Our Inheritance as Pictured in Israel

TODAY’S READING: JOSHUA 14-17

Joshua 1-13 is the story of Joshua and Israel defeating all the kings in the land. This is a picture of Jesus defeating all the kings that had dominion over our heart so that our hearts can now be the place of the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). Now that the land has been taken, it is time to divide the inheritance. In fact, most of the rest of the book of Joshua is dedicated to allotting and describing the inheritance of the tribes.

Joshua 14:1-5 says, “These are the inheritances that the people of Israel received in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel gave them to inherit. Their inheritance was by lot, just as the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses for the nine and one-half tribes. For Moses had given an inheritance to the two and one-half tribes beyond the Jordan, but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. For the people of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. And no portion was given to the Levites in the land, but only cities to dwell in, with their pasturelands for their livestock and their substance. The people of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses; they allotted the land.”

Let’s examine the above paragraph to see what we can learn about Jesus and our relationship with him.

AN INHERITANCE, AN INHERITANCE, AND NO INHERITANCE

Joshua 14:1-5 describes one inheritance for one group of the 12 tribes of Israel, another inheritance for a second group of the 12 tribes of Israel, and no inheritance for the Levites.

One inheritance is for the tribes that enter into the promised land, the land west of the Jordan. These are the tribes that crossed the Jordan river. West is the direction toward God or closer to God. This inheritance was for the nine and one-half tribes. Eleazer the priest, Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel gave this inheritance to the people.

The other inheritance is for the tribes that did not go into the promised land but decided to dwell on the east side of the Jordan. East is the direction away from God or further from God. This inheritance was for the two and one-half tribes. Moses gave this inheritance to the people.

The Levites did not receive an inheritance. Instead, they were given cities to dwell in.

THE INHERITANCE GIVEN BY MOSES

Moses could not take the people into the promised land. This was because Moses stands for the law throughout the Bible. Romans 8:1-11 and 2 Corinthians 3:1-18 show that the law could not give life to you. Moses’ inability to take the people into the promised land is a picture of the law’s inability to give us life.

The life of Christ is our full and complete inheritance. This inheritance comes by faith and God’s promise. Galatians 3:18 says, “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.”

Even though the law could give us life, our full inheritance, the law does serve a purpose. It was added because of transgressions. The law was put in place until Jesus, the offspring of Abraham, came. For, God’s promises made to Abraham were made to Jesus.

Galatians 3:23-24 says, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came.” Before faith came through the word of Christ, the law was put in place to be our guardian, our schoolmaster, our teacher.

In other words, the law was a witness to us. In John 5:39, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” After his resurrection, Jesus showed the disciples exactly how the scriptures bore witness to him. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

So, the law’s function is to lead us to Christ, who gives eternal life, by its witness. What is the witness of the law?

In Luke 10:25-28, a lawyer asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. In return, Jesus asked the lawyer what the law said. But, Jesus did not want the lawyer to simply quote the law’s commandments. Jesus asked the lawyer how he read the law. In other words, Jesus wanted the lawyer to tell him what the law was about, what was the law for, what was the law’s essence.

The lawyer said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Indeed, Jesus himself said that all of the law depends upon the two loves – love for God and love for neighbor – that lawyer said was the essence of the law.

Therefore, the true witness of the law is love. And, true witness of the law is summed up in the two commandments of love. It’s through our doing of these two commandments of love that people see and know Jesus. In John 13:34-35, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Therefore, the witness of law, which is summed up in the two commandments of love, is symbolized by the inheritance given by Moses to the two and one-half tribes that remained on the east side of the Jordan and did not dwell in the promised land.

THE INHERITANCE GIVEN BY ELEAZAR, JOSHUA, AND THE TRIBAL HEADS

I have written that Joshua the son of Nun, or the son of life, is a picture of Jesus the son of God, or the son of life, throughout my posts on the book of Joshua. Joshua, not Moses, took the people into the promised land, defeated all the kings in the land, and gave Israel the victory. This is a picture of what Jesus does for us.

Jesus gives us eternal life. While the Jews thought that they could find life in the law through the scriptures, Jesus said in John 5:40, “Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

Jesus defeats all the strongholds of our hearts and minds. According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raise against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Jesus is the very divine power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) that destroys the strongholds within us.

Jesus gives us the victory from his defeat of all the kings that ruled our hearts, making us heirs, inheritors, to the promises of God. Galatians 3:25-27, 29 says, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all the sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

In addition to Joshua, Eleazar played a part in giving the inheritance in the promised land. Eleazar is a picture of the Holy Spirit. The name Eleazar is made of two Hebrew words. The first is El, which means God. The second is azar, which means to help or assist. Therefore, the name Eleazar means God the Helper.

God the Helper is the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26, Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Later, in this same discussion with the disciples, Jesus said in John 16:7, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

The Holy Spirit playing a role in the giving of this inheritance leads us to the importance of the nine and one-half tribes in the promised land receiving this inheritance.

Matthew 27:46, 50 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out…And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” What was it that Jesus cried out again in the ninth hour? Luke 23:46 says, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!'” Jesus released his Spirit in the ninth hour so that the Holy Spirit, God the Helper, could come to us.

When the Holy Spirit comes to us, he is the guarantee of our ultimate inheritance. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

While the Holy spirit is the guarantee of our complete inheritance in the future, he is the down payment of our inheritance now. Therefore, the Holy Spirit gives us part of our inheritance now.

What part of the inheritance does he gives us now?

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Paul tells us that there are nine aspects to the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Eleazar played a part of giving this inheritance by lot. So, too does the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” The Spirit gives as he wills, or by lot. We have no say in the matter.

In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul lists what the Spirit gives by lot:

  1. the utterance of wisdom
  2. the utterance of knowledge
  3. faith
  4. gifts of healing
  5. working of miracles
  6. prophecy
  7. ability to distinguish between spirits
  8. various kinds of tongues
  9. the interpretation of tongues

What do you know? Nine manifestations of the Spirit given by the Spirit’s will for the common good, and there were nine and one-half tribes in the promised land to receive this inheritance.

Paul assures us that these nine manifestations are all given by “one and the same Spirit.” And, these nine manifestations of the Spirit, the down payment of our complete future inheritance, are for the common good, for unity, for building us together.

This is where the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes come in. The heads of the father’s houses are a picture of the overseers of the body of Christ that has entered into eternal life. These heads are not “rulers.” Nor are these heads positions or titles. These heads have a functional responsibility related to the inheritance being allotted. Their responsibility is to ensure the inheritance is for the common good, for unity, for building us together. Paul expresses it clearly in Ephesians 4:11-16.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

WHY IS THE ONE-HALF TRIBE IN BOTH INHERITANCES?

One tribe, Manasseh, is split between the inheritance given by Moses and the inheritance given by Joshua, Eleazer, and the heads of the fathers’ houses.

What is the significance of this?

One-half symbolizes covenant throughout the Bible.

The first time the word half is used in the Bible is Genesis 15:10, which says, “And he brought him all these, cut them in half, laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half.” These were the halves of the animals that Abram was instructed to bring to God. God would pass through these halves to confirm his promises to and make a covenant with Abram that his offspring would be his heir. It’s important to note that Abram had no part in making this covenant. God was solely responsible for the covenant.

The next mention of half is Genesis 24:22, which says, “When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels.” Abram’s servant, a picture of the Holy Spirit, had been sent to find a bride for Isaac, a picture of Jesus. When the servant had confirmed that Rebekah, a picture of the church, was to be Isaac’s bride, he put a ring in her nose that weighed a half shekel. A covenant had been made by the servant that Rebekah would be Isaac’s bride.

Therefore, throughout the Bible one-half symbolizes a covenant being made.

That Manasseh is the tribe that is split in half is important.

Joseph’s firstborn was Manasseh. His name means to forget, to cause to forget, to be forgotten. When he was born, Joseph said, “For God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” (Genesis 41:51)

Jesus was sent by God to Israel, to the place of God’s dwelling, to the place of God’s temple, to God’s house. When Jesus was there, his own did not believe him and killed him. But, in Luke 23:34, Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” At that moment, Jesus forgets all his hardship in his Father’s house.

Therefore, Manasseh being split in half between the two inheritances symbolizes that it is Christ that makes and maintains a covenant between he and his people as well as the tribes on the east side of the Jordan and the tribes on the west side of the Jordan. The basis of this covenant is the forgiveness of Jesus and God, which is complete and total for all.

NO INHERITANCE FOR THE LEVITES

Instead of an inheritance of land, the Levites received cities to dwell in. I am not completely sure exactly what this is a picture of, but I have some ideas what it relates to.

The Levites were the priests. But, 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” As “priests,” believers today are called to proclaim the excellencies of Christ.

We proclaim Christ as his ambassadors. This  is done as we partake in Jesus’ reconciling the world to God. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

But, an ambassador is one who represents his king in a foreign country. Therefore, as ambassadors, as priests, we are not given any land in the earth today as an inheritance. We are only given cities to dwell in. This is why Paul says in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven.” We are from heaven representing God in the foreign country of the earth. Therefore, Peter calls us sojourners (1 Peter 2:11).

But, the cities we have to dwell in, that we have been given as inheritance, are the local expressions of the body of Christ throughout the world. It’s from these cities that we proclaim Christ as the savior of the world to the all the nations of the earth.

This then is the inheritance given by Moses to the two and one-half tribes, the inheritance given by Joshua, Eleazer, and the heads of the fathers’ houses to the nine and one-half tribes, and the “inheritance” of cities given to the Levites.

What a picture of the inheritance Christ gives to us and our relationship with him.

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