Joshua 18-19: Final Allotment
March 6, 2011 Series: Joshua: Lord's Army
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Joshua 18:1–19:51
Intro: Final Distribution
I learned this week that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has ordered up a new translation of the Bible, one intended to be “more accurate, more accessible and more poetic”. To that end, they have replaced a few words in the Bible. Among several changes, they have decided to drop the word BOOTY out of the Bible and replace it with SPOILS of WAR. Timely as since chapter 13, we have been talking about the spoils of war for Israel. For the last five chapters, we’ve read about Joshua distributing the land to four of the 12 tribe of Israel, representing the 12 sons of Jacob—2 ½ on one the eastside of the Jordan, and 1 ½ on the Westside. [MAP] Those sons include Rueben, Gad, Joseph (Manasseh and Ephraim), and Judah.
Chapters 18 and 19 describe the land portioned out the seven (7) remaining tribes on the West side of the Jordan. The northern boundary has been established by the sons of Joseph. The Southern boundary has been established with the sons of Judah. Now we deal with the land in-between.
Verse 1 says: Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The chapter begins with setting up the “worship center” at Shiloh just North of Jericho and South of Shechem—in the center of the land. Up until this point, the base of operations has remained at Gilgal. Gilgal is just East of Jericho where the Israelites set up a memorial of 12 stones to remind them of the Jordan Crossing. This is the first time the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) is mentioned in Joshua. This act signals a shift in possession of the land for Israel. It signals the putting down of roots, the final fulfillment of God’s promise to dwell in the land with Israel.
The Presence of God v. 1
The tabernacle was the portable church (tent) where God’s presence dwelt locally—his “home” when the Israelites travelled through the wilderness. It was made of wood, covered with heavy curtains, surrounded by a courtyard with different symbolic items, tables, including the Ark of the Covenant. It rested in the center of the camp with the different tribes organized around it. [PIC] At the end of Exodus, when the building and construction of the Tabernacle was first completed, God manifested his glory at this place. In the final verses of the book of Exodus, a completion of freedom from slavery is represented by the dwelling of God among his people: Exodus 40.34-38 Then the clouse covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. This is the first time that the tabernacle has been set up within the Promised Land. And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would SET OUT. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel through all of their journeys.
The Mission of God
The last time the tent of meeting was set up was in Deuteronomy 31, when Joshua was brought into the tent of meeting for his commissioning as Moses successor. Shortly thereafter, Moses dies and Joshua assumes leadership. The Tent of Meeting is broken down and Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land, following the Ark of the Covenant. God’s presence has been actively with them throughout the conquests. But now, the land subdued, they establish a place to worship in the presence of God. But in setting up a place where the presence of God will dwell in a special way, does not mean that their mission is complete. This has huge implications for us both personally and corporately. Individually, becoming a Christian means believing the news of Jesus, and in doing so, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. But it is a dwelling that moves us to action as we begin to live like Jesus. Corporately, it means that we gather as a church in the presence of God, to dwell with him and each other in a special way, does not mean our work is done. A gathered community and completed building is not a completed mission. We are not called to come and stay. We are commanded to come and go, to hear and proclaim, to gather and scatter, to learn and to teach. During his first coming, Jesus worked to build his church so that the church would continue to do His work until His Second coming.
Joshua Senses Comfort
There is joy in contentment but danger in comfort. Joshua sees the comfort of his people. And as Israel assembles to erect the tabernacle, to celebrate the new worship center, Joshua senses that a feeling of missional laziness and community comfort had overtaken them. Joshua not only saw that they were not doing anything he foresaw that they were not going to do anything.
The Land Subdued v. 2-3----------------------------------------------------------------
So Joshua speaks some hard words: There remained among the people of Israel seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you PUT OFF going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers has given you?”
Eager for Mine
The text makes a point to say that land lays subdued and there is much left open to possess. All that God had given for them to dwell in, is there for the taking. But for whatever reason, Israel refuses to move and in the middle of distributing land, they have stopped. And Joshua, a man of faith, a man of action, is now a man perturbed by their efforts and attitudes. He is not simply disappointed because they aren’t moving, but because they are disobeying God, ignoring his promises. Strangely, few commentators address verse 3 in Joshua because it feels weird for him to charge them for being LAZY or UNFAITHFUL because it seems like they are waiting on Joshua. Time has passed and there was, comparably, a distinct different in attitude of those who received the first distributions: CONSIDER….
- Transjordan Tribes: On the East Side of the Jordan, the three tribes approached Moses even before the crossed over. Though we could argue they were hasty in taking what they saw first, they were still EAGER to obtain their portion—to put roots down and live in what God had given them.
- Caleb: The first allocation on the West Side is to Caleb. Caleb, from the Tribe of Judah, was equally anxious to obtain his personal inheritance. As soon as the conquest is complete, Caleb is on the front step of Joshua’s tent asking for an inheritance.
- Manasseh & Ephraim: When Manasseh receives its allotment the Daughters of Zelophehad make sure that they obtain their own inheritance. They are eager to ensure they get what God promised them through Moses. And though we hear excuses in the complaint of Manasseh and Ephraim about what they get for a portion, they are at least concerned with getting a portion.
Subdued & Still
The seven remaining tribes, however, are not concerned with their individual portions. Joshua forsaw that they were not going to possess it—the signs were there. Land with low hanging fruit, promises by God, commands to posses, are not enough to move them. For whatever reasons, they are satisfied with what they have right now though it is not what God has said they have been given. And though they proved to be faithful, Joshua’s challenge means their example right now is one of unfaithfulness. WHY WON’T THEY MOVE? Why won’t you? Why don’t I?
1) Perhaps they are TIRED. They have been battling for 7 years. Maybe they are just exhausted by following God and doing God’s work. I did my time, fulfilled my work….back then.
2) Perhaps they are BORED. Maybe they have just lost interest in God’s work. Remember when doing God’s Work was exciting and enjoyable? We were always looking forward to the next conquest, fighting together, charging hills. Living at in homes and building farms doesn’t bring the thrill.
3) Perhaps they are just COMFORTABLE. Maybe they were just happy with their nomadic existence. They were part of something, but not really a part of something. If they didn’t have an individual portion, then they had no “extra” or “specific” responsibilities. No roots, no commitment, then there is nothing to steward or care for. (Sounds like people who hop around at churches).
Waiting on God whose waiting on You
Some will suggest that, perhaps, they were waiting on God. And while that is a tempting thought, it’s wrong considering Joshua’s reaction. The truth is, they were WAITING on GOD who was waiting on THEM to obey. They already KNEW God’s stated His promise and His plan. They actively refused to take any steps towards acting on His promises and according to His plan. Like us, they used the excuse that God hadn’t shown them their portion, the Spirit hadn’t told them EXACTLY what they were supposed to do and where. So, as they “wait” on a God (who had already spoken), they do nothing and still look “spiritual.” And it is not as though they were expected to run ahead of God’s direction, but in Joshua’s eyes, they’re dispositions were not ones pleading with the Spirit to give them a lot, to direct them, to show them where to move (not IF to). For us, God has said there are GOOD WORKS to do (Hebrews 10.24; Ephesians 2.8-10)—not to gain his approval but because, in Christ, you have it already. Just as it was clear that each tribe WOULD GET A PORTION, it is clear that you have a PORTION, WORK TO DO? Are you not asking because you actually want to avoid it?
So my question for you is, HOW LONG?
How long must it be before you start to live as God commands? How long it will it be before possess what God has given you to care for? How long before you step out of your comfort and begin to follow God? How long before you move out of your comfort zone?
The Land Surveyed v. 4-9a----------------------------------------------------------------
The challenge for Joshua is how to encourage people to actually to get moving, to act, to possess what God has already given them to do. How do you charge men and women to take what God has given them as a GIFT and to fulfill the responsibilities in stewarding that GIFT? The challenge for me as a pastor is, how do we get people on mission when they are comfortable living community? Joshua decides to force the issue and push them into action. He removes all excuses they might have and gives us an example: Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may SET OUT and GO UP and DOWN the land. They shall WRITE a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me. They shall divide it into seven portions.
Survey the Land as a community
The first thing Joshua does is have them SURVEY the LAND. To get them to move and obey, Joshua sends out teams of three to survey the land—to examine all they had been given to care for. There are a few things we learn. 1) They not only survey, but they write it down. Have you ever written a description of what is in the land—the various places you could battle. Why? It is something permanent. 2) And it is noteworthy that Joshua does not send out one guy to do the job—he sends out three. The survey of the land takes place in community? Why? Because we are blind to our own blindness. A survey of what our portions should come in conversations with our bride, our children, our leaders, and our friends. The book of Proverbs says there is wisdom in many counselors.
Assign the Land before the Lord v. 18.9b-19.48
Once they had written it down, once they had discussed it in their community, they brought it before the LORD. Then they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh, and Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion. This is a spirit led strategy. We are not dependent upon the wisdom of men, but we use it in submission to the counsel of God.
1. BENJAMIN (18.11) The lot of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to its clans came up, and the territory allotted to it fell between the people of Judah and the people of Joseph. Benjamin’s inheritance is given in detail.
2. SIMEON (19.1) The second lot came out for Simeon, for the tribe of the people of Simeon, according to their clans, and their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the people of Judah. This is the one tribe that takes a position within a tribe. Both Simeon and Levi had bad tempers and, as a result, Jacob’s final blessing said that both would be dispersed among Jacob (Genesis 48.5-7)
3. ZEBULUN (19.10) The third lot came up for the people of Zebulun, according to their clans.
4. ISSACHAR (19.17) The fourth lot came out for Issachar, for the people of Issachar to their clans.
5. ASHER (19.24) The fifth lot came out for the tribe of the people of Asher, according to their clans.
6. NAPHTALI (19.32) The sixth lot came out for the people of Naphtali, for the people of Naphtali, according to their clans.
7. DAN (19.40) The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the people of Dan, according to their clans.
Once the land is described the tribes can no longer claim ignorance. THERE IS A PORTION TO KNOW. Some of us have avoided actually writing it down (or reading what is written down already) so that we can claim we’re not responsible. As Jesus brother James wrote, “Those who know what to do and don’t, for him it is sin.” A description of a portion doesn’t force someone to live in it—it must be assigned.
Once the land is assigned—the tribes have no excuse not to settle and live in the place God has assigned. Gospel Living, mission, is both an individual and a corporate issue. Remember, the first description of the land, was given by God to Abraham—describing the ALL of the LAND of ISRAEL. There is an identity attached to the land. As a part of Israel, a certain way of life expected from all members of the family. God’s people live a certain way by nature of being God’s people This is the transformed life that Jesus brings. And though Israel had THE LAW giving them “rules”, they also had a sacrificial system to guarantee their forgiveness when they failed to meet it. We are freed from the Law through faith in Christ, protected by the perfect sacrifice of Christ when we fail, empowered (and expected) to live a life like Christ—as sons, daughters, men, women, husbands, fathers, wives, moms, etc.
You were both an Israelite and you were Israel. We are both Christians and the church. And within the church, there are portions are reserved for you. It is God’s intention for you to settle, not go from tribe to tribe so that you don’t have to commit to anything. God wants you to see the portion that is set before you, in as a family in God’s FAMILY. The Bible also says that you are an individual part of the body of Jesus. : 1Corinthians 12.14-20 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. There is more work to do. And being a part of the body is not optional, and being a part of the body means you are on mission. Now I am not, like Joshua, going to start and assigning lots here at Damascus Road. How long will sit and let your portion lay waiting?
Conclusion: The Inheritance for Joshua 19.49-50 The passage ends with speaking about the inheritance to Joshua himself. When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. By command of the LORD they gave him the city that he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he rebuilt the city and settled in it.
Caleb and Joshua
The end of the book takes us back to Numbers 13 and 14. The distribution of the land is bookended with faithfulness. It begins with Caleb and ends with Joshua. Through Scripture records a promise to Caleb for an inheritance, a promise to Joshua is never recorded. The city is Joshua’s personal possession as it does not appear in Ephraim’s tribal list, or any other list. Even Caleb’s city, Hebron, is mentioned elsewhere as a city of refuge and a levitical city. Again, without guarantee, one man’s faithfulness results in blessing for he and his family. More than that, one man’s faithfulness results in blessing for all of Israel. More than that, one man’s faithfulness results in blessing for the world.
Why Joshua? Why Jesus?
Why did Joshua do this? Did he love the regard that came with leading? Maybe. Did he enjoy the thrill battle? Maybe. Did he love the people of Israel? Maybe. I believe that Joshua’s primary motivation for faithfulness to his portion and to his people, was about a love for God himself. There was nothing in it for himself but only an opportunity to honor God, Creator of all things. And the first Yeshua, points us to the true 2nd Yeshua, Jesus. Jesus did not redeem men for the benefit it brought to himself, but out of a love for God. And it is this primary love for God Himself that manifested an amazing, impossible, immeasurable love, that changes everything. Know that any question asking HOW LONG will it be before you before you act on the command and promises of God, is really a question of HOW LONG will it be before you orient your life toward glorifying God above all else. Know that as you come to table, you make a confession of participation in the death of Jesus and the LIFE of Jesus.
How long before you act on God’s promises. How long before you believe you were saved for more than to sit in the comfort of our salvation. There are two kinds of people here, those who need to be converted to Jesus and those who need to be converted to living like Him. Ephesians 2.5-10 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.