The story so far …
Fighting for and conquering available territory can be arduous. Series 16 examines a need to positively engage with all the territories made available to us, and the obligation to help others win their territories. It invites an understanding that there is a purpose for achieving, beyond personal fulfillment.
Joshua 12 – 21; Joshua 21: 43
Joshua was alarmed by the look of incredulity on the faces of the captains of Israel as they crouched at the entrance to the tabernacle in Shiloh. Each of them wore robes trimmed with gold. They had scepters in their hands. Their feet were sandaled. They had become a source of terror to the entire land stretching around them.
The people were inundated with assets. They had worked hard to fight every challenge they met on the way. Applying strategies, corporate planning, aggression, and always prayer, they had become incredibly established in the lands before and beyond the Jordan. Their children had no idea what it was like to be hungry. Their wives were content. They felt strong in body, mind and spirit. And yet seven tribes were yet to receive their personal inheritances. The business of conquests had been long and tiring, full of reward, and not finished.
And Joshua had much to say as he surveyed the council of captains discussing the direction of the nation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation of the Lord. They looked an incongruous sight. Soldiers kneeling in prayer with maps spread before them, and their spears at their feet. An interesting and unashamed mixture of the spiritual and physical. Strong men humbled before the source of their strength.
Joshua spoke gently. ‘I am old and stricken in years: but there still remains yet very much land to be possessed. This is the land that yet remains: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri, from Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines: the Gazathites, and the Ashdonites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites: From the south, all the land……’
A hand shot up. Joshua stopped. It was Ram, of the house of Judah. He spoke slowly:
‘Captain of God’s hosts. Yeshua son of Nun. You have given to the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions: in the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country: We have fought and taken the lands of the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. We are content, and we are tired. Should those of us who have settled in our inheritances continue? Isn’t there a time that we should stop?’
The averted eyes around the circle told Joshua that Ram had expressed the heart of many.
He spoke back. ‘Should you feel tired when there is still work to do for the nation? Do we take territories for ourselves only? Must the weak not have your help?’
Jabez raised his hands. ‘We do not take and keep our territories for our selves only. We do it for the weak among us, and the generations with us. I was born in pain. I have experienced weakness. But for the strengthening hands of those with me, my life may have not have amounted to much. Please remember this when you just want to eat what is before you, wear the robe in your hand today, and forget that progress is only as strong as you are prepared to continue to be’.
Joshua looked into their eyes.
‘Soon I will be gone. Moses did his part and has been gone for a generation. Jabez is right. You are only as strong as how well you are prepared to work in your time and how strong your brother is. As things stand today, even those without their own territories have rest as long as they remain in the territories brought under our rule, because as a community, our law teaches us to share. But surely, you cannot feel full when your brother’s continued strength is only guaranteed by the magnanimity from your table? Must they live on the generosity of others, instead of having what they can also bequeath to their next generations? You are not complete until all is complete. Don’t fail your brothers. Don’t fail the next generation’
The secured scratched their beards and gave no answer. The unsecured looked around with anxious eyes. They knew that the territory given to Israel was vast. What they did not know was that it would take wars with thirty-one kings for Israel ‘to have rest all about them’.