The Division of the Land


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, May 6, 2012

Then Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD, and there Joshua divided the land to the children of Israel according to their divisions.

  1. The Lord had guided Joshua and the children of Israel through three different campaigns to conquer the land of Canaan, and now the job was finished. The whole of the land was ready for the children of Israel to settle. It was time for them to stop fighting and being building their homes. It was to be a time of peace.
    1. So they gathered together at a place called “Shiloh”, which is Hebrew for “peace” and set the Tabernacle up there.
    2. Then they began to decide where everyone would go to find their new homes.
      1. Remember that the list of 12 sons of Jacob (Israel) is different from the list of the tribes.
        1. Levi does not get a specific inheritance because the intention was for the priesthood to be spread throughout the land.
        2. The tribe of Joseph was divided into 2, named for his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.
        3. So you drop Levi and Joseph and replace them with Ephraim and Manasseh.
      2. Remember that three of the tribes had already asked for land on the other side of the Jordan river.
        1. Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh.
          1. The eastern side of the Jordan – modern day Jordan, was more suited to grazing than agriculture so those who raised animals got permission to settle there provided that they sent men to support the other tribes in the conquest of the land.
      3. So that much was already decided.
      4. What they needed to figure out was how to divide the land on “this side” – the part between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
      5. If they tried to do it themselves they might have started fighting amongst themselves, so they agreed to let the Lord decide by having him assign the tribes to different areas by drawing lots.
    3. (Josh 18:1-10) 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. … {10} Then Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD, and there Joshua divided the land to the children of Israel according to their divisions.
  2. Okay, so what does this all mean to us?
    1. We all find that there are things that we have to fight during the course of our lives, things that we have to struggle to achieve.
    2. It could be a struggle to stop doing something that is wrong – or simply something that gets in the way of having a satisfactory relations with a loved one or family member.
    3. It could be a battle to learn how to do something that is new and very difficult.
    4. It could be something that we ought to be able to do, but we are missing some piece of the puzzle and it is turning out to be a lot more difficult than we expected.
    5. All these battles that we fight in our mind and heart are illustrated by the battles that the children of Israel had when they were driving the Canaanites out of the land.
    6. That means that solutions to these common human problems are also to be found in the stories.
  3. But what was the very first thing said in our reading today (it was the lesson for the children’s talk, and mentioned again above)? That the Tabernacle would be set up in Shiloh.
    1. The Lord is making the promise that if He is at the centre of our lives, represented by the Tabernacle, then we can expect that after our battles, we will come to a time of peace – “Shiloh”, because we will have completed our journey out of the wilderness (the world of nature) and arrived in heaven (Canaan).
    2. That’s the Covenant – the theme that runs through the whole of the Old Testament.
      1. Do the work, fight against the things that you see right in front of you to be evil and destructive and harmful to your spiritual life.
      2. Gradually, over time, you will begin to see progress. The land will be subdued. You begin to gain control of many of the aspects of your life.
        1. Sure, there will still be things that go wrong because we are still living in natural bodies in the natural world among other people who sometimes act foolishly or with evil intent.
  4. What is the second thing said in our reading?
    1. That everyone would be led to their proper place in the land by the Lord.
    2. We know that it is a law of the spiritual world that all live in peace and harmony in the company of other people who love the same kinds of things that we do.
    3. But heaven is a very big place! People have been going there after their life on earth was through for millions of years! How will we know where our true home is?
      1. It’s not a place we get to by declarations of faith that are not accompanied with good deeds.
      2. (Mat 7:21-27) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. {22} “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ {23} “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ {24} “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: {25} “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. {26} “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: {27} “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
        1. Who shall enter the kingdom of heaven? He who does the Lord’s will.
        2. Who shall be cast out? Those who practice lawlessness.
        3. Who is the wise man? The one who hears these sayings and does them.
        4. Who is the foolish man? The one who hears them and does not do them.
    4. Casting lots – putting faith in the Lord’s Divine Providence:
      1. (Mat 6:28-30) “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; {29} “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. {30} “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
    5. Just as the children of Israel trusted the Lord to lead them to their homes by casting lots, we can trust that the Lord will lead us to our true eternal home.
      1. Not by surveying the land, but by surveying our hearts, and knowing what we truly love, and then finding our spiritual home amongst those who love the same things that we do. Amen.

First Lesson: John 14:19-24

(John 14:19-24) “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. {20} “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. {21} “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” {22} Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” {23} Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. {24} “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.

Second Lesson: AC 3858:4-6

[4] As in John, so also in the Prophets, in the Old Testament Word, is the new Jerusalem referred to, where in a similar way the Lord’s new Church is meant. … The contents of those chapters, plainer than anywhere else, show what ‘earth’, ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Temple’, and everything in them meant, and also what ‘the twelve tribes’ means. For the subject of those chapters is the division of the land and the inheritance of it according to tribes, as well as the city and its walls, foundation, and gates, and everything that was to go with the Temple there.

[5] Quite plainly, when the tribes are spoken of here [in John] it is not the tribes who are meant, for by that time ten tribes had long since been scattered throughout the whole world, and had not subsequently returned. Nor can they possibly return, for they have become gentiles. And yet reference is made to each individual tribe, and to how it was to inherit the land and what its boundary was to be.

[6] …‘The twelve tribes’ means all things that belong to the Lord’s kingdom, and so all that are matters of faith and love, for these constitute the Lord’s kingdom…

Third Lesson: AC 9338:5

[6] …Also – and this is [a secret] – the Lord dwells with an angel, and similarly with man, only in that which is His own with the angel or man; for the Divine must dwell in what is of God, not in what is of the self with anyone. This is meant by the Lord’s words regarding His union with those governed by the good of love, in John,

On that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who loves Me keeps My word, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. John 14:20, 23

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