Joshua 13:1-7; 21:43-45
Promises Fulfilled

This week Pastor Keith Welton delivers the closing message from the sermon series Promises Fulfilled. To access the previous sermon in this series, click here.

Bleak House

There are a few things my wife loves. At the top of the list are Charles Dickens novels and anything involving people living in castles in Europe. All the pageantry and all the drama. Big old houses. So, naturally, I have seen my fair share of these. One of her favorites, our favorites, is the novel Bleak House.

Bleak House is a novel by Charles Dickens, first published in 1852. Mainly about a young woman, Esther Somerson. She never knew her mother and father, is raised by a harsh Mrs. Barbary who tells her, “Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers.” Mrs Barbary dies and Esther comes into the custody of Mr. John Jarndyce. The novel has many characters and several subplots, but at the center is a long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which comes about because of debate on the execution of a will. There are several conflicting wills, and a significant inheritance, and many are hoping for a piece of the pie.

There are many people with interest in the case because of their names being mentioned on different wills. John Jarndyce is a wealthy man of the family and he also becomes the legal guardian of a couple wards. Richard Carstone and Ada Clare, both his distant cousins. Richard is a young man with connections to the case, and he becomes extremely interested in seeing the case settled. There is a lot of money on the line and Richard is a man with ideas and hopes.   

Richard and Ada soon fall in love, but though Mr. Jarndyce does not oppose the match, he stipulates that Richard must first choose a profession. Richard first tries a career in medicine, then law. Then the military. Richard, having failed at several professions, has ignored his guardian's advice and is trying to push Jarndyce and Jarndyce to a conclusion in his and Ada's favor, and has fallen out with John Jarndyce.   

In the process, Richard loses all his money and declines in health. He and Ada have secretly married, and Ada is pregnant. Eventually the case is settled. The final ruling on the case is determined, and due to the length of the case, the enormous amount of legal cost surrounding the case from the many people involved, everything has been spent. There is nothing left to inherit. Consumed in court costs and legal fees, it is gone. Richard dies a broke, and heart broken, man. It’s a tragic ending.   

So much promise. So much at stake. And it all fizzles out. All their hope was for naught. All that promises and it falls empty and flat. Wasn’t worthy of his attention and devotion. 

God’s Faithfulness

Let me ask you this, how smart is it to trust the Christian faith? Is God worthy of your devotion, or might you end up like Richard, broken and regretful? Look, if this faith and religion do not have substance you are of all people to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15), but if it is true, you are a fool not to trust it. So which is it?   

Today’s passage shows us the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people. He promised Joshua and the Israelites a land to inherit, and he is faithful to bring it about. God is faithful to fulfill his promises so we can trust in him.   

Change in the book of Joshua. No more battles. Lists predominate. “The sedentary pace, related tone, and relative lack of action contrast dramatically with the first half.”   

Two main sections of the book are the taking of the land (1-12) and now the distribution of the land (13-21). Each tribe's inheritance demonstrates God’s faithfulness to his promises. He told them they would inherit the land. You may get to chapter 13 and start wondering what is all this geographical detail about? This is what it is about. 

The People Receive Their Inheritance

There is a lot of detail in these chapters. It is not very exciting to read. But many details of wills are pedantic to those who have no interest in the will. If you are not mentioned, you couldn’t care less. If you are, then you want to know every detail.    This may seem really insignificant. But if it said you will inherit the land west of the Chattahoochee River up to Lake Lanier and over to Milton, and Roswell. All of Alpharetta and Milton. If I said that, you would probably perk up. You would suddenly be interested in what I have to say.   

God had promised his people a land. This goes back to Genesis 12, about the year 1500 BC. Joshua takes place around the year 1100 BC. They have been wandering nomads for decades.   

They have acquired the land!   

God promised Abraham that he would give his descendants the promised land. The people have been on a long, arduous, and eventful journey. After being enslaved 400 years (Gen 15:13), and then wandering the desert for 40 years, they finally get what was promised. They fought battles. They saw God provide for them.   

What you are reading are details that God did what he promised. All these years people were living in faith and hope that one day they would receive a land. God is faithful to bring it about.   

Joshua is told to divide up the promised land. He doesn't need to fight a battle. All he needs to do here is to divide up what they have conquered. This is easy and fun. Easier to dish up dinner than to cook it. This has a different tone.   

Each tribe receives an inheritance. Joshua and Caleb are singled out. Levites. No one is left out.   

May seem inconsequential, but consider sitting at the funeral or reading of the will of a deceased relative. Every word is important. Every word tells you something about the person, who and what they valued. Shows their attitude and feelings.   

God is faithful to do what he said. God is worthy to trust. Credit. Borrow and pay back then banks generally see you as being worthy to trust.   

God doesn’t just say he is faithful, he demonstrates it. 

God’s Fulfillment Fulfills His People 

A glorious spiritual summary. Theological heart of the book. Everything God has promised his people for centuries has now come about.   

This is a powerful testimony of the faithfulness and goodness of the Lord. Not one, not a single word, of God’s promises failed.   

*He didn't promise it would be easy. He said they would have to be strong and courageous. Need strength to overcome things that are hard to move and need courage when things are scary. But God was true to his word.   

This is a great truism of a battle-proven soldier. Powerful. Joshua has seen some stuff.   

Words of the people who are satisfied in what they did. They walked with God. Trusted him in the past. Trusted him in the present. Trust him with the future. Could have said, “Well what about the land of those people in Babylon or Egypt. Man I would like that.” They are content with their land. They are content with what God has done for them. This is the testimony of the faithful.   

Psalmist, been young and now old, never seen the godly forsaken. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 37:5  

Joshua saw the Lord provide. He saw God’s faithfulness. They didn’t have the power to overcome the fortress of Jericho. God did. He trusted in God and saw God do what only he could do.    He also saw people disobey God, like Acahn, and get struck down for it. He saw what happened to Pharaoh. He saw what happened when the people grumbled against God in the desert. He saw the Israelites overcome nations. He saw his own people fall in disobedience.   

Now an old man, he says this to encourage all others to trust in the Lord. We need to hear older people that have not given in to the world. We need older people who are still trying to build into the church of God. Have people over. Get to know each other. Older people who are doing that and sharing with others how God has met you. Younger people whose heroes are not those who have millions of followers but no character. Whom do you want to be like? Do you value faithfulness to God? If that is the greatest thing we can do then that is what we should value.   

Matt Damon

Recently actor Matt Damon shared about winning an Oscar at a young age. What most would consider the ultimate in life and something that would truly fulfill them.    "Imagine chasing that, and not getting it, and getting it finally in your 80s or your 90s with all of life behind you and realizing what an unbelievable waste of your life...It can’t fill you up. If that’s a hole that you have, that won't fill it. My heart broke,” Damon said. “I imagined another one of me [not getting that award until I was] an old man, and going like, ‘Oh my god. Where did my life go? What have I done?’ And then it’s over.”  

There are a thousand quotes like Damon’s. Many chase after success, not realizing it will not fulfill.   

Joshua and these people experience rest. They have the land. Promises fulfilled. They still have work to do. They still have people to remove from the land.   

It wasn’t the land that satisfied them, it was God.  And he has seen people fail because they were not satisfied in God. Many people just want to use God for their own dreams. Serve God to get the business to the next level. They love themselves and only want to serve God to love themselves more. Happens in ministry. Pastors want the big church, the successful ministry, not out of love for God but for a narcissistic love of self. God often deals with that by not giving them what they want. Those who love self will turn from God because God did not respect their gifts, didn’t glorify them, they double down on narcissism and turn from him. Or they humble themselves and say, I just need you. Look at all you have done for me. I'm blessed just to be called a son of the living God!   

*God people are content with God.* God + what?

A Greater Inheritance to Come

 Let me tell you why it’s ok to be a little disinterested in this land distribution. This was a fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. But there is also something greater that we need. What Joshua achieves or what God does for Joshua is an early stage of fulfillment, not the final stage, in a much greater work.   

This land was a hope to regain all that was lost in the garden. They knew God and walked with Adam.  When people disobeyed God, judgment fell on the world. Life was made hard. Death, sickness came. Strife in relationships. Everything was made hard. Hardest of all is they were removed from the presence of God. Removed from the fullness of his kindness and goodness. If you ever wonder what is wrong with the world, why is it this way? It is because of the fall, because of sin, and judgment. But in that time God also promised he would restore what was lost. This land is a partial fulfillment of God’s promise. It is what he promised.   

Land is good. God created people for this world. We have desires to live in this world, to work and use our gifts, to serve God and people. Place to live and be. But Joshua is old and will soon die. There are problems with the people being obedient to God’s commands (Joshua 13:13, 15:63). This section even gives instructions on what to do when a person accidentally kills another (Joshua 20:9). This is not paradise!  

The book of Hebrews makes clear this was not the ultimate rest we all look forward to. God has another rest in store for his people. One at the end of time (Hebrews 4:8-11 ESV).  

A new land does not take away the problem of sin.  Our greatest need is not more stuff, but for one who will remove sin and death and bring us into an unbreakable relationship with God. God provides a place here but a greater need remains. God provides for this need by sending another Joshua. The Greek translation of Joshua is Jesus. Jesus will redeem people from their sin and overcome death.   

We are waiting for an inheritance. This inheritance is the new heavens and new earth. It is to come. It is not the land that is there now. There will be a new heaven and earth.    We await an everlasting inheritance. A permanent one. A work that can’t be undone. A new heaven and earth. Not just a part of the world, but the whole world. This is what we have in Jesus. Jesus was fully obedient to the Lord. Jesus reconciled us to God and secured for us an inheritance that lasts forever.  

Just as surely as God’s promises to the Israelites were fulfilled, so too we believe God will fulfill his promise to us.   

Joshua receives the promised land as a gift. He has believed and persevered in his faith. Many others have fallen from God’s commands, some have even resisted. But Joshua and the faithful community are blessed and fulfilled in Christ. All he said has come to fulfillment.   

We can go all-in on trusting God’s promises. We have seen God be faithful to his promises in the past, so we can trust him in the future. We live in a time where we need courage and strength. God has not promised it will be easy, but he has promised us eternal life with him in an age to come in which there is no more death, suffering, or pain. He has a place for each of his people.   

The one who promised is faithful. Faithful in the past. Faithful in the future. Can trust him. Can depend on him. Can submit to him. Can sing to him.