(Joshua 13:6-7) Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance… (vv.6-7)
I know what some are thinking after reading the title of the study. Point well taken, nothing causes God to sweat. Nothing makes Him nervous, nothing taxes His strength, nothing wears Him out causing the Lord to even break a sweat. At the same time the title plays off the old cliché: Don’t sweat the small stuff.
In 1997 Richard Carlson wrote a short book entitled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff—and it’s all small stuff. Though never reaching the status of being a runaway best-seller it did get a lot of attention. Carlson’s premise was that most of the things we face in life, the things that make us sweat are not worth sweating over, hence the title. A few years later, a couple of west coast dentists co-authored a rebuttal to Carlson’s book. The dentists were Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz and their book was God Is in the Small Stuff and It All Matters: Stop Worrying and Invite God into the Details of Your Life. The title is the spoiler for this lesson and the theme of a large section of the book of Joshua.
From Joshua 13-21, God goes into great detail concerning the division of the territory. For five years the Israelites had fought to gain control of the Promise Land. For five years God provided strength and courage to the men who fought the battles. The conflict came to an end and it was time to claim the prize. It was time to receive the land that God promised them 800 years earlier when He gave the territory to Abraham’s descendants.
Like the list of defeated kings from Joshua 12, one might be tempted to skip over nine chapters that describe which tribe got what property. Let’s be honest, these chapters contain a bunch of names of places that, by-enlarge, no longer exist. Does God really expect me to read such a boring section of Scripture? What’s to be gained, short of saying one has read the whole Bible from “civer to civer” (which by the way is not a bad thing to be able to say)?
Perhaps that is not the right question. A better one may be, “Why did God place these chapters in the Bible?” Keep in mind that the Lord declared through the prophet Isaiah, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) Such being the case, He knew that Joshua 13-21 would be part of His eternal revelation.
So let’s return to the better question, “Why did God place these chapters in the Bible?” There are at least three lessons that can be gleaned from the chapters. First is pulled from the fact that the Israelites came to the point of divvying up the land. This act indicated that God kept His promise. This one was a long time coming but none can say that the Lord didn’t keep His word.
A second lesson confirms that God cares about small things. Think about it for a moment. What difference could it possibly make concerning who got what piece of property? Why didn’t God just say, “There, I gave you the land now divide it among yourselves and let Me know when you’re done.”? Consider this: God was moving forward with His plan to send Messiah, His Son Jesus Christ. Giving His people the land was a part of that plan. Next, God’s plan included Jesus coming from the line of a king. Before his death Jacob said that Judah would be the kingly line. David, of the tribe of Judah, was the first king. As well, Jerusalem, which belonged to Judah, would be the site of the Temple and the seat of government. How important were those things in the mission of Christ? Dividing the land may seem small but the way it was divided played a major role in God’s plan for redemption.
Finally, the division of the land teaches us that God is more concerned about equity than equality. Now hear this out; concerning dividing the land God instructed Moses, “The land is to be allotted to them as an inheritance based on the number of names. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one” (Numbers 26:53-54). What God was doing was making sure everyone had what they needed, not that everyone has the same amount. The division of the land suggests that God meets one’s need according to the need. It teaches His people that it is not about everyone having the same amount but everyone having what is necessary. Contemporary society seems to be caught up with everyone having the same no matter the need. God is not saying that a person cannot have more than the necessities; He is simply demonstrated that He knows how much a person needs and will provide for the need.
There, three lessons gleaned from chapters filled with the names of places and people. They show us that God will keep His promises and carry out His plans. They show us that God cares about the little things that fill our lives. And these chapters show us that God meets us at our point of need, providing exactly what is necessary. He did these things then and He continues to do them now.
There are more lessons to be discovered; but for now ponder these and find peace in knowing that God will keep His promises to you, He will carry out His plan for your life, and He will take care of you as you walk with Him. As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Those things are the things you need to live as you seek His kingdom and righteousness.