My theme this morning is: “Inheritance – The Forgotten Detail.”
I will use three sets of scripture, and it is important to understand the time element of the references. Two were spoken to Israel before they entered the promised inheritance. The other refers to Israel inside the promised inheritance. In that sense two are prophetic while the third one deals with actual experience.
The first is found in Exodus 23: 20 – 33. There are many instructions and warnings in this portion of scripture, but what I want us to see in particular is this: Vss.29 – 30“I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. “I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.
The second reference is: Deut.9:3: “Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you.” Both of these words were spoken before they entered the inheritance and were prophetic in nature.
It appears that there is a contradiction. In the first reference God said, “I will not drive them out before you in a single year…; I will drive them out before you little by little.” But in the second reference He said, “…you may drive them out and destroy them quickly.”The answer to the contradiction is that there are two actions described in the two texts. One is what God is going to do and how He is going to do it. The second is what the people are called to do and how they are to do it.
On the one hand God is going to destroy and subdue the enemy before Israel but He is going to do so methodically, progressively and little by little. On the other hand the people are to fall in behind this progressive work of God and expel from the inheritance the defeated enemies, and this expulsion on the part of the people is to be done immediately, quickly and without hesitation or delay.
The third scripture reference in Judges 3: 1 – 4 deals with Israel after they have entered the inheritance: Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly).These nations are: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. They were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses. The sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
Many will explain this as being the consequence of Israel’s disobedience as reported in Judges 2: 1 – 3; 20 – 23- Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done? “Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’ ”(vss.20 – 23) So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.
Personally I think there are two issues here. The first is the place of warfare in the life of the believer. It seems to me that there are particular qualities of character that can be worked into us only through the experience of warfare and victory. The second is the issue of disobedience and the consequences that follow – the enemy becomes a thorn in your side. It is one thing to do warfare with a giant and overcome him – that makes you an over comer. But to disobey God and cut a deal with the giant gives that giant power over you – thus the thorn in the side.
The difference we are looking at here is between subduing an enemy and annihilating an enemy. It is the difference between conquering a land and possessing the land you conquered. It is the difference between invasion and mopping up after the invasion. My conclusion is that God’s intention was to completely remove the enemies from the inheritance He promised Israel but that this driving out would be a progressive experience. There is a reason for that and it is revealed in this Exodus text.
The negative situation reported in the Judges record did not refer to the “Joshua generation”but to the generations following it. Not only was Joshua gone but all the elders of his generation were also gone. The generation addressed in Judges had experienced nothing of what was involved in taking the land originally.
The consequence of that was carelessness and a forgetting of God. In that climate God’s people were assimilated into the culture and practices of the very enemies they were supposed to have driven out. They even exchanged their sons and daughters in marriage with them, with the end result being idolatrous worship. In response to that God allowed these enemies to remain a thorn in the side of His people.
The lesson is simple though not without pain; God alone defeats the enemy but it is our responsibility to drive that defeated enemy out. But when we choose not to deal with that defeated enemy it will remain a thorn in our side and continue to deal with us. However, the moment we repentantly submit to God in reference to these things He will faithfully enable us to arrive at deliverance.
But the point of this message is the Exodus reference: “I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. “I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. This word has nothing to do with the disobedience reported in Judges 2; they are two completely different matters. This reference shows us how God gives an inheritance to His people, and that is the matter we want to look at.
When it comes to possessing an inheritance we share a rather common cry: “Do not put it in trust and release it in stages. Give it to me now – right now, and give me every last right and privilege of that inheritance right down to the final penny.”
Proverbs 20 :21 brings a particular wisdom to this attitude: An inheritance gainedprematurely will not be blessed ultimately.The key word here is ‘prematurely’. Break it apart and you have: pre – maturely. Pre means in front of, before or ahead of. And obviously‘maturely’ is reference to maturity. It is possible then to receive an inheritance in front of, before or ahead of your maturity level. And when that happens according to the proverb, instead of a blessing you end up with a curse.
Ask the youngest son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son what happens when the weight of the inheritance is greater than the weight of maturity of character. As incredible as it may sound – the very inheritance that should have been a blessing financed his journey to the hog pen.
There is something that comes with every inheritance: It’s called responsibility, and that responsibility is to properly steward the inheritance received. And here’s the twist –responsibility is the true reflection of the measure of the maturity of our character. In that sense inheritance will become our greatest test.
If I understand this Exodus text it seems to suggest that there is much more to Christian discipleship, much more to walking in the present fullness of our inheritance than merely driving out the enemy. Jesus made it clear what happens with the house from which the enemy has been driven and is left empty; it becomes seven times worse than it was before.
Way back here in Exodus, God pointed out His solution to this problem. You push the enemy out proportionately to your ability to possess, fill and take control of the vacancy created by the vanquished enemy. Failure to understand and keep this balance results in two negative realities. In the words of the text: … that the land may not become desolate and the beastsof the field become too numerous for you.
The Hebrew word translated ‘desolate’ is profoundly strong and extremely negative in meaning. If I had to express it in a single word it would be chaos or chaotic. There is quite a picture! You drive out the enemy and come into the actual inheritance and yet life becomes more chaotic.
Question: If today you were to become a multimillionaire, do you think your life would become less chaotic or more chaotic? I know how most of us would answer that but in actual experience we might be surprised.
And then there is this reference to ‘beasts’. The word in Hebrew along with all of its derivatives, refer to life, the renewal, restoration or revival of life. It almost seems out of place in this context. But all it means is that while you are pushing out the enemy in your advances there are all kinds of other life-forms just waiting to fill in behind your advancement. The only way to prevent that from happening is to properly fill up and possess the promised inheritance as you progress. God’s plan is fruitful increase that fills.
This is what makes abortion such a serious sin; it cuts off the fruitful increase and thus creates vacancy going forward. This vacancy is cutting off our future, while the Islamic world is taking more and more control of that future just by sheer numbers.
In my view the word ‘beasts’ can refer to all the enemies we encounter from the works of our flesh to the sin around us and to the demonic realm. But at core I have to agree with Joyce Myer that it primarily refers to pride. I can tell you that the thing we are most vulnerable to in the wake of an inheritance received is the pride problem.
So what is the forgotten detail in the glory and wonder of an inheritance received? Simply this:the maturity of character to properly steward and possess that inheritance – which essentially means that every empty space created by the vanquished enemy must be instantly filled up with the reality of the Person of Jesus Christ – thus leaving no empty space for pride or other foreign life forms.
I have shared this message to encourage those of us who have often been beaten up with the idea – the feeling that our progression is so slow and dull and without flash and celebrity that it hardly seems worth the journey. To us I say, it is better to progressively come into our inheritance little by little and to become well settled and established in it as we go than it is to impatiently grab for some unnatural measure of increase beyond our maturity and end up in scandalous ruin because of it.
The pathway is scattered with the burned out ruins of great men and women of God who prematurely took on measures of inheritance – measures beyond their maturity to properly steward.