Joshua 13/14 – Preached @ Ebenezer Church on 16 Aug 2010
Jesus says in John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
Most of the time, we hear this verse being read at funeral services.
Now, this is more than a verse for funeral services.
These are the words of Jesus telling us about our eternal future.
And we should be concerned about our eternal future every day of our lives and not just during funeral services.
Jesus tells us that there are many mansions in heaven.
And He is going there to prepare a place for us who believe in Him.
So, this is only for those who believe in Him.
Do you believe in Jesus?
Are you living your life in a manner that demonstrates that you believe in Him?
The Apostle Paul was given a glimpse of heaven when he was caught up in the Spirit in 2 Cor 12.
He tells us that heaven just cannot be described with human vocabulary.
Heaven is just too wonderful for us to imagine.
It is something that our 3-dimensional mind cannot visualise.
There are many places on earth that I have read about, seen pictures of and hope to visit one day.
But if heaven is really like what Paul has described it to be, don’t you long to go there?
Is that longing to be in heaven greater than being able to visit places on earth?
Jesus says that He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us who believe in Him.
Have you been thinking about heaven?
Are you longing to go there?
Are you looking forward to Jesus coming again soon?
Or are you so caught up in your life on earth with no time to consider religion?
Sometimes, we can be just so caught up with things here on earth.
We are busy with our families, our work, our studies or our friends.
Some of our children are so busy with their activities, facebook and computer games.
These things occupy our minds to the extent that we give no thoughts to eternal things.
Friends, every time we have fellowship together we need to remind ourselves that we should be thinking about eternity.
We need to remind each other that we have an inheritance in heaven.
That’s the difference between Christian fellowship and normal friendship.
The challenge for each of us in this Church is to bring our level of friendship with each other to a level of true Christian fellowship.
Otherwise, our Church will be no different from a club or society that simply has members and activities.
So, let’s start doing this during our tea-break after worship today.
Now, Joshua 13 onwards is about the division of land amongst the various tribes in Israel.
It is about Israel receiving their physical inheritance after their long journey and war.
There are altogether 24 chapters in the book of Joshua.
About 10 of these (from chapter 13 onwards) are spent on the division of land and the blessings of the tribes.
These 10 chapters make up about 42% of the entire book of Joshua.
In other words, 42% of the book of Joshua describes the physical inheritance they have in the land of Canaan.
Now, the book of Joshua is a portrayal of our Christian life.
So, perhaps this is a hint to us that we should be spending at least 42% of our lives pondering about our eternal inheritance.
We obviously fall short in this matter.
That is why we constantly need to remind each other of these things.
Remember what we need to do during tea break.
Now, reading these 10 chapters may appear very difficult for us who are not Jews.
We are not familiar with the culture or tribes of Israel.
We are not familiar with the geography of Israel.
But these 10 chapters meant a lot to the Israelites because it concerned their inheritance.
God gave Abraham a promise in Gen 15.
And after >400years & after so many battles & hardships, the Israelites finally see the fulfilment of this promise.
So it was an exciting experience.
So there was great expectations surrounding this matter of their inheritance.
Do you have the great expectations about your inheritance in heaven?
Are you excited about it that you zealously search the scriptures to know more about it?
Eccl 12:1 reminds us to “Remember now our Creator in the days of our youth, before the evil days come and the days draw near when we say “I have no pleasure in them.”
We ought to think about our inheritance in our youth and not when we are old and unable to.
Now, out of chapters 13-14, there are 2 points that I want to highlight today:
1. The reward for Caleb’s faithfulness
2. The reward of the Levites
1) The reward for Caleb’s Faithfulness
In Numbers 13, there were 12 spies whom Moses sent to survey Canaan.
10 out of these 12 complained about the difficulty of conquering Canaan.
They led the Israelites into self-pity and they all sinned against God.
This resulted in the Israelites being punished with 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
But 2 of the 12 spies suggested an immediate attack on Canaan.
These 2 spies were Joshua and Caleb.
We know who Joshua is.
We have seen his consistent behaviour and character.
He was certainly a choice leader to succeed Moses.
And the conquest of Canaan was a testimony of his good leadership.
But who is Caleb? Have you heard of him?
The Bible tells us that he was the son of Jephunneh, the Kenezite.
He was a contemporary or peer of Joshua.
Caleb was just as faithful a man as Joshua.
He was just as capable a military soldier.
Well, he survived the spying mission together with Joshua.
Like Joshua, he had the courage to support the attack of Canaan immediately after the spying mission.
And he survived all the battles that Israel had fought so far.
Now, this is certainly no easy feat.
He survived long enough to inherit the land that was conquered.
What can we learn from here? Let me point out 2 things:
1) You don’t have to be number 1 to be recognised in the kingdom of God.
The bible has records of many successful leaders.
These are people who held number 1 position in society.
For example, Joseph was prime minister of Egypt and He was a faithful man.
Moses was leader of Israel and known to be the meekest man on earth.
Daniel was prime minister in Babylon and he was a faithful man.
David was king of Israel and known to be a man after God’s own heart.
Yes, we ought to emulate the characters and examples of these people in top positions.
God-willing, if we are gifted to be able to serve in such positions, we ought to do it willingly for the glory of God.
But remember, not everyone can be in such top positions.
And not everyone is cut-out to be in such top positions.
We ought to be honest when assessing our capabilities for such positions and not let ambition lead us to disaster.
And remember, you don’t have to be in top positions to glorify God.
Caleb was a fine example of what I mean here.
Perhaps he could have qualified to be leader of Israel.
We do not know, we are not told.
But we certainly know that he was not the leader of Israel.
Out of the 2 spies who returned with a good report, it was Joshua who was selected to succeed Moses.
But this did not dilute Caleb’s faithfulness.
This did not stop him from supporting Joshua in all his campaigns.
Caleb was not jealous because Joshua became the leader of Israel.
We did not read of any rivalry between Caleb and Joshua.
We can only conclude that Caleb was a faithful man who simply did his best in whatever mission he was tasked to undertake.
Now, this is an important lesson or us who live in competitive Singapore.
Some of us may not be happy to play a supporting role.
Perhaps we think highly of ourselves.
Perhaps we think we are gifted to do things better.
Perhaps we think we can do a better job.
And we refuse to play second fiddle.
Remember, Caleb was not the number 1 man in Israel even though he was just as good.
Caleb was a faithful man who just did his best in whatever he was tasked to do.
We don’t have to be in number 1 position to be recognised in the kingdom of God.
2) Secondly, Caleb received an inheritance
Caleb was one of the 2 spies who supported attacking Canaan immediately.
But as Israel disobeyed and was punished with 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Caleb had to share that punishment.
He did not deserve the punishment; but he was “punished” together with the rest of Israel.
And he too wandered, as part of Israel, 40 years in the wilderness.
But despite of this, we did not read of any disgruntled response from him.
If you were him, would you be very upset that you have to suffer for something you were not the cause for?
Has it happened in your life that you had to suffer for the irresponsibility of others?
Let me tell you a quick story that I encountered 25years ago.
When I was an officer cadet, I shared a bunk with someone called Chan Soon Joe.
Chan Soon Joe was a proud, rash and bashful young officer who became responsible for a tank platoon.
After a live-firing exercise in Taiwan, he climbed on his tank to empty the machine gun – this was the responsibility of the officer in charge.
Instead of following safety drills, in his proud, rash and bashful state, he just pressed the trigger.
A left-over round went out from the weapon and killed the soldier who happened to be right in front of the tank.
Chan Soon Joe was court-martialled and I never saw him anymore.
The parents of that killed soldier were obviously devastated because their son died out of the irresponsibility of Chan Soon Joe.
Now, such things do happen in our lives.
You can moan over them, cry foul about them, the fact is that you have to live with the reality.
And we often ask “why does God allow this to happen?”
Is it fair?
Those of us who hold fatalistic views may even say “if God wants it to happen, who can question Him”? – we have to just accept it.
Look at the response of Caleb.
No moaning; no self-pity.
Just a plain focus on doing what is right.
In a sense, he wasted 40 years of his life in the wilderness.
But he was one of the few in his generation that survived it.
And after surviving, he had to take up arms and fight the war in Canaan.
He could have been fitter 40 years ago when he was younger to fight this war.
Why must he wait 40 years just because of the sins of the rest of the Israelites?
Why is God so unfair to him in this matter?
But there was no record of such moaning or self-pity.
He persevered and he fought.
He survived and is now ready to receive his inheritance here in Joshua 13.
His focus was on joyous obedience and his inheritance.
Some of us may struggle over what I call – the “parallel” nature of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.
If you have this struggle, my advice to you is not to “moan and groan” over the responsibility and accountability of man.
Instead, delight yourself in the beauty of God’s righteousness and holiness.
Spend your time thinking about how wonderful it is to enjoy the sweet presence of God and His peace that surpasses all understanding.
Remember the first question of the shorter catechism?
What is the chief end of man?
It is “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”.
We don’t emphasise enough of the second part of the answer – “to enjoy Him forever”.
There is great delight that can be found in God.
You are missing out a lot if you depress yourself with a fatalistic view of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.
Satan delights in weighing you down with questions that you can’t answer and therefore result in depression.
Don’t give him that chance to take away your joy.
Now, back to Caleb – he brought to Joshua’s attention his faithfulness throughout all these years.
And these were naturally, readily and immediately recognised to his credit.
Caleb did not come forth arrogantly insisting that he deserved it for all that he had endured.
He merely pointed back to certain facts that took place in the past.
And Caleb was given the land of the entire mountain of Hebron.
Friends, our Lord Jesus will ask us one day: what have you done with this life I gave you to live here on earth?
It does not matter how you have been disadvantaged in this life.
The question is whether you have been faithful in spite of all the disadvantages.
The question is how you have persevered in the face of all your struggles.
The question is whether you are thinking about eternity or complaining about your life here on earth.
The question is whether you are longing for heaven or keeping your treasures here on earth.
If you have been faithful like Caleb, there is an inheritance for you in heaven.
And in the book of life, your name will be listed.
Remember that Jesus said “In my Father’s house there are many mansions”.
And there will be a mansion there for you.
And just as Caleb has received an inheritance, you will, likewise, in heaven.
So, be encouraged, dear Christians.
The second thing I want to highlight today is “The reward of the Levites.”
Who were the Levites?
Levi was Jacob’s third son.
The Levites were one of the 12 tribes of Israel dedicated to take care of the temple of God.
The Levites were the ones whose full time occupation was to look after the spiritual lives of the Israelites.
They were to be conversant with the laws of God as instructed by Moses.
Now, we are told 3 times between chapter 13 & 14 that they will receive no allotment of land – 13:14, 33; 14:4.
This is a further reinforcement of Numbers 18:20.
Now, God had distinguished the Levites from the other tribes.
God had dignified them above the other tribes in the special service they were to render to Him.
The idea is so that they should not get entangled in the affairs of this life.
Otherwise, it will dilute their sacred function.
Now, it was not easy to be a Levite.
There were many rules and requirements for Levites to adhere to.
They had to exercise self-denial in many situations.
And there are not many who are called to be Levites.
It was a special calling for this tribe.
And there is a special need for such a tribe.
This is where the whole-hearted devotion to the work of God is uncompromised.
Now, while the Levites had such a calling, the non-Levites also have a duty.
And their duty was to give generously to the Lord.
And with this generosity, the Levites will be blessed.
The Levites give us a picture of the full time Christian ministry and the support we need to give to it.
There are only some who are called to the full time ministry.
There are many others who are not.
Those who are called ought to give their full time attention to the work and not be distracted with the other concerns of this world.
Those who are not called ought to ensure that those who are, are appropriately provided for.
From Joshua 13-14, we learn that the ministers of the Lord should show themselves indifferent about worldly interests.
That is why the Levites were not given any physical inheritance.
But happy are those who have the Lord God as their inheritance – which is the case for the Levites.
God will supply all their needs and His consolations will support their souls till they gain heavenly joy and everlasting pleasures.
This is the blessing of the full time Christian ministry.
This is the lot for them in terms of physical and spiritual inheritance.
Those who were here that last Sunday will remember that a young man called Aaron preached at this pulpit.
He is a pastoral apprentice with Puchong Reformed Baptist Church.
We thank God that He has worked in Aaron’s heart and called him at such a young age to the full time ministry.
We are thankful that we now have a full time Pastor.
Remember we had prayed a long time as a Church for a Pastor.
Now that we have a full time Pastor, are we supporting him enough even as he seeks to shepherd the flock here at Ebenezer?
We need to remember that he would be the number one target of Satan in his attacks.
Therefore, we should regularly keep him and his family in prayer.
We should constantly pray for his preaching and teaching.
We should also pray that God will prepare and raise up the next generation of leaders in Ebenezer Church.
At the moment, there is a leadership vacuum when it is time for the current leadership to retire.
Hence, we must pray urgently that God will work in the hearts of our youths and young adults in Ebenezer.
It takes years of preparation before a Christian is ready to lead.
Hence, we must pray urgently for this matter now.
As a Church, we have a duty to recognise them if God so calls them into the ministry.