Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Mar 15, Jos 16-18

Today's readings are Jos 16-18.

With the land west of the Jordan determined by the casting of lots, Ephraim and Manasseh occupy land in the middle of Canaan. Israel displays complete trust in the Lord in the casting of the lots. Ephraim gets its land first, some of the most fertile ground in the region because Joseph pronounced a greater blessing over Joseph's younger son and his descendants. Ephraim is unsuccessful in defeating Gezer but takes its people as servants (Jos 16:10). Manasseh also fails at overcoming all the cities in its allotment (Jos 17:12).

Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph’s descendants) complain that their land is too small, even though they have some of the most generous allocations (Jos 17:14). Joshua determines that their problem is not the size of their land but their unwillingness to take all they have been allocated and encourages them to drive out the rest of the Canaanites (Jos 17:15).  The land has been promised, they have seen how God delivers on His promises, but their fear overrides their faith. They come up with excuses as to why they’re unable to take possession (Jos 17:16). Not only do they fail to trust in God, but it also seems the two tribes would like to enjoy the blessings without doing the work!

The Tabernacle is erected in Shiloh (Jos 18:1). This significant detail should not be overlooked. It establishes God as a permanent presence in the land and places His seal on Canaan as a holy land, the Holy Land! With victory affirmed by God's ongoing presence and a firm foundation built, Joshua encourages the remaining tribes to take their lands (Jos 18:2-7). The wanderings of the Jews have come to an end. They are no longer homeless nomads but now have an earthly home with God. 

Benjamin gets a small portion situated between Ephraim and Judah (Jos 18:11-28). This places Benjamin between two tribes that will fall into conflict with each other in the future. We will also see that Simeon will occupy the land within the borders of Judah in concert with Jacob's blessing in Gen 19:7. The allotments are prophetic. Eventually, all the tribes north of Benjamin and Judah will form the Northern Kingdom leaving Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin to comprise the Southern Kingdom. Dan, who initially receives an allotment along the prosperous coastline north of Judah, will prove to be in a fluid situation. 

To summarize, the land continues to be allotted, and the tribes begin to occupy their areas as we will see in the next few chapters. There are notable exceptions. Judah is unable to drive all the Jebusites out of Jerusalem (Josh 15:3). The Geshurites and the Maacathites remain (Josh 13:13). As we’ve already seen, Canaanites remain among Manasseh (Josh 17:12). Ephraim is unable or unwilling to entirely defeat the Canaanites (Josh 17:16). 

All these things happen in spite of the Lord's admonition to take the land by being "strong and courageous" 
(Josh 1:5-6). Did God miss something or did His people lack strength and courage? Neither. God’s plan is still in process and working according to His timeline, neither Joshua’s nor ours.

Nonetheless, the willingness to allow some pagans to remain is most likely the early evidence of spiritual slippage and weakness among the Hebrews in the Holy Land. God has repeatedly shown His faithfulness which His children have repeatedly shown they lack. The Jews' reluctance or unwillingness to complete the job will have disastrous effects as we will see in the Book of Judges.  

Lest we find ourselves too critical of Israel, we should understand that their weakness can quickly become ours. This is how backsliding starts, with a small, seemingly inconsequential infraction that can grow into a destructive movement away from God. This is why God encouraged His people to be "strong and courageous" early on. They would have to depend on God's promises, not their circumstances. This would take courage when things got rough. It is also why He was adamant about removing all leaven
. Any leaven allowed to remain had the potential to contaminate all their food and slow them down. Likewise, any sin allowed to remain in the Promised Land could contaminate their entire lives and draw them away from God, hindering their sanctification. 

These are two of the themes of Joshua that should be lessons for us. We should take courage in the word of God, even when we seem to be failing. We should ruthlessly eliminate sin from our lives. 

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