Still Work To Be Done.
“Now Joshua was old and advanced in years when the LORD said to him, ‘You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land remains to be possessed.’“ – Joshua 13:1 NASB
Joshua is probably 80 years old at this point in time. Since entering the Promised Land, he has been a busy guy. He has led the people of God in their conquest of the land and helped them defeat 31 different kings. But they are far from done. After seven years of fighting the people of God occupied very little of the land. “Very much” of it remained for them to possess. Now it was going to be up to the individual tribes to finish what Joshua has begun. There would be no more large-scale battles involving the combined forces of Israel. Instead, each tribe would be responsible for the lands allotted to it. While the major cities and military threats had been taken care of, there were still going to be serious work required to purge the land of its remaining inhabitants. The goal was not to completely eliminate other people groups from the land, but to ensure that Israel was in control and had eliminated all remaining threats to its rightful possession of the land.
The next chapters are going to relate the dividing up of the land to the various tribes. That was the easy part. Now the real work would be the actual taking possession of the various territories by each of the tribes. This was going to require real faith. The people of God were not to be content with the conquests of Jericho and Ai, or the defeat of the 31 kings mentioned in chapter 13. They had much more to do. This is all about the inheritance that God had promised them. He had given them this land, but they were the ones who would have to conquer and colonize it with God’s help.
“Resisting the temptation to skip over this section of Joshua [chs. 13—21] can result in an appreciation of important features of God’s covenant with Israel. Beyond the obvious detail of the content of these chapters and the means by which God blessed those who remained faithful in the conquest of the land, this passage also addresses the question why the land formed so significant a part of God’s promises to the patriarchs and remained a key feature of the covenant.” – Richard S. Hess, Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary
Eleven different times in chapter 13 the word “inheritance” is used in speaking of the land. This land was God’s gift to His people, but they had to take possession of it. They had to conquer it. They had to colonize it. This was going to require effort on the part of the people. It would not be easy. The inhabitants of the land did not roll over and play dead. They were going to put up a fight. The same is true for us as believers. We have been promised abundant life, not just in the future, but now. But to experience and enjoy it requires that we “take possession” of it. We must purge our lives of the remnants of sin that remain.
“…throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception.” – Ephesians 4:22 NLT
“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.” – Colossians 3:9 NASB
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” – Galatians 5:24 NIV
“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.” – Colossians 3:5 NLT
For most of us, “very much of the land remains to be possessed.” We are not experiencing the fullness of life promised by God and made possible by Christ. Why? Because we have allowed a lot of our sinful habits to remain. We have not remained faithful to work alongside the Holy Spirit allowing Him to purge our lives of our old sin nature. Like Israel, we have failed to finish the task at hand. “But the Israelites failed to drive out the people of Geshur and Maacah, so they continue to live among the Israelites to this day” (Joshua 13:13 NLT). Let’s allow God to finish what He has begun.
Father, You are not finished in my life. But I can easily become content with where I am. I can grow complacent in my faith journey and become perfectly fine with the status quo. But You have called me to more. You have promised more. Never allow me to remain satisfied with less than Your best for me. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men