Saturday, February 4, 2012

Joshua 1-12: The Rightful Owner

Psalm 24:1 declares, "The Earth is the Lord's, and all the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell within."

Allow me to introduce you to Queen Annabelle Eloise Burns and her court.

Basically, we serve her every need.  Hence our existence.  At least that's how she sees it.
Her highness lives a hard life.  She owns a house and has to keep up with her servants all day, thus exhausting her.  She ends her day by playing for about 45 minutes then taking a nap on her large couch.  Of course, she also owns the front and back yards as well.  She defends it from countless, relentlessly vicious foes like squirrels, rabbits, and cats.

Her highness after a long day of ruling the house.
Queen Ellie clearly owns this house.  But does she really?  I'm pretty sure she doesn't pay the mortgage.  Nor did she build it.  Nor does she mow the yard or tend the flowerbeds.  Though Ellie thinks that she owns it, in reality she has no claim.

The same is true of the peoples whom Joshua conquered.  In Joshua 1:10-11 the author recounts the scene as Joshua gives his orders, "...command the people, 'prepare your provision, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land the Lord is giving you to possess.'"  Later, in chapter 6, the city of Jericho falls, becoming the first of many peoples to fall before the armies of the Lord.

Putting this in context is essential to understanding the text.  First, these people had been given many chances to repent over the course of history (see Noah and the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc).  Second, they were possessing a land that was purposed for another people - the covenant people of God.  Those who looked to Yahweh, even a prostitute such as Rahab, were spared.  The fact of the matter is that it was never about the land, it was about a people whose hearts were turned towards Yahweh.  This seen further when the anger of Yahweh burned against his own people in Chapter 7.  Why?  Because Achan had disregarded the things of the Lord, and his heart had turned away.  The result is Israel's stunning defeat at Ai (more on this incident next time).  The people occupying this land, with the notable exception of Rahab, had no desire to serve Yahweh and therefore could not be a part of his people.

In many ways we are just like Ellie and consequently just like those from whom Joshua took the Promised Land.  By nature, we are those who are living on the Lord's land and claiming it as our own.  Just like Ellie thinks she rules the house, but in fact does not, we often think we rule our possessions, our time, and our money.  Just like the Lord could see fit to do with the land of Jericho as he pleases, so he can do with our possessions and our lives.  The essence of the matter is that we all have blind spots in which we fail to recognize the sovereign rule of God.  In what areas are you ruling where you should be submitting?  Your family?  Your house?  Your job?  Your money?  Your marriage?  Your singleness?

Thankfully, unlike these people occupying the Promised Land, the necessary blood has already been shed for us.  The end result for a lack of submission before a Holy God is not laying prostrate before a victorious general awaiting the judgment of the Lord.  We who are in Christ instead lay before a beaten and bloodied King who died so that when the final judgment comes, we will stand blameless.  Though those outside the covenant experienced the patience of God for centuries, they never experienced the grace of God.  So let's move forward in life recognizing those territories that are rightly His and submitting accordingly, all the while knowing that our eternity is not forfeit for our failings.  But also be aware, just like Israel was subject to the discipline of God at Ai, so our lives are subject as well.  Therein lies the topic of the next post.  Just as the Lord can choose to take away, so he can choose whether to give... (to be continued, I suppose)

Grace and Peace,

Burns

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