The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Missing the Fullness

“And they did not drive out the Canaanites . . . .” – Joshua 16:10

God has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). But it is possible to miss out on the fullness of those promises. God had promised to give His people the Land of Canaan (Joshua 1). In the New Testament Jesus promises abundant life (John 10:10). Why is it then that our life as a Christian so often feels less than abundant? In Joshua 15 through 19 we are given insight into some of the causes of Missing the Fullness of God’s promises.

People miss out on the fullness of God’s promises because of ingrained enemies. In Joshua 15 we are reminded of the good example of Caleb who did experience the fullness of the promise of God’s blessing in the conquest of the territory allotted to him by God (Joshua 15:13-15). “Caleb drove out” the giant impediments to the promise of God. But in verse 63 we are introduced by way of contrast to the first reason why God’s people sometimes miss out on the fullness of His promises. It states, “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 to this day.”  An ingrained enemy is one reason people don’t’ live in the fullness of God’s blessing. Here we see one of the reasons people don’t live in the fullness of God’s blessings. We are told that the children of Judah were unable to drive out the Jebusites. The Jebusites inhabited Jerusalem. It was historically a well-fortified city. The Jebusites were able to withstand efforts to besiege the city because they had built a water shaft that kept the city from dying of thirst. It wasn’t until the reign of David that the Jebusites were defeated (2 Sam. 5).

There are strongholds in our life that sometimes take a prolonged period of time and effort to defeat. Victory is assured (e.g. Rom. 8:37-39). But victory may not come instantaneously. This is one reason for people not experiencing the fullness of God’s promises. Like Jerusalem under the Jebusites there may be a tunnel that this enemy is using to funnel and feed itself so that it remains in place. Like David we need to identify the source that the enemy is using to feed itself and cut it off. Is there an enemy in your life? Are you allowing a tunnel of some kind to feed it? The way to victory is to cut off the source of feeding for your entrenched enemy.

People miss out on the fullness of God’s blessing due to incomplete efforts. In Joshua chapters 16 and 17 we are given the boundaries of the Land of Promise apportioned to the two tribes of Joseph. And in Joshua 16:10 it states, “And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers.” An incomplete work keeps us from the fullness of God’s blessing. In verse 10 we are told the tribe of Ephraim did not follow God’s commandment to completely remove the inhabitants of Canaan (Deut. 7). They allowed pockets of enemy presence to remain in the land. We are not told this was because of a particularly strong enemy resistance. We are simply told they did not drive out these Canaanites. They settled to making them forced labor.

There are times when we think we know better than the Lord. There are times when we think we can take and use those things God has forbidden for us. That always leads to problems and less than God’s best. It results in living in less than the fullness of God’s blessing. It’s important to pay attention to and carry out God’s word in detail; in its fullness. Fully keeping the word of God is the way to experience the fullness of His blessing. God doesn’t bless short cuts, half-hearted, and incomplete sloppy efforts.

People miss out on the fullness of God’s promises because of an eye-for-more. In Joshua 17:1-13 give us the boundaries of the half tribe of Manasseh who did enter the Promised Land. (Remember that half of the tribe of Manasseh decided to take their portion outside the Promised Land – Numbers 32:15). The half tribe of Manasseh who did enter the Land and receive an allotment came to Joshua with a complaint: “Then the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given us only one lot and one share to inherit, since we are a great people, inasmuch as the Lord has blessed us until now?” 15 So Joshua answered them, “If you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.” 16 But the children of Joseph said, “The mountain country is not enough for us; and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both those who are of Beth Shean and its towns and those who are of the Valley of Jezreel.” 17 And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—saying, “You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, 18 but the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong.” (Joshua 17:14-18). These verses show us that, an eye for more can keep one from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessing.

There are times when we miss out on God’s blessing because we mistakenly seek more outside our lot before we take what is ours in the land in which God has placed us. God had given the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh their lot. They were dissatisfied with what God gave them. They felt they deserved more. Therefore they went to Joshua and complained and asked for a greater inheritance. Joshua’s response was to acknowledge they were indeed a great people and that they would indeed be given more land, but that the land they would be given was not elsewhere but right where they were.

Sometimes we miss the trees for the forest. Sometimes we fail to see what God is giving us right where we are because we are looking (lusting) for more elsewhere. This is a version of the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side mentality. There are times when we are looking for more land before we have completely taken and experienced the fullness of what God has for us where we presently are situated. There are numerous example of this in life. Like the child with two fists full of cookies who cries for “More cookies! More!” There is the person who cries for a promotion before they have proved themselves in their present position. There is the person who church hops to find a spouse when God may have provided their mate right where they are in their local church. There is the person who feels called to be a missionary to the world when they have failed to win their local neighbors. This more-mindset that keeps us from the fullness of God’s blessing is rooted in pride, presumption, a pressure to achieve or get more, a spirit of entitlement, and a general dissatisfaction with what God has given them.

This hindrance to the fullness of God’s blessing also involves a subtle laziness or lack of passion to take the land God has given you. Ephraim and Manasseh didn’t want to put in the effort to take land that would require a battle against giants. They had to be reminded by Joshua that, “You are a great people, and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, but the mountain country shall be yours” (Joshua 17:17). In other words Joshua said, “You are great and you will receive more, but you will have to work for it in the power the Lord has provided.”

It is also rooted in a misunderstanding about how greatness is defined. Alan Redpath correctly comments:

“Greatness . . . has everything to do with faithfulness to the Lord and constant, persistent endeavor after holiness of life. . . . Are you constantly discontented with your present lot? Do you often pine for greater opportunity to serve the Lord? Is your heart set on some mission field? For it may be that the searchlight of God’s Word will disclose that the enemy is still deeply entrenched in your soul. May the Spirit of God point out to you that perhaps you have not really possessed the lot which God has given you. . . .

 As God speaks to you today, do you not see that the real trouble in your life may be, not that you have not enough scope for your gifts, but that you are not living to capacity where you are? Satan is still sharing the land with you. You may want to leave him behind and move on to greater things, but that is never God’s way. You can strain at the leash just as long as you like, but God’s Spirit will hold you back and focus the searchlight of the Word on your life. He will keep you where you are until you have occupied and lived to capacity just there, and until – in the place in which you are serving, in the lot that He has given you, up to the capacity of your heart for Christ - the enemy has been vanquished. [1]

Have you been seeking greater land from the Lord, different land? Seeking an escape from what God has given you? Perhaps He has work for you to do right where you are.

People miss the fullness of God’s promises because of neglecting to apply those promises. In Joshua 18 it states, “Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them. 2 But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance. 3 Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?) Joshua 18:1-3). The tribes assembled to worship at the tabernacle of the Lord. But Joshua said there was something wrong; something was left out. They came to worship but they neglected to apply what God had told them. It is good and very important to attend church, worship the Lord, and take in the teaching of His word. But if what is taught is never applied it becomes worthless! Joshua identifies this lapse and problem and exhorts the seven tribes who hadn’t yet taken possession of their allotted land to do so.

We can attend church and study the word of God regularly, but if we never apply in the Spirit what the Spirit has shown us, it is worthless. Without applying what the Spirit teaches and what God promises in His word, we are rendered impotent; a gelding; we become spiritually constipated and bloated. We have to apply in life what is learned in the sanctuary or in our quiet times with the Lord and His word. Failing to apply God’s word in life will result in missing the fullness of the promises of God in life.

Joshua countered the neglect of the seven tribes by sending out three men from each of the seven neglectful tribes to survey the land (Joshua 18:4-7). When we fail to apply or take hold of the promises of God we need to survey the land; restudy what God has promised; and be re-inspired by remembering just what God has promised us.

Joshua sent out the surveyors and they “wrote the survey in a book” (Joshua 18:8-10).  It’s a good thing to write down and record God’s allotted land and promises of God. That helps us know just where we are to apply those promises.

Joshua 19 provides the boundaries for the remaining tribes. Joshua’s personal boundaries for his allotment of land are given in the last part of Joshua 19 (verses 49-51). Notice that Joshua took his allotment last; after the other tribes had received their allotment from the LORD. Joshua was a servant leader. He led by serving God’s people. He was not out to fleece the flock of God but to feed them the promises of God. That is the way of a godly leader. When the Spirit is leading through a leader, that leader will be driven to serve and sacrifice for those God calls them to lead. That is the way a leader leads his people into the fullness of God’s blessing. And that is the way we will experience the fullness of God’s promises and blessing.

More often than not we miss out on what God has for us because of self-centeredness, greed, pride, the flesh. It’s fitting that Joshua received his portion last. He becomes a beautiful Christ-type here as he fulfills the New Testament exhortation to, “Let nothing be one through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3). This is the Christlike mindset we should have (cf. Phil. 2:5-11). Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Luke 9:23-25). God has more than Land for you to possess. His purposes are more than temporal; they are eternal. Ask yourself, “What are God’s eternal purposes for me?” Seek His will and ask that question, and you’ll experience the fullness of His blessing.


[1] Alan Redpath, Victorious Christian Living, (Calvary Chapel Pub. Santa Ana, CA 2007)   pgs. 181f.

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