Joshua 14-17 (6)
Read Joshua 17.1-17.
1. Review Numbers 27.1-11. What insight does this situation provide into how to interpret the Law of God?
2. Do you see anything troubling in this allotment of land to the people of Manasseh?
Think about it.
The Law of God – the commandments and statutes – did not cover a situation such as Israel confronted in Numbers 2.1-11. The letter of the Law was silent here. The daughters of Zelophehad, appealing to the spirit of the Law, claimed a place in the promised inheritance of God. Moses took their case to the Lord, and the Lord concurred. In our passage today, the people of Manasseh are called to honor the decision taken so many years prior, and, to their credit, they do (vv. 3-6).
The allotment to Manasseh, lying north of Ephraim and stretching between the Jordan River and the sea, was the largest of the tribal territories. Did the people become weary of subduing all the remnants of the Canaanite peoples who inhabited the towns within this territory? We read that they “could not” drive these people out. Could not? Was not God on their side? Of course, He was. But they took a cue from their brother, Ephraim, gave up on God and His will, and settled into a mode of compromise with the stubborn pagans within their territory, even though they were strong enough to “drive them out.”
Compromise with paganism will become a hallmark of the northern tribes of Israel. It all began here, with what must have seemed to everybody like a harmless expedient for ending the fighting and getting on with the settling. But compromise with unbelief and sin is never harmless.
Not content with the allotment assigned them, the children of Manasseh press for more, arguing that they were “a great people” (vv. 14-17). Joshua put that claim back at them: If you’re such a great people, subdue and develop the ample land assigned you. Verse 18 seems to suggest that Joshua caved in to their demand. But he was merely directing them to do their due diligence in the portion of the land allotted to them. In so doing he spoke indirectly to their unwillingness to drive out the Canaanites. They’d rather have some vacant portion assigned than have to do the hard work involved in claiming the promises of God. Joshua said, No deal.
Meditate and discuss.
1. What principles or guidelines should we keep in mind as we’re trying to discern the spirit of the Law from the letter of the Law?
2. How can you tell when a church has compromised the Word of God? What are the signs?
3. We have said that laying hold on the promises of God is hard work, and we must not try to avoid it. What do you find to be the hardest things to do in claiming God’s promises?
“You see what is being said to us in the spiritual interpretation, to clear the woodland that is in us and, cutting useless and unfruitful trees out of us, to make fallow lands there that we would always renew and from which we would reap fruit ‘thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’” Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)
Strengthen me for this day, O Lord, and keep Your promises before my mind, so that I…
Pray Psalm 90.12-17.
How do these words guide you to pray for the promise-claiming ahead of you today?
Psalm 90.12-17 (Landas: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place)
Lord, teach us all our days to note that wisdom may be ours.
Return, O Lord, have pity on those servants who are Yours.
Each morning let Your love appear that we for joy may sing.
And make us glad for every day You us affliction bring.
Now let Your work to us appear; our children show Your might.
And let Your favor rest on us; show mercy in Your sight.
The work that You have given us, confirm, and to us show,
That we Your chosen path may walk and in Your precepts go.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).