to assume the land as their own and take a people group as servants. However, the settling of the tribe of Ephraim did not meet the standards of God’s original command, and was later considered failure by the Lord. As the Book of Judges begins, the scriptures start by explaining the follies of Israel in the compromise they allowed concerning the overtaking of the land. There were many places in the Promised Land where the children of Israel did not utterly destroy the native inhabitants. Even though God provided the power and wisdom to achieve total victory in every instance, the scriptures show that the children of Israel had lapses in their faith and judgment so that they did not do what God said, but sought to cut corners.
This corner-cutting would cause grief and headache later as God promised. Though it might have seemed like the children of Israel had done well because they got what they wanted, they did not obey the exact commands of God so that their momentary glimpse of success would ultimately result in tribulation and failure from the perspective of God. When God examines the work and efforts of His people and considers it to be failure, no matter how the circumstances might have appeared at one time, one’s unfaithful disobedience will result in trouble as seen in Israel’s history. The tribe of Ephraim was permitted to take their lot. God allowed Ephraim to settle in the manner that they determined. Yet God did not excuse them from consequence of disobedience, so that as the scriptures progress, much of the trouble Israel experienced in this region was on account of the compromise documented in Joshua 16:1-10. Though it took many years for the results of compromise to manifest, the heartache of Israel shows that failure in the eyes of God is not something to take lightly. Since the scriptures show its not about how close to obedience one can get, the Bible shows that God expects perfect obedience to enjoy the benefits of His promises. This means that God’s people must be EXTREMELY dependent on His Spirit by faith in order to ensure that His Spirit is the One that produces the perfect obedience to the Word that only God can produce. Clearly human habit is to cut corners and compromise. Knowing this, God’s people should humbly confess this inadequacy, pursue God’s provision by His Spirit, and submit to His leadership no matter the difficulty or inconvenience, seeking the fulfillment of God’s Word in order to receive the benefits of it.