Sermon 03/27/2022 KaB FKB V. Aßmann
Strong and brave
Gifted and talented
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
1. HIS country
After almost 40 years in the desert, Joshua had gone dry with the people of Israel through the flood-waters of the Jordan and arrived in the land of Canaan, which God had promised for a long time.
After 7 years of fighting (against 31 kings and their inhabitants) Israel had gained control of the land which was now divided up and assigned to the tribes.
Joshua dismisses the army because from then on it was the responsibility of each tribe to drive the remaining enemies out of their own territory. Joshua again urges the people to be faithful to God so that they can remain in the land. The land promised by God was Israel’s earthly inheritance.
For us today, in the Bible, there is actually no promised inheritance on earth at all, no country, no city, no success, no possessions, but a spiritual inheritance that has many effects here and now.
For Israel and her inheritance, on earth and beyond, there is one requirement very clearly stated by God: …if they would live faithfully in faith in God and in obedience.
And God’s demands on us—loyalty and obedience—apply to us throughout our lives.
Joshua 11:23: “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.”
They had reached their goal, but not everything was done by a long shot. The country had to be distributed and taken, and there were always dangers and enemies in the country.
Jos.13:6-7: The remaining order: Take the land!
“As the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did, and they divided the land.” (Joshua 14:5)
We will not look at the detailed instructions for the distribution and taking of the land by the 9 1/2 tribes. The other 2 1/2 tribes had received their lands east of the Jordan as an inheritance from God, but marched through the Jordan with the large other part of the people in order to defeat the mighty in Canaan together. (18.7)
But a tribe didn’t get its own land at all, but a very special inheritance, namely cities and lands among the other tribes. The Levites had a special heritage because they had a special commission from God (18:7):
The tribe of Levi was dedicated to the service of God. The Levites needed more time and mobility than landowners could muster. Giving them land would have burdened them with obligations and ties that would have hindered their service to God. Instead, God ordered the other tribes to support the Levites through donations. (see Numbers 35:2-4)
The task of the Levites was to lead the services and to teach God’s word (the Torah).
” However, Moses had not assigned any land to the tribe of Levi as an inheritance, for the Lord, the God of Israel, was himself his inheritance, as He had promised .” (Josh.13:14+33!!)
They had a special position and importance for the whole people and they should live a very special dependence on God.
Shiloh was the first place for the permanent location of the Ark of the Covenant (18:1-2)
1. Free cities to protect people who had accidentally killed someone (accidental manslaughter (Joshua 20) → protection from arbitrariness and revenge.
2. Cities for the Levites (Joshua 21): for the priests, the descendants of Aaron (21:19) 48 cities with pasture land around, (21:41) in the land of each tribe.
” So the Lord gave to the Israelites all the land that He had promised to the ancestors of the people, and they took it and settled in it. And the Lord gave them peace all around, as He had sworn to the ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the LORD gave them victory over them. Not a single promise made by the Lord went unfulfilled. They all came.” (21:43-45)
→ They lived in tension: The land – promised by God and yet the challenge to take the land yourself!
And above all stands the faithfulness of God!
And God’s claim on the faithfulness of His people.
“But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (22:5)
→ Caution – do not get full, disobedient and indifferent…!!
Walking the fine line between faithfulness to God and falling away from Him (22:10ff)
→ The second altar in Gilead was to be a “monument” (22:27+28)
“ MY/HIS country”: This is a very special topic in the Bible from which we can learn a great deal.
Many years before, God had given clear rules for life in this country
…. “When you come into the land that I am giving you…” (Leviticus 25:1)
- Every 7th year shall be a Sabbath year when the land is not farmed! God promises a triple harvest in the 6th year, so that there will be enough for the 7th year and the next year’s seed.
- Every 50 years (the Jobel or Judgment year) all land shall revert to the original owner (heirs of God) and his family!
“ This 50th year shall be holy for you and you shall proclaim liberation for all its inhabitants throughout the land. It shall be a year of jubilee for you, in which each of you shall receive again the possessions he inherited, and each may return to his family.” (Leviticus 25:10)
Why? What’s behind it?
” You shall not cheat your countrymen, but fear your God. For I am the LORD your God.” (25:17)
” …reverence your God…!” (25:36)
“ The land must not be sold forever, for it belongs to me (God). You are just strangers and guests living in my country . “ (25,23)
” I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.” (25:38)
“ For the Israelites are mine; they are mine because I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (25:55) → Therefore no enslavement of Israelites forever, but only for a maximum of 49 years!
→ Obedience and trust in God: The land should only be farmed for 6 years and in the 7th year have a “Sabbath year”.
God’s promise: The harvest of the 6th year shall be 3 times as large as normal.
→ You won’t get richer if you trust in your performance and constantly cultivate the land.
In the 50th year, all land reverts to the original owners (heirs of God’s land) → God’s No to “Monopoly Games”!
→ Stop materialism and the enrichment of individuals. Principle of social responsibility and justice!
→ It is the principle of the entrusted land.
And above all stood God’s speeches to His people:
” Keep yourselves to my rules and obey my laws exactly, so you will live safely in the land!” (Leviticus 25:18)
Or differently: If you are not faithful to me (God), you will lose the country again!
What does that mean for you and me today?
Doesn’t it ultimately depend on us what God gives us?
The fact remains: God gives Israel the promised land and yet they will lose it again centuries later. And through faith in Jesus, God gives us forgiveness and eternal life as His children. But it also applies: This is not a blank check from God for a great life, regardless of whether we trust and obey HIM or not. God’s claim on your and my life is: Follow me! Live in my ways and trust me!
And there is still enough left, for which applies: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28), even if we cannot see it in some places.
The equation “just believe and you will be fine” doesn’t work that way.
We cannot and do not need to earn God’s love and faithfulness, but anything other than our love and trust in God is not befitting of God’s children.
2. YOU are unique and one of a kind!
From the situation that we read in the book of Joshua, we can apply and transfer many principles to ourselves.
Each tribe gets its own piece of land allotted and borrowed from God . But every tribe must also own and occupy this land and live there in God’s order and His peace! It is always both: gift and responsibility!
“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)
→ If you don’t use your God-given gift(s) for God, people and the community, you belittle God’s grace and you make yourself guilty towards God, the community and the world!
Just as every Israelite received a piece of land in Canaan, each of us received gifts from God (charisms) and thus the responsibility to accept and use these gifts.
Each of us has also received a corresponding calling from God with the gift – we have to discover it and live it out, otherwise something around us will remain idle!
1 Cor.12:7 : “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”
By using our gifts from God, we show what God is like!! And every Christian who leaves his gifts and callings, whether left or right, misses the opportunity to show others God and His nature and greatness.
→ Take possession of your “land”, your gifts from God and live in it for the glory of God!
The list of conquered kings in Canaan in Josh.12 shows: The land is conquered, conquered. The rest of the book warns: Now take possession of the land!
>Nobody gets everything. But everyone gets something from the land of God. Expels the remaining enemies. Build your houses. Cultivates the fields. Find your place and take it!< (Max Lucado)
>We owe our inheritance (alone) to God’s grace and it is the same for everyone. ( → Children of God and joint heirs of Jesus Christ – Eph.1:11)
” As His children we are also joint heirs in His wealth – for everything that God gives to His Son Christ also belongs to us.” (Romans 8:17)
Our concrete gifts and tasks are tailor-made. There are no two snowflakes alike. There are no two identical fingerprints. Why should there be two identical talents.<
Do you know what God wants from you? What makes you so unique? Have you recognized the qualities that make you different from everyone else? Do not compare yourself to others, but take your “land” and live in your gifts and your vocation!!
“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” (Gal.6:4)
Be yourself because nobody is like you! And take your place and fulfill your mission with the gifts God has given you, because nobody else can do it like you!
“Relive the gift that God’s spirit has placed in you!” (2 Tim.1:6)
3. Stay tuned!
” How long will you wait before you possess the land which the LORD, the God of your ancestors, gave you?” (Joshua 18:3)
Jesus’ parable of the “pounds” entrusted to him… Burying the gifts and leaving them unused is a great problem, yet many Christians do it. Here lies your and my responsibility!!! Also the responsibility not to throw down and quit or give up!
Caleb….45 years later, after exploring Canaan, after 40 years in the desert says:
Another spirit, trusting in the Lord and strong and bold in it! ( Numbers 14:24)
What traces has life left in your thinking, heart and faith? For Caleb it says 8 times in Joshua 14 “THE LORD”. Those were the marks in Kaleb’s life!
” Do not allow your hearts to be completely terrified or weakened with fear!” (John 14:27)
” I fought the good fight…” Paul in 2 Tim.
Kaleb is not asking God for a retirement on the couch, but for a challenge yet to come. Caleb’s courage distinguishes him to rely on God’s promises and to fight against the giants, the Anakites, in his old age.
He gets his own piece of land in Judah’s inheritance (Joshua 15:13-19)
Among other things, Caleb conquers Hebron, the place that once belonged to Abraham and where Abraham was buried. (Joshua 14:13-15)
Caleb’s example: faithfulness to God’s call and commission not only for a certain time, but for the whole life!!!
7 tribes had not yet taken land.
” How long will you wait before you possess the land which the LORD, the God of your ancestors, gave you?” (18:3)
What else has to happen before you accept God’s promise and commission?
What are the causes of giving up or not even starting? Discouragement, comfort, wrong priorities, well-furnished sofa life…
Especially in our time today, many people and also many Christians allow themselves to be captivated by the insecurity caused by the cruel war instigated by Vladimir Putin or by Corona, among other things, and sit spellbound like a rabbit in front of the snake.
But the story of Joshua and that of the entire Bible shows us something else:
God is great, always has been and still is greater than anything that can terrify us!
I wish you and I wish the freshness, courage and faith of young and old Caleb until Jesus comes again!
Accept the challenges of your life and tackle them with God’s help and courage!
Caleb had a “changed spirit, and he was undeterred, and trusted in me (God)…” (Numbers 14:24)