Sunday, March 15, 2009

Matt's Messages "Possessing the Promises"

“Possessing the Promises”
Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
March 15, 2009
Joshua 13:1-21:45

We’ve reached the most exciting part of the book of Joshua!

Do you believe me?

Actually, to you and me this is often the most boring part of the book of Joshua and it goes and on and on for 9 chapters.

Last week, we studied chapters 10, 11, and 12 which told the story, in a rather quick way, of the major battles of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan.

“Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!” because Israel had victory over each and every major enemy they had in the land.

Now, in chapters 13 through 21, that conquered land is apportioned, divided, allocated, divvied-up–to the tribes of Israel.

And for 9 chapters, we read about geography, locations, cities, allotments, and distributions.

[Yawn.] Not that exciting for your ears and mine.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always tempted to skip over this part when I’m reading through Joshua. Boring!

But these 9 chapters are God’s Word.

They are in God’s Word, and they are God’s Word.

God thought that these chapters were important to put in His Holy Book.

I think that we can take time to read them and try to understand why they are important.

They sure were important to Israel!

These would have been, for Israel, the most exciting chapters of this book.

More exciting than Jericho!

Because God was going to call their name and give them the Promised Land.

Remember the title of this sermon series? “Joshua: Possessing the Promises.”

That’s what this whole book is all about. And here they are, actually doing it.

For hundreds of years, God had promised this land to be their land.

And now, finally, it actually is!

They are finally possessing the promises.

These chapters (no matter how boring it is for us to read today) are the heart and soul of this book.

Because God was going to call Israel’s name and give them the Promised Land.

Have you ever wanted to hear your name called to receive something?

How about at Christmastime, when it's your turn to open presents?

Maybe you’ve been at the reading of a will. And a lot of other people are mentioned, and you’re just waiting. And then, your name is called and the lawyer reads what you will you receive from your relative.

Israel was now going to receive their inheritance. The word “inheritance” appears over fifty times in theses 9 chapters.

God was giving His promised gift to Israel.

Because God was going to call Israel’s name and give them the Promised Land–finally possessing the promises.

The first thing to see is that while the whole land was conquered, it wasn’t all yet taken over, that is, there were still pockets of resistance and peoples who had not yet been completely overthrown. Look at chapter 13, verse 1.

“When Joshua was old and well advanced in years [it seems like he’s in his 80's now], the LORD said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites: from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite (the territory of the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron–that of the Avvites); from the south, all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek, the region of the Amorites, the area of the Gebalites; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath. As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.’”

The land had been conquered, but there was still work to be done.

And, unfortunately, this work was never fully done. That’s why the period of Judges is so difficult. That’s why the Philistines (did you see the Philistines in verse 2, that’s why the Philistines) become such a problem for Israel.

While most of the details in these 9 chapters are exciting and positive, there are still parts of the story that are negative–where there was only half-hearted obedience to God’s command that will come back to bite Israel later.

God tells them to finish taking the Land, He will help them (v.6), and then they are to (v.7) “divide it as an inheritance among the 9 and half tribes.”

Now, what happened to the other 2½ tribes? Where are they located?

On the East Side of the Jordan, right?

Verses 8 through 33 remind of us that and tell us what land Reuben, Manasseh, and Gad all received on the Transjordan side of the river. We won’t read that, but it’s important to note that they, too, got their promised land. There is no injustice here.

Now, in chapter 14, it starts to tell the story of the inheritance on the West Side of the Jordan. Look at verses 1 through 5.

“Now these are the areas the Israelites received as an inheritance in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel allotted to them. Their inheritances were assigned by lot [who controls the lot? The LORD does!] to the nine-and-a-half tribes, as the LORD had commanded through Moses. 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, for the sons of Joseph 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. [We’ll see that in chapter 21] So the Israelites divided the land, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.”

They are possessing the promises.

I almost titled this message: “Standing on the Promises” because now they really were! They were actually standing on the land given to them. How exciting!

Now, how should they and how should they not go about possessing these promies?

I’ve got 3 key words for you. Two positive ones with a negative one in between.


Possessing the promises wholeheartedly. This is represented by godly and gutsy old Caleb. Look at verse 6 of chapter 14.

“Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb [remember him?] son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. [These guys have a history, don’t they?] I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God [here’s our word:] wholeheartedly.

So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.'

‘Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.

Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.’

Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war.”

Isn’t that a great story?!

Caleb is 85 years YOUNG. I don’t know if he was a strong as he says he was, but he sure felt like it.

And he was ready to do the hard things–to be obedient–and to gain blessing and honor by obeying the Lord even in his old age.

The key is not how old Caleb was. It was how much of his heart he was willing to give to the LORD.


Did you catch which territory he wanted? He wanted Anakite territory! They were the “giants” that had terrified Israel 45 years ago.

But Caleb had found God to be trustworthy and knew that the LORD would help him to do it. V.12

“Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.’”

Possessing the promises wholeheartedly.

Are you doing that with what God has promised you?

We know when we are wholehearted when we are living obedient lives.

We know that we are trusting when we are obeying.

Are wholeheartedly possessing the promises that God has given you?

Godly, gutsy old Caleb did. And he’s a model for all of us.

Chapter 15 gives the details of his tribe, Judah, receiving their inheritance. It’s a virtual tour, from boundary to boundary. I’m not going to read it to you, but I want to point your attention to verse 14.

“From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites–Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai– descendants of Anak.”

He did what he said. He was wholehearted.

Are you and I?

God is calling us to take the hills.

To obey Him and follow Him into the hard stuff.

So often, I find myself being half-hearted in my faith. Only trusting God so far.

This far and no farther.

That was the problem of this next tribe. #2. HALF-HEARTEDLY.

Look at chapters 16 and 17.

In chapter 16, we’re told about the details of the land given to the tribes that make up the tribe of Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh.

They were given a fair allotment by Joshua and Eleazer and ultimately by God.

The fairness is evident, for example, in chapter 17 verses 3 through 6 as Zelophehad’s daughters received their share. Remember them from the book of Numbers?

They got the land that they believed in by faith. They possessed the promises!

But these tribes, on the whole, were half-hearted in their obedience.

And they decided, instead, to whine. Look at chapter 17, verse 14.

“The people of Joseph said to Joshua, ‘Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people and the LORD has blessed us abundantly.’”

They don’t sound like godly, gutsy old Caleb, do they? V.15

“‘If you are so numerous,’ Joshua answered, ‘and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.’ [This land is your land. All you have to do is take it.]

The people of Joseph replied, ‘The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.’

But Joshua said to the house of Joseph–to Ephraim and Manasseh–‘You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.’”

Don’t whine. Possess the promises–wholeheartedly!

Not this half-hearted stuff!

I don’t know about you, but unfortunately, I can identify more readily with Joseph’s tribes than with Caleb.

I see the “iron chariots.” And I (somehow) miss my Ally.

These are folks who have had the Jordan River parted, Jericho knocked down, Ai burnt to the ground, all of the South conquered with a miraculous day, and an army as big as the sand on the seashore in the North defeated so that no one survived.

And they are afraid of iron chariots?

But we can’t look down our noses at them, can we?

We are a people among whom God has worked in amazing ways, and yet, we see the “iron chariots” in our lives, don’t we?

Well, I can’t do that because...
Well, I know that God says to do such and such, but I can’t do that because...

Fill in the blank.

We are half-hearted so often. Whining instead of winning.

I have, from time to time (some of you think too often), talked publicly about my struggles with gluttony.

My gluttony comes from being half-hearted.

It’s not a function of my circumstances–it’s a function of my heart.

My laziness.
My desires to consume.
My unwillingness to reign myself in.
My gluttony comes from my heart.

But God has loved me with a gospel-love that is more powerful than my gluttony.

And He wants my whole heart to be towards Him.

I see the “iron chariots.” I see the temptations and provocations to give in.

But He’s calling me to believe with my whole heart.

To stand on the promise. To take ground.

To win, not to whine.

And that, by faith, is what I’m trying to do again. I’d appreciate your prayers.

This last week, I was writing my article for EFCA Today about pornography among pastors and what our districts and national ministries are doing to help pastors.

It wasn’t going well. I was stressed out to the max and beginning to panic.

And when I panic, it’s not a pretty sight!

The phone rang, and it was a district pastor–Jack Wilson. He had a question about something else, but he knew that I was working on this article and he asked how it was going.

I was fairly truthful with him, and he prayed for me.

And I went downstairs after lunch and I told the Lord I didn’t want to panic. And I told Him that I needed His help to write this thing and that He had promised to help me.

And more like Caleb than Joseph, I took the hill and I wrote and wrote and wrote until it was ready to be sent off.

How about you?

Are you possessing the promises?

Not just knowing the promises of God, but trusting them and acting on them?

Or are you just whining?

It appears that the other 7 tribes were also being half-hearted. Look at chapter 18.

“The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there. [The Tabernacle.] The country was brought under their control, but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. So Joshua said to the Israelites: ‘How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?”

Is God asking you that question today? “How long will you wait until you begin possessing the promises I’ve given you in Jesus?”

Joshua said (v.4), “Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. You are to divide the land into seven parts. Judah is to remain in its territory on the south and the house of Joseph in its territory on the north. [We’ve seen that already.] After you have written descriptions of the seven parts of the land, bring them here to me and I will cast lots for you in the presence of the LORD our God. The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the LORD is their inheritance. And Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. Moses the servant of the LORD gave it to them.’ As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, ‘Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the LORD.’

So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the LORD, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.”

These guys needed a push. They needed to be prodded into action.

They also needed a plan.

How about you? Do you need a push in the right direction?

Do you have someone who is giving you that push?

Do you have a plan? Do you have a plan to take possession of what God has promised to you in the Bible?

The leaders came back with a detailed map, and God, through Joshua, gave them their inheritance–tribe by tribe.

Benjamin. Verses 11 through 28.
Simeon. Chapter 19 verses 1 through 9.
Zebulun. Verses 10 through 16.
Issachar. Verses 17 through 23.
Asher. Verses 24 through 31.
Naphtali. Verses 32 through 39.
And Dan. Verses 40 through 48.

God was keeping His promises. And they were taking possession of them–though some of them failed to do it wholeheartedly.

Last of all was godly Joshua. Verses 49 through 51 tells us that Joshua got a city just for him. Verse 51, “And so they finished dividing the land.”

Those are the tribal territories. Most Bibles have a map in them that shows how the land worked out. It may not have been divided up like you and I would, but the point is that God did give each tribe their own land, as promised.

Chapter 20 tells about the cities of refuge that Israel was supposed to set up.

These cities of refuge (we read about them back in the book of Numbers) were a place for justice to be done and mercy to be meted out, as well. They were for unintentional manslaughter–so that justice was done but mercy was given, too.

And chapter 21 tells about the Levitical cities. These were the cities for the Levites. They didn’t get a territory of their own but got cities sprinkled throughout the land.

No one was left out.

Look at the summary of all of this in chapter 21, verses 43 through 45.

“So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

Here’s how to possess the promises: #3. GLAD-HEARTEDLY.

God had called their name and gave them their inheritance.

Just as He promised!

These are 9 chapters of proof [!] that God always keeps His promises.

“Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

And every one was a gift!

Did you notice the gift language? Inheritance is a gift word.

Notice also verse 43.

“So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

As a gift.

God is so gracious!

And that should unleash gladness in our hearts.

God is so gracious.

Do you know how gracious He is?

He not only gave land.

He gave His one and only Son.

That whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

That’s His promise!

And we can take hold of it.

Not half-heartedly.
But wholeheartedly.

Not whining, but winning.

And gladheartedly. So thankful for what God has promised for those who trust in Him.