June 10, 2010 David Balzer

Joshua 13-21: God delivered, and is delivering, on his promises

Today’s chapters are Joshua Chapters 13 to Ch 21. Inclusive. That’s nine chapters of lists and lists of names. Towns and rivers and mountains you’ve never heard of. Boundary markers and plots of land. Lots and lots of “lots”.

You may have noticed that we didn’t read it all. We skipped over whole chapters.

Put your hand up if you’ve got the sneaking suspicion that these chapters are BORING.

Put your hand up if you’ve got the sneaking suspicion that these chapters AREN’T RELEVANT to us. Perhaps that they were never relevant to ANYONE.

Surely, if there was ANY part you could skip over/ this would be it, right?

I must admit that I thought exactly the same thing on Monday morning when I realised what I was preaching on this week.

Yet I believe what Paul said in 2 Timothy. ALL Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. And that means Joshua Chapter 13 to chapter 21. God promises it.

Matthew Henry wrote his famous commentary on the Bible nearly 300 years ago. But he got it right, when he described the right attitude to these chapters.

“And therefore we are not to skip over these chapters of hard names as useless/ and not to be regarded; where God has a mouth to speak and a hand to write/ we should find an ear to hear and an eye to read; and God give us a heart to profit.”

That’s the attitude I want US to have. To trust God. That he has something USEFUL to say to us.

Our problem is that we see BOUNDARY PEGS/ when we should see PROMISES ANSWERED/ And we see PLACE NAMES when we should see AN INHERITANCE.

What did you see at your house this morning? Boundary pegs and place names, or promises and an inheritance?

Did you see a floor that needed vacuuming, children who argued, only weetbix left for breakfast. Did you have trouble deciding what to wear? Or which of your friends you’d ask to come for lunch today? Did you see rubbish that needed to go out?

Or did you see promises completed?

God promises that if we seek first his kingdom, he’ll give us all the material things we need. Food, clothes, housing. Even taking out the rubbish is a sign that we have more stuff than we need.

Even in the mundane and everyday, we should see God’s goodness and provision. PROMISES and an INHERITANCE/ rather than BOUNDARY PEGS AND PLACE NAMES.

We should see more than just LOTS OF LOTS.

I think the reason we DON’T see it that way/ when we get to Joshua/ is because it’s not OUR inheritance.

Imagine that Rob O’Connor received a registered letter this week. From a solicitor in Ireland. And he discovers, to his great surprise, that he’s the closest surviving relative of his Great Aunt – Hilda Mary O’Connor. Poor old dear died of liver failure. 92 years old. Years of drinking a bottle a day of fine Irish whiskey finally took its toll!

And she’s left everything to ROBERT. And inside the letter are pages and pages of all the things he’s inherited. An itemised account of houses and cars, and priceless furniture, fine art, and antiques. Holiday houses is the south of France.

My guess is that no matter how long the list was/ Robert would never get bored reading through it. It’s HIS INHERITANCE. It’s great news. In fact, the longer it is, the BETTER the news.

And this would have been the case with these chapters of Joshua/ for the original readers. We’ve come across the phrase several times already in Joshua – “And they’re still there to this day”. It’s likely the book of Joshua was put together within a generation – maybe 40 years – of the original conquest.

And so this is great news for the people reading it. This is THEIR LAND that’s being described. THEIR INHERITANCE. God’s promise fulfilled TO THEM.

So that’s the attitude I want us to have as we look at these chapters. It’s great news/ because God’s delivered on his promises.

That’s what it says right at the END of these chapters. God’s done it. He’s finally come good on all his promises. Turn to the end of Ch 21. Verse 43.

(Josh 21:43-45 NIV)  So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. {44} The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. {45} Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

Not ONE of God’s promises failed. They all came to pass. That’s not a bad record!

And what WERE those promises?

Firstly, they had THE LAND. (Verse 43) They took possession of it. And they settled there.

But it wasn’t just the land. Verse 44 says they had REST. Rest on every side. Rest from TRAVELLING. Rest from WAR. Rest from HARDSHIP.

Land and rest.

But how did the people respond to these wonderful promises? Let’s flick back a few chapters to look at TWO different responses. One’s an example to FOLLOW. And the other’s an example to AVOID.

a)    an example to follow

Firstly, the example to FOLLOW. Turn back to chapter 14. Verse 6. It’s about Caleb.

You’ll remember that Caleb was the only other man who’d been in Egypt, apart from Joshua. And who’d actually made it this far. Everyone else had died in the desert.

Joshua and Caleb were the only two spies who’d trusted God. They’d gone in to check out the land. And even though it was filled with giants, they’d believed that God could deliver on his promises. They tried to convince the people to take God at his word. And to go in and fight. But everyone else was too scared.

And that’s what Caleb reminds Joshua of. Verse 7.

(Josh 14:7-8 NIV)  I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, {8} but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.

And then he reminds Joshua of what God promised him. Verse 9.

(Josh 14:9 NIV)  So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’

And good old Caleb’s STILL trusting God. He’s lost none of his faith, OR his energy. Look at v10

(Josh 14:10-12 NIV)  “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! {11} I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. {12} Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

God’s promised it, and now Caleb’s ready to take it. DESPITE his old body. DESPITE it still being full of giant Anakites. DESPITE it being full of large, fortified cities.

He’s sure that God will help him/ because God’s already promised it.

Notice that Caleb doesn’t MISUNDERSTAND God’s promise. He recognises that he still has to WORK for it. It’s not going to happen as long as he just sits back, puts his feet up, and expects God to do everything.

Just like we’ve seen so much in this book/ GOD WORKS OUT HIS PURPOSES IN PARTNERSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE. God’s promises are always DEPENDANT on his people being obedient.

(pasue) God’s promised it/ and Caleb has the faith to step up/ and take hold of the promise. And Ch 15 describes how he does it. He conquers the same region that God promised him.

b) An example to avoid

But in the very next chapter, Ch 16, we learn about an example to AVOID. The very OPPOSITE of Caleb’s attitude. This time/ it’s the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

Have a look at v12 of Ch 16. We just get a list of all the towns that God promises them. But then we get to v12.

(Josh 17:12-13 NIV)  Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. {13} However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.

The Canaanites were determined to live there. It doesn’t really seem like much of a reason, does it! After all that God’s done to bring to this point. The only thing that’s stopping them/ is that the Canaanites were determined to live there!

It says more about the determination of the Manassites (or lack of it) than it does about the Canaanites!

And then because they can’t be bothered to drive them out, they don’t have enough room to live. And so they come whinging to Joshua. Verse 14

(Josh 17:14 NIV)  The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people and the LORD has blessed us abundantly.”

But Joshua won’t have any of it. If there’s not enough room where it’s easy, they should go into the hills, and clear some land for themselves. Verse 15.

(Josh 17:15 NIV)  “If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.”

But even THAT’S too much work for them. They don’t want to clear forests, and they don’t want to drive out Canaanites from the cities. They’d rather just have everything handed to them on a silver platter. And so they come back to Joshua. Verse 16.

(Josh 17:16-18 NIV)  “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”

{17} But Joshua said to the house of Joseph–to Ephraim and Manasseh–” You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment {18} but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, YOU CAN DRIVE THEM OUT.”

That’s the truth. They CAN drive them out. But unless they DO IT/ then God’s promise to them won’t be fulfilled.

Two different reactions to God’s wonderful promises. One an example to FOLLOW. And one an example to AVOID.

2. The rest of “the rest”

But how do we FOLLOW Caleb’s example? What does it mean to act in faith on God’s promises TODAY? Israel had IT’s rest, but where’s ours? Where’s the rest of the rest?

Obviously, God doesn’t promise us a LITERAL land filled with rest. But his word is FULL of promises.

And that’s what you’ve got inside your newssheet today. A list of God’s promises. It’s not a COMPLETE list – you can probably think of verses I’ve left off.

But they’re promises to YOU. So I want you to write your name in the space. God’s promises to Jolene. God’s promises to Robert. God’s promises to Grant. Write it in NOW.

I came up with 24 different categories. And even though it’s a long list/ I DARE YOU to read through it, and think it’s boring. Or repetitive. Because this is an itemised account of your Father’s inheritance to YOU.

If you are one of God’s children, then these promises are for you. And if you’re NOT one of his children, I DARE YOU to read through this list, and decide at the end of it that you DON”T WANT to be one of his children.

If you’re not one of God’s children, or not SURE whether you are/ FOR GOD’s sake, see me about it. I’d LOVE to show you how you can be sure that these are promises for YOU.

So let’s quickly skim through the list. It starts off with a promise that God’s promises can be trusted. Just in case the book of Joshua hasn’t convinced you already.

(Num 23:19 NIV)  God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

And then God promises you REST, he promises you PROTECTION. He promises you WISDOM and GUIDANCE and PEACE.


His promises to ABRAHAM came true. He delivered on his promise of SENDING THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL. He’s promised you that HIS HOLY SPIRIT lives in you.

JESUS HIMSELF is a promise fulfilled. As is HIS RESURRECTION.

God promises to FORGIVE you, and TO ADOPT YOU AS HIS CHILD.

He promises you that Jesus is PREPARING A PLACE for you, and that he’ll RETURN TO JUDGE. And on that day of judgement, He promises you AN INHERITANCE. A CROWN OF LIFE. An eternity with him. An eternity full of REST.

And while it’s not a PHYSICAL land you’re promised. HE does promise you a SPIRITUAL country. A heavenly city. And a new heavens and a new earth.

Put your hand up if you’re bored with THAT!

But we need to make sure that we have the attitude of Caleb, rather than that of Ephraim and Manasseh. We need to take hold of those promises, and make sure they apply to us. We can’t just sit back, and do nothing. Let’s look at one in particular. Promise number 23. The promise of eternal rest.

Heb 4:1 gives us a promise. But also a warning. God promised PHYSICAL rest ot Israel. But most of them missed out. And we shouldn’t fall into the same mistake they made.

(Heb 4:1 NIV)  Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

God has PROMISED it to us. But we need to take hold of it. To live in obedience to God. To make sure that we don’t miss out.

We need to follow Caleb’s example, rather than that of Manasseh and Ephraim.

A few verses on in Heb 4/ it expands on these two ideas of a promise and a warning. Heb 4 v 9.

(Heb 4:9-11 NIV)  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; {10} for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. {11} Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

Make every effort. Continue in obedience and faith. May your declaration at the end of your life/ be like that of Caleb – “So here I am today, eighty-five years old! {11} I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.

God has given you many wonderful promises. And he WILL deliver on them.

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