“The inheritance of the Simeonites was taken from the share of Judah, because Judah’s portion was more than the needed.” Joshua 19:9a
Chapters 15 through 21 of the book of Joshua offer us some interesting reading – if you like to practice your pronunciation of ancient towns and villages. It is a stretch of Scripture that makes us wonder, “Why is that in there?” You know what I’m talking about; they are the portions you skim when you are following a reading plan, and the portion where your pastor stumbles attempting to pronounce all the names. Why is it important to know that the village of Ain was given to Simeon? Since I come from the small “town” (using that term loosely) of McBain, I could say that it is a reminder that good people come from small towns.
But I think there is more to it than that. More than merely recording history. If you look closely, you will see that the division and composition of territories fit the needs and characteristics of each group. The tribe of Ephraim did not dislodge the Canaanites in Gezer, so the Canaanites remained (16:10). The same was true for the Manassites (17:12). At the end of chapter 17, Joshua challenged both the Ephraimites and the Manassites to expand their territory. And by the way, disregard the fact that I wanted to name my first son Ephraim or Manasseh – I was young.
TRUST ME, IT FITS
We have all heard or said that God will not put more on us than what we can bear. It’s a nice line to toss to those who seem to be sinking. There is truth in that statement, though we rarely quote the verse completely. The complete reminder is best read as verses 11 through 13 of 1 Corinthians 10. There you will find reference to being “tempted beyond what you can bear” as the writer completes a section about learning from Israel’s mistakes.
It is true, God will make a way out for us when we need one. We can operate in that knowledge of truth and authority. Joshua’s command at the end of chapter 17 reminded the people, “though they are strong, you can drive them out” (verse 18). But it’s not only that God will make a way out or allow our territory to expand, but it’s also that God makes our territory match how far God can reach through us. Let me say that again. The distance that God can reach operating through us is the extent of our territory.
Just as you would not hand your car keys over to your five-year old, God would not have us operate in areas where we are unprepared. This is not to challenge the truth that God equips those He calls (see Moses et al.), but to remind us that our territory – our sphere of influence – is not up to us. Some of us want a new job. Okay, but has God told you it’s time? Maybe you want to move to a new home or city – is that desire of you or of God?
Unfortunately there were (and are) many who took the prayer of Jabez to be a means to prosperity – for your personal territory. (By the way, I’d love for you to give me the Scripture reference for the prayer without a web search..you probably won’t even find Jabez in your concordance.) The problem with that mindset is the focus – on self. Yes, Jabez had his prayer answered (1 Chronicles 4:9-11, thank you, Wikipedia..sorry, Amber) but it doesn’t say how. But very importantly it says who: “And God granted his request” (verse 10).
WHO, NOT WHAT
I am a big fan of the music produced by Israel and New Breed. Their song, “To Worship You I Live” broke me out of a very dark time in my life (me using it as a worship, not the song alone). On the same album is a song titled “No Limits”, and it sounds a lot like the prayer of Jabez:
No limits/ No boundaries/ I see increase/ All around me/ Stretch forth/ Break forth/ Release me/ Enlarge my territory
The first two dozen times I heard that (and sang along), I imagined myself to be like Jabez – enlarge MY territory. Then I heard something different. I heard God speaking (or singing) that back to me. It is HIS territory. I am His territory, and there are areas of my life that I have selfishly designated as “mine.”
The refrain of the song is very simple: “Take the limits off! Take the limits off! Release me! Release me!” Haven’t we done that – tried foolishly to place limits on God? I know I have. Sometimes, just like the people of Joseph, I have complained that I don’t have enough (fill in the blank). My complaint is me-centered. And, just as Joshua reminded the people, the strength I have is within me. My strength is God, and if I continue to operate with a heart of stone, there is little that I can do for the Kingdom.
A calling is not a simple “what you do,” it’s a “who you are.” You are not a tithe. God did not ask for ten percent of you (not even Wikipedia can find that Scripture reference.) He asks to operate in you, to make you – His territory – into what He has planned.
Today a middle school student saw me using the mop, stopped, stared, and asked, “Mr. Roede…are you a janitor now TOO?!” Later in the day I visited with a young boy and was able to give him a Bible. Just before that he had asked, “Are you one of the pastors around here?”
There are days that I wish I could be defined by one title, or one calling. If you are a parent, you know how impossible that feels to attain. You are not simply “parent,” you are teacher, chauffeur, banker, doctor, chef..the list grows daily.
However, just as God made the territories “fit” the tribes of Israel, He has made one title fit each of us: Child of God. A title that you are uniquely qualified to fill in your life. There will be times when God stretches you out. There will be times when God pulls you in. But always, always, you are His territory – the place where He operates.
Read the lyrics of that song again. I’d like to challenge you to even read them out loud, and hear God speaking that to you. Make yourself available so He can work without your limits on Him.
And have a blessed day, Child of God.