Taking the Land.
Joshua 17-18, Acts 14
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?” – Joshua 18:3 ESV
As Joshua slowly began to divide up the land that had been conquered into portions for the various tribes of Israel, it became apparent that there was not enough land to go around. There were still seven tribes who had yet been given their allotments. But the problem wasn’t a lack of land, it was that the Israelites had not yet completed their job of dispossessing the current occupants of the land. So Joshua had to confront the people about their lack of initiative and follow through. God had given them the land. He had promised to give them victory over the inhabitants of the land. But they were still going to have to do their part, and until the did, many of them would miss out of the intended blessings of God. Over the Psalms, we have a prophecy regarding the rule and reign of Jesus as Messiah or King. It reads, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and i will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession’” (Psalm 2:7-8 ESV). God had promised to give an heir of David all the nations of the earth. That heir was Jesus, the rightful heir to the throne of David. When Jesus commissioned His disciples, He told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). In essence, Jesus was telling His disciples to “take the land.” They were to enter into enemy territory and take possession of it for the Kingdom of God. He had warned them that they were going to be like sheep among wolves, finding themselves in a constant battle with the forces of evil in the world. They would be arrested, beaten, and dragged before the authorities, but Jesus encouraged them, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12 ESV). They were in a war, but they would be backed by the power of God.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God had a job for His people to do. The Israelites were to take possession of the land, relying on the power of God and resting in the abiding presence of God. In the same way, the apostles were to take possession of the land in the name of the King, Jesus Christ, and claim it for His Kingdom. Jesus had commissioned them to go and spread the Good News to all the nations of the earth. They were to enter into enemy land and take possession of its inhabitants, making them citizens of the Kingdom of God. Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, Peter, and the others were soldiers in the army of God, doing battle with the powers of darkness and facing daily opposition to their cause. Their war wasn’t metaphorical. It was real and there were actual casualties, like Stephen, who had been stoned to death for proclaiming the name of Christ. Paul was stoned and left for dead in Lystra. He and Barnabas had been forced to flee from Iconium because the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles threatened to stone them to death. But “they continued to preach the gospel” (Acts 14:7 ESV). Even after his stoning, the next day Paul was in the city of Derbe, where he “preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples” (Acts 14:21 ESV). These men viewed themselves as commissioned members of the army of God. They were fighting on behalf of the cause of Christ, and were willing to risk anything and everything for their King and His Kingdom. God had promised to give the nations as an inheritance to His Son. These men were simply doing their part to make that promise possible. They were going places Jesus had never been. They were taking the message of the Kingdom of God to parts of the world where Jesus had never had the opportunity to go. Jesus had told His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12 ESV). This promise from Jesus has less to do with the quality of the works than their quantity. The sheer number of disciples moving out and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, backed by the power of God and equipped with the Spirit of God, would result in many more miracles taking place. There were be even more conversions. The Gospel would spread to places it had never been before. But only as faithful men did as they were told to do.
What does this passage reveal about man?
We have our part to play. God has chosen to make the message of His Son and His Kingdom made known through us. God has promised to give the nations to His Son as His inheritance. But as citizens of His Kingdom, it is our job to go before Him and take possession of what is already rightfully His. We must act as ambassadors and emissaries of His Kingdom, increasing the size and scope of His Kingdom on earth. This world belongs to God and His Son. It is currently occupied by enemy forces, those who oppose God and who refuse to acknowledge His Son as the rightful heir to the throne of God and as their King. Our job is to make the King known. Our obligation is to do battle with the forces of darkness, in order to set free all those who are held captive by the power of the enemy. Paul reminds us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV). We are in a battle. It will not be easy, but we know that the land belongs to our King. We know it has been promised to Him by our God. We fight on His behalf and have the full backing and authority of God behind us in the form of the Holy Spirit. But as Joshua said to the people of Israel, God asks us, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land…?” (Joshua 18:3 ESV). We must not become distracted by the cares of this world. We must not allow ourselves to fall prey to the lie that there are more important things for us to do. We have a commission. We have a job to do.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
It is amazing how easily I can allow living my life to take place of my true purpose as a child of God. I can make it all about me and my own comfort and happiness. But I have a job to do that has been given to me by God Himself. Paul, Barnabas, Stephen, and Peter were committed to the cause of Christ. It was the focus of their lives. It was their reason for being. They took their commission by Christ seriously and spent their days spreading the news of Christ’s Kingdom anywhere and everywhere. They entered into enemy territory, taking possession of the land for the name of Christ. They faced constant opposition. They lived with a real threat of danger. They knew that their lives could end just as Stephen’s had. But they didn’t hold back. They didn’t get distracted. They saw the size and scope of the need. They realized the vast nature of the task at hand. The land lay before them. It was theirs to take. And there is still territory that remains in enemy hands today. There are still those who are held captive and have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. It is our job to continue what the apostles began.
Father, give me a passion for Your cause. Give me a heart to fight for the Kingdom of Your Son. May I live my life like Paul, Barnabas and Peter did. Forgive me for making it all about my kingdom instead of Christ’s. Forgive me for getting distracted from the cause and allowing myself to put off what You have called me to do. Give Your church a renewed sense of calling and the courage to take the land in the name of Christ. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men