1 John 2:14 (middle)-17
I have an impression tonight to speak about possession – about possessing our inheritance. As believers on the Lord Jesus, we have a wonderful inheritance. We have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph 1:3). It is an inheritance that we shall enjoy when the Lord comes for us or we go to be with Him. But it is in God’s heart that we should enjoy that inheritance now. We know in natural things that it is not enough to know about an inheritance; we need to possess it to enjoy it. And possession involves spiritual conflict.
There are many blessings available to us. Spurgeon spoke of the Bible as like a cheque book. You know, if several people here wrote out a cheque tonight and gave it to me, I might say, ‘I am rich – I have got a cheque.’ But if you think about it, I cannot take that cheque to the shop to buy something. I cannot take it to pay off my debts. If I give it to someone else, it is not worth anything. For that cheque to be useful I need to take it to the bank that it was drawn on and present it to get the money; then when I am in possession of that money, that money is something I can put to use. And the promises in the Bible, in a sense, are not something that we can enjoy unless we apprehend them by faith. In a sense they are cheques that God has given to us, but we need to accept them in faith and present them to God, and God will honour those cheques, and we shall get the enjoyment and the blessing of His promises.
I read in the Old Testament, because what happened to the children of Israel is not just something historical. Paul tells us in his letters that what happened to them happened as examples to us (1 Cor 10:11), so we can learn from what happened to the children of Israel, and their experiences. The children of Israel had an inheritance, did they not? They were promised Canaan – the promised land. Mr Darby says that we rightly use the name Canaan as a figurative expression of the rest of the people of God (Synopsis vol 1 p252). Through Abraham the children of Israel were promised an inheritance. If you go back to Genesis 15, the chapter where we are told that Abraham believed God, and God reckoned it to him as righteousness (v6), that was when God said to him, “I … brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give thee this land to possess it” (v7). God’s thought for Abraham was that he should possess the land. And that covenant was passed on through Isaac; it was passed on through Jacob – you remember when Jacob ran away from home, and came to a place he called Beth-el, where there was a ladder between earth and heaven (Gen 28:12‑19). God said to him there, ‘You are going to return to this land and possess it.’ Think of his son Joseph: Joseph went down into Egypt; he lived in Egypt; he had everything, in a sense, in Egypt. But we are told in Hebrews 11 that “by faith Joseph when dying called to mind the going forth of the sons of Israel, and gave commandment concerning his bones” (v22). That is remarkable! Think how Joseph remembered that there was an inheritance. They were in the richness of Goshen in Egypt, but Joseph remembered that there was an inheritance – something promised – and he gave commandment concerning his bones. And when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, Joseph’s bones came out too (Ex 13:19), and they were buried in the land (Josh 24:32).
Then after Joseph there is a gap – the children of Israel are in Egypt, and they are in bondage, they are in servitude; things are very difficult for them. I do not know if they perhaps started to forget about the inheritance. Then God raised up Moses. What did God say to Moses in Exodus 3? He said to him, ‘I am going to bring you’ “unto a good and spacious land, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (v8). That was the promise to Moses, and Moses, after all the plagues, brought the children out through the Red Sea. Think of them going through the Red Sea into the wilderness. Pharaoh followed – God brought the waters of the Red Sea upon Pharaoh and his army and delivered Israel from the power and the bondage of Egypt. I hope everyone here knows what it is to be delivered from the power and the bondage of Egypt. My friend, if you are a sinner unsaved, you are still in bondage – you are still in the bondage of Egypt. The Red Sea speaks to us of the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and how they free us – free us from sin and from bondage.
They were brought out of Egypt, but they were still in the wilderness. They were blessed in the wilderness – we are told that God gave them the bread from heaven (Ex 16:4); He gave them water from the rock (Ex 17:6). You know, for the forty years that they were in the wilderness, their clothes did not wear out (Deut 8:4) – even the sandals on their feet did not wear out! There was a blessing for them in the wilderness. But it was not God’s full thought.
God’s full thought is that, although He blesses us when we are saved from our sins, He wants to bring us into the richness of our inheritance. There is a lovely description of the inheritance that He wants to bring us into. Moses describes the wilderness: he says, “Jehovah … Who brought thee … out of the house of bondage; Who led thee through the great and terrible wilderness, a wilderness of fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there is no water.” But he says, “For Jehovah thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of waterbrooks, of springs, and of deep waters, that gush forth in the valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, where thou shalt lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose mountains thou wilt dig copper. And thou shalt eat and be filled, and shalt bless Jehovah thy God for the good land which He hath given thee” (Deut 8:14‑15,7-10). It is a lovely description, is it not? How different from the wilderness! Yes, they were preserved, they were cared for in the wilderness – and God cares for and preserves His people now. But His thought is that we should not remain in the wilderness, but should come up, come through the Jordan. The Jordan also speaks of death, but it is our death with Christ. We come through the Jordan, we come into the land, and that is where we start in the Book of Joshua.
Mr Darby says regarding Joshua that it is not about the rest itself, but about the spiritual conflict which secures it – secures the enjoyment of the promises of God (ibid). There are some important words in there: it ‘secures the enjoyment’ – secures the enjoyment of the promises of God to true believers. That is a wonderful thing; that is what we get in Joshua. In the wilderness God described in detail, did He not, each portion for each tribe? Each tribe had a place in the land that is carefully described. But they were not enjoying it then, were they? They had to go in, and they had to possess it. The Scripture is very clear: it says, “Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread” (Deut 11:24; Josh 1:3) – they actually had to walk on it to make it their own. That is what we need to do – we need to walk, as it were, on the promises of God to make them our own.
But there are hindrances. There were Canaanites in the land; there were wild animals in the land. These things would go out only gradually. Possession of the land is a gradual thing, but the thought is that it is a progressive thing too, that we might enter into full possession of the blessings that God has for us.
I read firstly of the children of Manasseh and Ephraim. Theirs was the birthright (1 Chr 5:1). If you think of the land of Israel, you have the Sea of Galilee in the north, you have the river Jordan running down from it, and you have the Dead Sea at the south end. The children of Manasseh were a bit half-hearted, because half of the tribe remained on the east side of the Jordan, but the other half of the tribe of Manasseh crossed to the west. To the immediate west of the Dead Sea was the portion of Judah and, just to the north of Judah, there was a small portion belonging to Benjamin, and just to the west of that was one portion of Dan. To the north of those was Ephraim, running from the Jordan across to the Mediterranean Sea; and north of that was Manasseh. It was a very fertile, a very luxuriant, part of the land. There was a ridge of mountains running down there, covered with trees, bearing those things that we read of, the pomegranates, the olives, the vines. It was a place of blessing for them. But we are told here that “the children of Manasseh could not dispossess the inhabitants of those cities; and the Canaanites would dwell in that land. And it came to pass when the children of Israel were become strong, that they made the Canaanites tributary; but they did not utterly dispossess them.”
It is challenging to think that there were Canaanites that they feared; there were also Canaanites that they favoured, and both were a hindrance to their coming into possession of what God had promised them. We will perhaps say some more about the Canaanites that they feared. Canaanites would speak to us of what is fleshly, what is sinful – needing to be driven out. We will come on to Caleb, but remember that when the spies came back, they said, “We were … as grasshoppers … in their sight” (Num 13:33). You know, they looked at the challenges, they looked at the hindrances, from their own point of view. We can look at hindrances and think they look very big, we can feel like grasshoppers in the sight of these giants. If they had looked at it from God’s side, those giants would have looked very small; those hindrances would have looked small.
Then there were the Canaanites that they favoured; and that is a challenge. Canaanites that they favoured – they did not drive them out when they became strong, but they made them tributary. Is there something in my life, is there something in your life, that you know is wrong, but you feel that you are better off leaving it in your life rather than getting rid of it? Something at work, or at home, or at school, or wherever it might be – something that you know is wrong, something that you say, or you do, or you look at? I do not know; God knows. But it is a hindrance. Perhaps you feel you have got mastery of it. The Israelites felt they had mastery of these Canaanites, but the time would come when they were no longer tributary and they would rise up against the Israelites and cast off the control that the Israelites had. It is important that we do not make things tributary, but we get rid of them altogether – that we drive them out.
So they come to Joshua, and they are saying that they are not really content with what they have been given. Am I content with what God has given me? Are you content with what God has given you? Perhaps you think your circumstances could be better. Perhaps you think that spiritually you would be better off if you were in a different meeting, or a different fellowship. Perhaps you think you would be able to give more to God if you had a different job. Perhaps you think you would be better off if you were married – I do not know. God has set each of us in the circumstances He has set us in. We see from what Joshua says to them that the thought is not that they should have a different portion, but rather that they should gain possession of what they have been given. That is a challenge to me. Am I seeking to gain full possession of what God has given me? God has given us very much, but we need to enter into the full possession of it; rather than seeking a change of circumstance, we need to change ourselves. And so Joshua says to them that they are to possess the hill. He says, “Thou art a great people, and hast great power: … the hill-country shall be thine, as it is a wood, thou shalt cut it down, and its outgoings shall be thine.” “Its outgoings” – that is the valleys – everything that comes out. There were hills covered with trees, and there were valleys, and he says, ‘It is yours.’
He says, ‘you have got to cut down the trees.’ You might say, ‘Well, what is wrong with trees? Why should we cut down trees?’ There is nothing wrong with trees – trees provide shade, they provide shelter, they are pleasant to look at. But they are a problem if they are in a place where you want to plant a crop of wheat or barley, or a vineyard, or some olive-trees. Is there clutter in our lives that needs to be got rid of? We say we have busy lives; but as someone has said, rightly, God has given each of us enough time in every day to do gracefully that which He would have us to do. And yet, how often do I say, ‘I am too busy to do this for God, or too busy to do that for God?’ Is there clutter in my life that needs to be got rid of? Are there trees that need to be cut down, that there might be room for the things that God would have there to be room for? I am challenged very much about that. The things that clutter my life will be different from the things that clutter your life. But I think, if we examine our hearts and our lives, and we find that there is not time for reading the Scriptures, time for prayer, time for thinking of God’s things, then there are things that need to be cut down, things that need to be cleared, that we might enter into full possession.
And so I read of Caleb. Caleb was different. I said that the children of Manasseh were half-hearted. Well, “Caleb” means ‘whole-hearted,’ and Caleb was whole-hearted. As we see in the passage that I read, it says three times of him that he wholly followed Jehovah his God. Caleb was a man that was whole-hearted. He was one of the twelve spies that went into the land. Think of those ten spies coming back describing what they had seen. But that is not what it says of Caleb, is it? It says of Caleb, “And I brought him word again as it was in my heart.” That was the difference about Caleb: it was in his heart. The inheritance was in Caleb long before Caleb was in the inheritance. He was whole-hearted – it was in his heart. He felt about these things. He felt about what was for God. The other spies came back and made the heart of the people melt. It is a shame if all I can do is make the heart of the people melt by speaking of the difficulties and the problems and the giants. Am I here as an encouragement, or do I make the heart of the people melt? Am I whole-heartedly in these things? What does the Lord say? “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Luke 12:34). Think of the forty-five years between when Caleb had, as a spy, seen the inheritance, and yet not been able to enter into it. But the time came when he could enter into the inheritance, and he comes, not with a misplaced confidence – he does not come demanding, but he is asking God to honour His promise. And so he says, “Give me this mountain” (v12). There is no self-confidence in that – Caleb knows that God has promised Hebron to him, and so he can come to Joshua, and he can say, “Give me this mountain.” That is what Caleb wanted – he wanted what God had promised him, “Kirjath-Arba.”
“Arba” means ‘strength of Baal’ – it was a pagan place. Baal was one of the pagan gods in the land, and it was because of the awful things – Baal was associated with child sacrifice – it was because the land was filled with blood that God drove out the nations that possessed the land, and brought in the children of Israel. Caleb desired to honour God.
But there were hindrances again – hindrances for Caleb. One of the first hindrances was, we are told, that Arba was “the great man among the Anakim.” Mr Coates says that it is the great men that have been a hindrance to fellowship in Christendom (CAC vol 6 p65). I do not believe that there is anyone here today who would feel himself to be a great man. However, think of Diotrephes: I think Diotrephes thought he was a great man. When John wrote to the Christians in his third letter, he wrote of a man that hindered things, a man that would not receive Christians that came, and cast out those that would receive them.
I did not say, but what does “Hebron” mean? If “Kirjath-Arba” means ‘the city of the strength of Baal,’ what does “Hebron” mean? “Hebron” means ‘communion,’ or ‘fellowship.’ Caleb was concerned about fellowship. Fellowship is very precious, is it not? The Lord spoke three times of being lifted up: “I, if I be lifted up …, will draw all to Me” (John 12:32; cf John 3:14 and 8:28). It is God’s thought that we should enjoy things together in a family way. That is the thought of fellowship – to enjoy God’s promises in family conditions. Are there family conditions amongst us, that we can enjoy things together? Do we enjoy coming out and seeing one another, speaking about God’s things, sharing God’s things? That is God’s thought, that we should enjoy them. Caleb enjoyed them – it was in his heart. His desire, his thoughts, were for fellowship, that fellowship might be promoted; that that which was opposed, that which was a hindrance – the strength of Baal – should be displaced, removed, that there might be enjoyment amongst God’s people.
Then, that was not the only hindrance, was it? Where I read later on, in chapter 15, we are told about the three sons of Anak. And from Hebron, it says, “Caleb dispossessed the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.” Those names mean something as well. The meaning of names in Scripture is instructive for us. The first name, “Sheshai,” means ‘free,’ or ‘freedom.’ The second name, “Ahiman,” means ‘portion of a brother,’ or ‘brotherhood.’ The final name, “Talmai,” means ‘bold’ or ‘spirited.’ You might say, ‘Well, those do not sound too bad. Is there a problem with those?’ Well, yes, there is a problem with those, because they speak of what is opposed to God; they speak of what is fleshly. Think of the way that Satan opposes fellowship by bringing in free thought. The brotherhood of man is based on the principle of free thought. And that which is bold or spirited is that which is insubject to God. That is what we see in Christendom today, is it not? Men gather together with no regard at all for the Scriptures – it is the free thought of man! Men, in a sense, band together, join together, in a brotherhood – copying what God has in mind in the assembly. They do it on their own basis, they are not subject to God’s word – they bring their own thoughts and ideas into things, and it is opposed to what God wants. It is opposed to true fellowship. It is opposed to the enjoyment of things. How sad! But Caleb is able to smite these giants, is he not? Three sons of Anak – think of them!
Caleb is able to meet that which is fleshly, and is able to destroy them. What a blessing it is! Fellowship should be precious to us. In speaking of Christian fellowship, Mr Raven comments (vol 7 p402) that the first letter to the Corinthians gives us “the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (ch1 v9); and chapter 10, the fellowship of His death (v16). Then, in the second letter, we find the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (ch13 v14). These things are precious things. If we are to have fellowship, it is to be on a right basis – the fellowship of His death. That is very challenging to me – that which I do, and how I behave, should be in accordance with the death of the Lord Jesus.
Caleb was a man who was prepared for conflict in relation to fellowship. As I thought about this Scripture, I noted that Caleb was fighting for fellowship – he was not fighting about fellowship, he was fighting for fellowship. How often do we fight about fellowship rather than fighting for fellowship? One brings in a blessing, the other does not. One brings in fruitfulness, the other famine.
Hebron was the place where they brought back that great bunch of grapes from Eshcol (Num 13:22‑23). Think of the fruitfulness that there was at Hebron! Think of the enjoyment of things that there was at Hebron! Caleb wanted to possess it. Caleb could say, “Give me this mountain.” Caleb could go up, not in his own strength, but in the strength that God gave him. This man was eighty-five years old – eighty-five years old! But he had the strength of a forty-year-old. He says, ‘All those years ago when God made the promise to me’ – now the fulfilment of that was come, and God honoured Caleb.
God saw to it that Caleb had the spiritual strength to do these things. It is an encouragement to us middle-aged and younger brothers and sisters to see older men and women who are still full of spiritual energy and spiritual strength and willing to strive for the blessings, because as we think of Caleb, and if we were to read on, we would read about the blessing for his family, his daughter and his son-in-law, and the things that came about. There is a blessing that is brought to the brethren from those that are faithful; older men and older women – these are placed before those of us that are younger that we might enter into these things. God will give us the strength. Caleb did not have his own strength, but God gave him the strength that enabled him to enter into these things. It is wonderful to see how Caleb was strengthened that he might go up and that he might possess these things!
In my final Scripture John is writing to young men – and that equally applies to young sisters. We did not read it, but if you were to read further on in Joshua you get the daughters of Zelophehad (ch 17:3). There were five daughters; they were of the tribe of Manasseh, and they were concerned about their inheritance too. This is not just about men – this is also about women, this is about all of us. There were five daughters, and they were concerned about their inheritance, were they not? They went to Moses, and Moses enquired of the Lord, and Moses confirmed that they had an inheritance (Num 27:1‑7). I just say that as an encouragement to the sisters here tonight, that what I say is for all of us – it is not just for some, it is not just for those that are older, it is not just for those that are younger, it is for every one of us, for every true believer.
So we have here John writing to the young men. “I have written to you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” How like Caleb that is! “The word of God abides in you.” You need the word of God. It is God’s revelation – the word is God’s revelation to us. It affects our hearts – God’s word affects our hearts. The sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17) – how we need the sword of the Spirit!
It occurred to me that the three sons of Anak are still with us today. Only, today, they are called “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Whether it is the Old Testament or whether it is the New Testament, when John was writing to these young people, he was saying to them, ‘You have got the same challenges that you need to overcome.’ And how can we overcome them? The only way that we can overcome them is through the word: “The word of God abides in you.” In a sense, Caleb was a young man – young in spirit, anyway; he was a father, I suppose, but he was a young man in spirit, and he wholly followed Jehovah his God. That is an important thing. We cannot pick and choose what we like to believe about the Bible. There are many people who will say, ‘Well, what the Lord said is what I follow, but what other people said is what other people said, and that is not the Lord’s word.’ The Scripture says, “Every Scripture is divinely inspired” (2 Tim 3:16), and that is what I believe, and that is what we need to believe, that every Scripture is divinely inspired. We need the word of God to abide in us. So John can encourage the young men by saying that “the word of God abides in you.”
He says, “Ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, nor the things in the world.” In a sense, every motive is wrapped up in those three things – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The tendency of a young man, the tendency of a young woman, is towards the world. These things appeal to us naturally. But it is the word of God that can preserve us. It is the word of God that can keep us separate from these things. If we are occupied with God’s things, then the things of this world will not appeal to our hearts. That is how we can be kept safe from them – if the word of God abides in our hearts, then these things do not appeal to us.
I feel very measured, very challenged, by what I am saying. Just because I am saying them, dear brethren, do not think that I am necessarily in the full gain of these things. But my desire is that we might all enter more fully into the promises of God, that we might know the word of God abiding in us, so that we might overcome the wicked one. That is God’s desire. May we have the spiritual energy, may we have the consciousness of the Spirit strengthening us, and how precious God’s word is! It should be precious to us, and it will strengthen us, and it will keep us, and it will bless us, that we might enter in in a fuller way. As I said, possession is progressive. It does not happen all at once. Do not be discouraged if you feel that you have not made much progress. God will give the strength, God will give the ability. We cannot rely on ourselves, but we can rely on God. We can rely on His word so that we might enter into and enjoy these things in a fuller way. Well, may it be so for His name’s sake.
5 May 2012
 An Outline of Joshua, Judges and Ruth