Dr. Mark Hardgrove
Reading these lists, whether it is a genealogical record, a tribal allotment, or a list of battles and victories can sometimes be tedious, but there is always a payoff. The payoff of this list in chapter 21 comes in the last three verses. In essence what these verses tell us is that if God said it, you can settle in it. If God promises it, you can possess it. If God gave it, you can go and get it. And you don’t have to ask permission from the enemy before you do it. All you have to do is kick in the gates of hell and tell the devil, “I’m here to claim my blessings, so get your filthy hands off what God has given me.”
Verse 42 summarizes chapter 21, “These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.” In other words, this was the nature of all these Levitical cities. They were small cities with surrounding land for pasture and gardening and they were dispersed throughout the country.
I. GOD SAID IT, AND THAT SETTLES IT
43And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
Notice the words of verse 43; Yahweh gave everything He promised to give to their fathers. God had made this promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was a covenant God had made with His people, and though it seemed a long time in coming, with God a thousands years is as a day, and a day as a thousand years. The passage of time does not diminish the potency of the promise. If God said it, that settles it. God will give all that He promises to give.
Over two thousand years ago Jesus gave us this promise, “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. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:1-4, NKJV).
It may seem like this promise has been a long time in coming, but it is coming, in fact it is on its way, indeed, by faith we already sit in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus, our citizenry is already in heaven. God said it, so be faith all we have to do is settle into it, live like we believe it, walk like we know it, talk like it’s a fact and not a fiction.
But notice this as well, “and they possessed it.” As I’ve said in the past, God has given much more than we have the faith to possess. God had prepared the land before they ever got there. He had Canaanites building homes, planting vineyards and orchards for hundreds of years before Israel got to go in and get it. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all got to live in the land and to see what God was preparing for their offspring, but it was over five hundred years after God had promised Abraham the land that the seed of Abraham finally possessed what God had promised.
Sometimes we’re guilty of asking God for what He has already given. The problem often isn’t God’s provision it is our possessing. A generation of Jews died in the wilderness because they refused to go and get what God had given. The problem with small churches isn’t that there aren’t enough people to fill the building, the problem is that we fail to go and get what God has given. God has placed us in a place where the harvest is plenteous.
In Deuteronomy 6:10-11 God promised Israel: 10And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 11And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not . . ..KJV
Then fast forward to John’s Gospel, chapter 4. A Samaritan woman had been witnessing in the city and came back with a crowd to meet Jesus. Jesus said to His disciples: 35Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. John 4:35-38, KJV
Just as the Israelites had to go and possess the land, the cities, the vineyards and the blessings, Jesus expected His disciples to begin to harvest the souls that had been brought to Him by the woman who planted the seed. The problem with small churches is not that Jesus fails to build His church, the problem is that churches fail to go and gather the material that He has laid at their doorsteps.
Notices, finally, in verses 43 that they “dwelt therein.” They not only possessed it, they settled it. There is a note of permanency. They had been wanderers for a long time, now they were going to settle into the land that God had promised, and God had provided. They had been living in tents and walking through other people’s blessing for long enough, this was their time now. They were going to live in houses, tend the vineyards, and raise their families on the promise.
Often when things aren’t happening like we think they should, we have a tendency to look over the fence to the greener grass. Their fore-parents, who came out of Egypt, had that mentality. They kept looking back to Egypt until they died in the desert. The problem is that until we can stop looking back, we’ll never move forward.
Pastors have the same problem. If it isn’t happening where they are then it must be the people’s fault. And the people say, it must be the pastor’s fault. The pastor look to move to another church, the people bounce around half a dozen churches, and while we shuffle saints and preachers, masses that are white unto harvest are dying in the fields, untouched, unloved, and unreached.
God said it, and that settles it, but we must settle on it. We must possess the promise, get what He’s given, and grow where He plants us.
II. RESTING ON THE BLESSING
44And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.
When they finally possessed the promise, they found the peace and rest that they had been without for so many generations. Notice, they didn’t obtain their rest, they didn’t purchase their rest, God gave them rest when they possessed the promise. “The Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.” The church will be victorious when the church is willing to go and get the harvest that God has given. There is never real rest to be found in the foxhole.
Rest is from the Hebrew word, nuwach (noo’-akh)which means, “to rest, to settle down, to dwell, to let alone, to give comfort.” We want that kind of rest, we want to be able to settle down in a church, in a community, in a home and rest. We want to be in a place of comfort where the enemy will leave us alone. But the truth is that we will never find that place of rest until we are willing to go to war and claim what God has already given. He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, KJV).
He said He gave us peace, so if we do not have peace, then the problem is not the provision, the problem is the possessing. God gave peace, but do you have peace? If not, why not? Slap the devil up side his head, submit to God, resist the devil and send him running from you!
III. GOD NEVER FAILS
I love verse 45, “There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.” Nothing good that God had promised failed to be provided, all came to pass.
We may fail to get what was given, but God will never fail to give what He promised. He promised us that He would build His church. This church will grow if and when we decide to be the church that He has called us to be. Souls will be saved when we go get them. Lives will be transformed when we take the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ to them.
Evangelism isn’t about the latest fad or the hottest program. Evangelism is about us entering into our Canaan and getting what God has provided. He promised us that the works that He did shall we do also. He healed the sick, cast out devils, and made disciples. So can we. He prayed and His prayer were answered. He spoke and demons trembled. He touched and bodies were healed. That is our promise. He said, “17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18, KJV).
It’s time we get tired of walking in a wilderness of religion. It’s time that we get tired of seeing souls ravaged and robbed by the enemy. It’s time that we rise up and go in to get what God has given. It’s time to possess what God has promised. It’s time to be the church walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, anointed and appointed for such a time as this. It’s time that we reap the harvest, love the lost, bind up the broken, release the captives and set at liberty them that are bruised.
Evangelism isn’t a technique, it is an attitude that says, “Devil, I will not stand idly by while you pull souls into the pit of hell. I’ve got a Word in my mouth, a fire in my bones, and the Holy Ghost in my soul and I’m here to get what God has given.