Continuing to read in Joshua . . . the less exciting part . . . the mapping out the land part. The big battles are done. For the most part the desert wanderers delivered from Egyptian bondage have moved in. What’s left is the housekeeping: who’s gonna sleep where.
Two statements of fact caught my attention this morning:
Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.
These are the inheritances that Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel distributed by lot at Shiloh before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.
(Joshua 18:1, 19:51 ESV)
There’ a certain ring of finality. The land lay subdued and they finished dividing it.
Battles had been fought and the LORD had been faithful and the promised land was now subject to the people of promise. They had dominated and now it was under their control.
The surveying had been done, the borders set, and the deeds handed out. The plan was finished. The cities and territories allotted. All that was left was to move in.
But if you know the rest of the story you know that, though the land had been subdued and the land had been divided, the land was not yet settled. Getting to the promised land was just the beginning of learning to live in the promised land. There was still work to be done — hard work. There would be traps to navigate, battles to be fought, temptations to resist, and trials to encounter, endure, and overcome. While in one sense the work might have been finished, in another, it was just beginning.
But they wouldn’t have to navigate this foreign terrain on their own. It’s not like God delivered them on the doorstep and said, “See ya’ later!” In fact, there was still a ton to learn about the dynamics of living with a holy God in their midst, of living as His redeemed inheritance, and of living ever to make His name known.
And I can’t help but think that’s not unlike where we’re at today as His people.
To be sure, the work is finished and the victory won. We’ll remind ourselves of that increasingly over the next couple of weeks as we focus on the passion of Christ and the empty tomb. And to be equally sure, all God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ, He is our Yes and Amen, and there’s a sense in which we have already arrived–having received life and life abundantly. So, we too, have subdued the land and divided it–possessors of every spiritual blessing and already seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3, 2:6). But isn’t there still a lot of settling in to do?
While the work is finished there’s still a lot of work to do. Though we are more than conquerors there are still battles to be won as we figure out how to walk in the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and wage war against the old nature with the Spirit. Though we are infused with heavenly power we still struggle with earthly weakness. Though we have been made whole in Christ we still suffer in the flesh. Subdued, divided, but not settled.
And then, we’re trying to working through what it means to live in community with others who are also just settling in. Strangers we now call brothers and sisters as we try and do family together. Not necessarily brought together by natural affinity or interests, but woven together in common life–life wrought through the gospel.
Made righteous in Christ, but so aware of each other’s unrighteousness. Declared holy, but rubbing shoulders together as we are being made holy. Perfect in Christ, but works in progress until perfection comes. Subdued, divided, but not settled.
In the kingdom. Navigating the kingdom. Still appropriating the kingdom.
By His grace. For His glory.