Joshua 11: Obedience and Inheritance

Read: Joshua 11: Obedience and Inheritance

Joshua spends one chapter recounting the conquest of the northern regions of Canaan. The chapter closes giving a summary statement of the conquest: Joshua did as the Lord commanded and Israel received the inheritance that had been promised to them some generations before (Numbers 26:52-55). The chapter constant refers to Joshua as the servant of Moses because Joshua was carrying out commands that Moses had received from the Lord and given to Joshua. And constantly the chapter recounts Joshua doing just as the Lord had commanded Moses. When verse 23 connects the inheritance of the land of Canaan with something that had been repeated over and over namely obedience to the commands of the Lord, it is making a point: the Israelites received the inheritance of Canaan because they were obedient. The previous generation lacked faith and grumbled against God and did not receive the inheritance. Instead, they wandered the wilderness for 40 years until the next generation was ready to conquer the land.

The latter parts of Joshua (Chapters 14-19) talk about the inheritance that each of the tribes of Israel received after the conquest. For the Israelites, there was a separation between real estate and personal possessions. Leviticus 25 makes some interesting remarks concerning land. First, living on the land that God had given the Israelites was connected to their obedience to the law. God says that if they obey his statues they will live securely on the land. Second, the land actually belongs to God and the people living on it are “aliens” sojourning with God. Third, the land was supposed to be permanently possessed by the original grantee, so in the event that the land was land was sold, it was sold with the option to reclaim it later on and there was a guarantee that the land would be returned during the Year of Jubilee. All in all, the land was supposed to be an inheritance given by God to the particular peoples who received it so they could live on it and receive blessings from it as they obeyed the commands of God.

When Christ came, he revealed a better inheritance: the kingdom of God which is everlasting and imperishable (1 Peter 1:4, Matthew 25:34, Ephesians 1:18, Hebrews 9:15). For the Christian then, inheritance is not associated with a piece of real estate on earth; rather an eternal (that is perpetual and everlasting) blessing that comes from being with God. On two occasions, Jesus is asked what a person must do to inherit eternal life:

  • Mark 10:17-22 recounts the story of a wealthy man that came and asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus says to the man, obey the commandments. The man says he had done so since he was a child, but Jesus comes back and tells him that he must sell all that he has and give it to the poor. The man went away sad because he had great wealth. The problem with the man is not that he was a bad person, but that his conception of inheritance and obedience kept him from seeing the better blessing that came from Christ.
  • On another occasion (Luke 10:25-37), a teacher of the law stands up and asks the same question and Jesus asks him what the law says. This man answers according to the scriptures quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and in these things the law is summarized. Jesus tells them to do these things, and he will live. The man wanted to “justify” himself and asked who his neighbor was. Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan – the point being that everyone is one’s neighbor from the most familiar to the complete stranger. In order to love one’s neighbor, one must love everyone without exceptions.

In effect, the means to inheritance is no different from what it was for the Jews. The Jews first believed in God, then followed the commands of God. For Christians the same is true. The difference, however, is that the inheritance is no longer land, rather eternal and imperishable. Hebrews 10:1 notes that the things mentioned in Hebrews 9 were only shadows of things to come, and among those things were the inheritance. Christians, therefore, ought to long for the imperishable, everlasting inheritance. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-29 talk about an imperishable crown that comes from running and winning a race according to the rules. Christians ought to consider how they live their lives in obedience to the commands of Christ so they too, like Israel, will receive an inheritance and be blessed by God because of it!

Lord, help me to do as you say so that I may receive an inheritance too!