Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Receiving an inheritance from God ..."

Day #282:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 6th

Scripture Reading:  Numbers 33 - 36 ...

Much of the struggle between Israel and her neighbors, particularly the Palestinians, in the Middle East is attributed to the question about "whose land is it?"  History reveals that the ownership of this land has been disputed for centuries - long before the present state of Israel was given the land following World War II.  Muslims and "Christians" (those who claimed to be Christians and who took part in the crusades led largely by the Popes) fought over the "Holy Lands" in a tug-of-war for hundreds of years, and much of the debate today goes back to these age-old claims of whose land it is and the battles they produced.  Prior to World War I the Ottoman Empire controlled the Holy Land and afterwards the British Empire received a mandate for the Holy Land.  To think that the conflict today is the fault of Israel is to ignore history.

Which brings us back to the question:  "Whose land is it?"  If we go back more than 4,000 years, to the time of Abraham, we discover that the land belonged to many different nations ... UNTIL God called Abraham and told him to settle in this land and then GAVE him the land, as far as he could see, to the north, south, east and west.  God told Abraham, then Isaac and then Jacob that this land was theirs because HE was giving it to them - FOREVER!!  Who would argue that God has the right to do that?  The problem arises when the sons of Ishmael (Arabs), and the sons of Isaac (Jews) both claim the land to be theirs because they are descendants of Abraham.

"Whose land is it?"  The answer:  GOD's!!  OK, but to whom did God GIVE this land, specifically?  The answer:  Abraham ... ISAAC ... Jacob ... Israel!!  When God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, they carried the bones of Joseph with them because he wanted to be buried in the land of his fathers - the land of Canaan.  God had given them this land before they went down into Egypt, before they became a great nation, before they had settled there.  This was GOD's land and He GAVE it to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  People can claim otherwise, but this is what history reveals. The land was given to them and it was taken from them and God gave it back!!

As they had come out of Egypt and then wandered in the wilderness because they refused to go into the promised land, due to the bad report of the spies and their lack of faith, they had now come again to the banks of the Jordan River, across from the city of Jericho.  God said to them, "When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you.  Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.  Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess" (33:52-53).  Then God told them to distribute the land according to the tribes of Israel.

One could argue that such a command was utterly and totally inhumane.  How could the God who so loved the world that He gave His own Son, Jesus, to save all who believe from our sin ... how could our God, the One whom we address as "Abba, Father," ... how could He command His people to do such a thing?  How could He take the land from those who lived there and tell Israel to take possession of the land.  Surely, that is not what God tells us to do today!  But remember, all of this is an important and needed picture for us today, as we live in these last days.  God has the right to do as He pleases and what most people today fail to accept is that ALL of mankind deserves this fate.  The worship of false gods, of idols, brings God's wrath and ultimately death ... physical, spiritual and eternal death.

That ANYONE would receive an inheritance from God is only by His grace and mercy and extreme patience.  Once you understand that you have sinned against a holy God and that you deserve the same fate as those who have committed idolatry, you then begin to understand the depth of God's love and grace in Jesus Christ.  Apart from that we are worthy of God's judgment and ultimately, millions, if not billions of people will face a fate worse than physical death.  It was Jesus, after all, who said, "Do not be afraid of the one who can kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul.  But be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28).  The judgment of God is real and severe for those who do not know Him and who every day increase their guilt by putting other things before Him.  The only escape ... the ONLY escape, is the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Throughout the Old Testament God revealed His grace and mercy and justice, such as He does in Chapter 35, where He explains the judgment for those who commit murder, but also establishes cities of refuge for those who do so unintentionally or accidentally.  The fact that the human race still exists on this planet is a testament to God's mercy in not giving us what we deserve.  But that day WILL come.  And when it does, there is only one ransom for guilty sinners like you and me:  JESUS.  Jesus told His disciples that "the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many"  (Matthew 20:28).  Jesus came to be our ransom AND to give us an inheritance.

The inheritance of Israel is a piece of land, given to Abraham and his descendants more than 4,000 years ago.  OUR inheritance is a new heaven and a new earth.  God tells us that the earth is HIS, and everything in it.  You and I own nothing, except that it has been given to us by God.  Listen to Psalm 24:  "The earth is the LORD's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it ..." (24:1).  God has given life to every human being, whether they acknowledge Him or not.  And God has placed rulers and nations in place as He desires.  Yet, mankind has rebelled against Him and against HIS anointed Ruler, Jesus Christ.  The result is that all mankind will be "disinherited" from the earth when Jesus returns.

What happened with the peoples who inhabited Canaan before the people of Israel will happen with the whole earth.  But for those who know the true God, who have received His grace, who have been born again by His Spirit, who have believed in Jesus as our Savior and confessed Him as our Lord ... God has a different future for us, as Peter writes in I Peter 1:3-5  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."

God has promised US an inheritance in the NEW heaven and the NEW earth!  The current struggle in the Middle East and all over the world will be settled by God ... in His time and in His way ... and He has already told us what the outcome will be.  We who believe will receive an inheritance from God that includes more than everything the people of the world attempt to hold onto and control.  Those who believe in Jesus are receiving an inheritance from God and one day soon we will live with Him in a perfect world.  As God has said, it will happen!

"O Lord, my God, Your promises to all who believe are based on Your faithfulness and Your truth.  You have kept every promise You have made, and as we have seen You keep Your promises to Israel, so we know that You will keep Your promises to US.  Thank You, Father, for the promise of eternal life in the new world that You will create.  Give me wisdom as I live in this world to see the events around me in the light of Your Word so that my hope will always be in You, my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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