Joshua 13


I will take up this chapter with chapters 15-19, reserving chapter 14 for a special study by itself. The enemies are all conquered, but not all driven out. Enemies, there will always be, until the coming of the Lord. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor.15:26). But Israel has to dispossess them; as long as they possess anything, the enjoyment of the people of God is not complete; and more than this, they are allowing in their midst what might continually cause them to fail. If the enemy is not destroyed, he will not be slow to lift the head and corrupt the people, if he cannot over­come them.

Such in fact was the snare when the Israelites were peacefully established in the land of their possession. It says of the two and a half tribes: “Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites; but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites unto this day” (ch. 13:13 ). And of Judah it says: “As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem , the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day” (ch. 15:63). And of Ephraim: “And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer ; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute” (ch. 16:10 ). Finally of Manasseh: Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land” (ch. 17:12 ; compare also Judges 1:17-36).

There may have been, as we see in these passages, more or less faithfulness displayed, in reducing the Canaanites to submission, but not one tribe was up to the height of his calling.

What was the result? Under this influence it was not long before all the worldly principles, against which Israel had been contending, entered into their midst. We see in the pro­phets that lusts, confidence in their own strength, turning to the nations for help, formed part of their very existence. More than this, the idolatry of the Canaanites spread like gangrene amongst them, and they ended by defiling themselves with all the gods of the Gentiles. Corruption, lying, unrighteousness, contempt of God, violence, open rebellion, everything in a word in which consisted “the iniquity of the Amorites,” and for which the judgment of God overtook them, became the sad portion of the Lord's people. At last, terrible to say, Israel himself takes the place of, and becomes, so to speak, this very army of the Canaanites led by Satan against the Lord. They reject and crucify Christ, the Son of God!

Jehovah is long-suffering towards them; He makes urgent appeals to them, sends partial judgments followed by momentary deliverances and fresh appeals. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done to it?' But at length final judgment overtakes them. They are carried away beyond Babylon , and scattered amongst the nations. But here we have another, and a marvellous thing. If man responsible has reached the end of his history which closes in judgment, God has not come to the end of His resources. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” To be able to bless them, God must bring them to Himself in quite a new condition. He will cause them to share in the blessing of the new birth, according as it is written: “I will take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them an heart of flesh” (Ezek.11:19). He will act on their consciences to bring them back; He will write His laws in their hearts; He will give them the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins, and of the blessed relationship to Himself into which He will bring them. All their lost bless­ings will then be recovered in a far more blessed way. This is the scene so touchingly depicted in Hosea 14, Israel after being restored to Jehovah, seeking of Him the blessings of the new covenant in, his cry: “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously, so will we render the calves of our lips” (v.2). There we see the remnant relinquishing all worldly support, all confidence in an arm of flesh, all false gods, and in their desolation becoming acquainted with the mercy of God on which all their blessing depends. “Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, ye are our gods; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.”

Notice too, in these chapters what minute care the Spirit of God takes to define the place and limits of every tribe, so that each may see and realise exactly their lot in the inheritance. It is the same now for us individually. God has given to us each our definite place and duties in the body of Christ. Every member of Christ is responsible to have the consciousness of it, and to act consistently with it, so that the energy of life, which flows down from the Head to the members, may find them to be vessels prepared for His work, and contributing to it all together, moved by a common spring of action (Eph.4:16).


Let us now consider the portion of the tribe of Levi ( 13:14 ,33). By the commandment of the Lord, neither Aaron (Num.18:20), nor the priests, nor any, of the tribe of Levi could have any inheritance in Israel . Their inheritance was on the one hand, “the Lord God of Israel ,” and on the other “the sacrifices of the Lord God of Israel made by fire.” It is the same for us, His heavenly people. We have no portion on earth, but our privilege is to stand before God and to serve Him, and more than this to possess Him, to have communion with Him in the heavenly places, with the Father, and with the Son, who is with Him. But our portion in the Son is also “the sacrifices of the Lord made by fire”; that is to say, Christ according to all the perfection of His work and His Person before God; Christ, the perfect Man, the cake of fine flour anointed with oil, and covered with frankincense; Christ as a victim, the burnt offering, the sacrifice for sin, all that in which God finds His eternal delight. We have communion with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Christ Himself our example, the Levite without spot, the perfect Servant, passed through the same blessed experiences in His pathway here. If He looks towards the earth, He says: “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup”; if He looks upward He adds: “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Ps.16:5,6).

Beloved, we may indeed say that our present portion is at the same time our future one; and the priests of the tribe of Levi will also realise this blessing when Israel will peacefully enjoy the millennial glory under Messiah's reign. In speaking of this wondrous moment, the prophet Ezekiel says: “And it shall be unto them for an inheritance; I am their inheritance; and ye shall give them no possession in Israel : I am their possession” (Ezek.44:28-30); and he goes on to shew that the offerings of the Lord will be their portion in this day of glory.

And now let us turn to Revelation 4 and 5. Does not the heavenly scene there speak to us of the same things? Unbroken communion with God and with the Lamb will be the portion of our inheritance, and that for ever.