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CLEAR LAND

Joshua 17:14-17:18
Key Verse: 17:15

Thank God for all his outpoured grace upon us in 2011. Thank him that he has endowed on us another year, 2012, for us to live. Yet, many people can be gloomy because of dark prospect of the global economic situation and uncertainty of the world. World situations and human circumstances affect us. However, we are mostly affected by our own way of thinking and inner attitude. Through studying God’s word in today’s passage, may we learn what kind of attitude we should have toward seemingly dark prospects and obstacles in life, and be filled with overcoming and pioneering spirit, the spirit of “clearing” land. With such spirit we may come to have a clear direction and prayer topics for this New Year, 2012.

First, clear land for yourselves (14-15). Look at verse 14. “The people of Joseph said to Joshua, ‘Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people and the LORD has blessed us abundantly.” What happened in the book of Joshua so far is that they had a great victory in fighting against the kings in Canaan and began dividing the land among the tribes of Israel. The allotment for Judah came first, and then the allotment for Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph. Other tribes had not yet received any allotment. It was in the process of dividing the land. At this point they came to Joshua said, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance?” They were complaining to Joshua for giving them just one portion which was not enough for them. The reason of their complaint was, “We are a numerous people and the LORD has blessed us abundantly.” They present their logic that a numerous people in God’s abundant blessing needs a big land. Their logic seemed to be right. But their problem was that they did not think of the whole situation and other tribes who had not received any inheritance. After receiving God’s blessing galore, they became selfish and self-centered.

How did Joshua respond to their request? Look at verse 15. “‘If you are so numerous,’ Joshua answered, ‘and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.” Joshua did not censure them for their self-centered way of thinking and complaining spirit. He was not negative about them. He did not try to dig out their underlying motive and fix them. Rather, he was very positive in helping them. He said, “If you are so numerous and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you.” He seemed to understand their situation of having many people, yet not enough land. However, he did not concur with their complaining and selfish dependent spirit. He did not want them to stay in “receiving continually” and “settling down in ease” mentality. He wanted them to challenge and pioneer when they felt the sense of need. So he said, “Go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there.” In saying this, Joshua had a great hope for them. He also said, “…in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.” God promised to give all of Canaan to the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham (Ge 15:19). This promised flowed from Abraham to Isaac, Jacob and unto Joshua. Joshua firmly believed this promise of God and gave this direction to the people of Joseph.

The spirit of pioneering and conquering is the very spirit God wanted mankind to have. When God created man and woman, he blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Ge 1:28). This spirit coincides with the Spirit of God. Genesis 1: 1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Here the word, “create” is in Hebrew “bara.” It is interesting and surprising that in Joshua 17:15, the word “clear” is in Hebrew “bara.” When Joshua said, “Go up into the forest and clear land…” he wanted them to have such a great spirit of creation, making something out of nothing, something visible out of invisible things. Now they could not see the land, but only the forest. But when they get rid of all the obstacles and cut down the trees, the land would be visible and useful in their possession. For this they had to fight and work hard. The spirit of “clear land for yourselves” is truly a great spirit. Clear;

When we think about Joshua’s life, we can see the spirit of challenging and pioneering. When he was sent to explore the land of Canaan, he and Caleb had the spirit of devouring the land out of their faith in God, while ten other reporters were seized with fear of the Canaanites. He said to the entire Israelite assembly, “…do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up” (Num 14:9). When he had to take over the leadership for the Israelites after Moses, God said to him again and again, “Be strong and courageous.” It was not easy for him to lead God’s people after the great servant of God, Moses. But with the words of God and God’s Spirit of conquering, he could do it. He crossed the Jordan River with all of his people, its waters flowing downstream being cut off at flood stage and standing up in a heap. It was another new challenge different from crossing the Red Sea. He conquered the first invincible city of Jericho in the promised land with a brand new strategy God had given him, circling quietly and shouting all at once. The archaeological evidence supports the historical accuracy of the biblical account in every detail. The fortified wall of Jericho collapsed; it just tumbled down. Then the heap of bricks from the collapsed walls formed a ramp against the retaining wall so that the Israelites merely had to climb up over the top into the city, and burn the whole city. But Rahab’s house which must have built against the North wall was not destroyed. He did this with the conquering spirit out of his faith in God. He even commanded the sun and the moon stop as he fought fiercely for the victory and glory of God: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon’ (Jo 10:12) So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped till the nation had a complete victory (Jo 10:13). The author commented in 10:13,14 says, “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man.” He did something unprecedented, what no one could do. His life was the life of challenge, victory and creation.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was known as an inventor widely recognized as a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer revolution. He was the one who could think of what others could not and had a remarkable influence on the computer world. He was creative and imaginative. Apple’s trademark phrase is, “Think Different.” In that sense his life was great. Our God is Creator. He wants us to be creative. He wants us to think what we could not think and do what we could not do. He wants us to be pioneers in life.

“Go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves.” The Israelites could not think of this direction. Yet, Joshua thought of it and gave this direction to them. People cannot think of such a thing because of the obstacles they confront. But we know that life always consists of obstacles and barriers. No one can just expect one plain (clearly visible) hill country after another. If anyone wants to do something meaning or great, he or she should learn to clear land and make a certain thing visible and possible. God gave us a precious mission of pioneering campuses in Canada with the gospel of Jesus Christ, beginning with U of T. We still have God’s promise, to give us the land of campuses, and Jesus’ command to preach the gospel and make disciples. Especially 1:1 mission is so precious in our times. I was really surprised to hear about God’s work in El Camino in LA. El Camino has around 20 student leaders and they together have served 300 1:1 each week. How can it be possible in a North America campus? They had 1:1 in coffee shop and everywhere around the campus. Definitely it was the work of faith and God’s blessing. M. John Baik’s faith was great. He held to Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”, and challenged it with faith. Yet, what impressed me most was how he served one soul. When he served one soul purely and wholeheartedly, God was very pleased and blessed the ministry abundantly. M. John began 1:1 Bible study with a tall handsome young man, named Moses Webster. His outward appearance was imposing, but his life was a pitiful and hopeless one. His parents divorced when he was 6 years old. Since then he withdrew into himself and had no desire to study. It caused him to have a deep wound in his heart. He lived his life as if it were ended. When M. John met him in the college, he even did not know how to read and write. He did not study for 12 years. M. John gave his whole heart in serving him, helping him to read and write and teaching the words of God. He soon attended Sunday worship service. However, at each worship service he fell asleep as soon as M. John delivered the message. It went through almost 2 years. Then God began to work in him through his words. At that time M. John raised him as a presider only to please God and encourage him. Those who attended Sunday worship service had to bear with his murmuring and slow reading. But they all together endured in God’s hope. Then amazingly he began to serve Bible students, even having 18 1:1 each work. And God led a very smart and eloquent student to him and raised the student as a disciple. When I read this story, I newly realized that our 1:1 is so precious and God is very pleased when we serve one soul with all we have. The way to serve one soul can vary. But God wants us to serve one person wholeheartedly in our own creative unique way, clearing all the obstacles. St. Paul, while he was in Roman prison, he took care of a slave who had run from the master as his very heart, his own son until the formerly useless one was changed into a useful one, Onesimus. The story became one of the 66 books of the Bible, Philemon. Each of us can challenge again to serve one student in that way. I thank God that last year we pioneered GBS led by our student leaders. We did something new, what we have not done for the last many years. May we continue to do it with faith until it becomes fruitful. May we also pioneer serving one soul uniquely until we can please God with it. In our personal lives, each of us has one life which is enough and sufficient for us. May we have the spirit of going up the forest and clearing land for ourselves and really pioneer our lives in every aspect to reveal the glory of God.

Second, you can (16-18). What was their response at Joshua’ direction? Look at verse 16. “The people of Joseph replied, ‘The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” They did not accept the direction given to them. They only talked about their present situation, saying, “The hill country is not enough for us,” and the condition of their enemies, saying, “all the Canaanites who live in the plan have iron chariots.” It sounded good for them to go up into the forest and clear land. But they knew that it implied their fighting with the strong enemies. The Canaanites were still formidable with their powerful weapons. The people of Joseph brought forth the practical impossibility which Joshua did not seem to bother to mention. Without defeating the Canaanites who had iron chariots, they could not go into the forest and clear lands for themselves there. As for us, pioneering our lives and campuses sounds good. But it definitely requires fighting a battle against all kinds of spiritual forces of evil within and without (Eph 6:12), and the trend of the world such as relativism, materialistic and pleasure-seeking lifestyle, and secular humanism.

How did Joshua help them? Look at verses 17,18. “But Joshua said to the house of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—‘You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and the farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.” At this Joshua again recognized who they were before God. They were numerous and very powerful. It was Joshua’s encouragement and faith that their being numerous meant being very powerful. This was Joshua’s view of them. He did not see them as selfish and self-centred and timorous bunch of people. He saw them as numerous and powerful people. He also recognized that they should have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. He knew what they had and also knew their needs. However, in recognizing who they were and what they needed he did not compromise with their direction. He confirmed the direction, saying, “Clear it.” This time he spoke a sure promise, “Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours.” Of course in giving this direction, he did not ignore the fact that they had to fight the formidable Canaanites. He ended with these words, “Though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.” Joshua recognized their potential, when he said, “You can drive them out.” Obviously, it was out of his faith in God. He believed that when they had faith in God, they could be stronger than their enemies and drive them out. He said, “You can” meaning “You can with faith in God.”

“You can”, is a clear and repeated messages in the Bible. Once a father with a demon-possessed son said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us,” Jesus said, “‘If you can,’ ‘everything is possible for him who believes.” To Jesus there is no “If you can.” There should not be the conditional (hypothetical) word, “If” before the words, “you can.” It should be the affirmative sentence, not the one with subjunctive mood. Don’t say, “If you can” or “If I can.” Before God there are only “you can” and “I can.” St. Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Ph 4:13). When the leaders of the 12 tribes were sent out to explore the land of Canaan, the majority reported, “We cannot attack because they are stronger than we are and they of great size...we seemed like grasshoppers…” At that time Caleb’s response was, “We can.” He said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Num 13:30). We know how important our thought world is. We should have the positive thought world, not psychologically but out of faith in God. When our thought is “I can,” it will be the reality regardless of the present difficulties.

In raising his disciples Jesus taught them again and again faith in God. He believed that they would do great work with the power of faith. Then right before his ascension he gave the promise of the Holy Spirit to his disciples who were only in the thought of the own selfish and limited earthly kingdom: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Through this promise Jesus wanted his disciple to anticipate the power of the Spirit. Jesus wanted them to believe that they can be powerful and do the powerful work of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed they became very powerful in Acts. They were men of faith and the Holy Spirit. God gives us his words of promise so that we may also become men and women of faith and the Holy Spirit. God’s word and prayer is our potent weapon for the filling of faith and the Holy Spirit.

We again thank God for giving us this New Year 2012. May God help us to go up into the forest of this year of new possibility and with the power of faith and Spirit clear land of all obstacles and uncertainty within and without so that we can do what we have not thought of and could not do in our life and mission in this new year for the glory of God.

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