March 23, 2015

Joshua 16-18 - The lot for the people of Joseph went from the Jordan near Jericho, east of the spring of Jericho, north through the desert mountains to Bethel. It went on from Bethel (that is, Luz) to the territory of the Arkites in Ataroth. It then descended westward to the territory of the Japhletites to the region of Lower Beth Horon and on to Gezer, ending at the Sea...This is the region from which the people of Joseph—Manasseh and Ephraim—got their inheritance...

But they didn’t get rid of the Canaanites who were living in Gezer. Canaanites are still living among the people of Ephraim, but they are made to do forced labor.

This is the lot that fell to the people of Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn. (Gilead and Bashan had already been given to Makir, Manasseh’s firstborn and father of Gilead, because he was an outstanding fighter.) So the lot that follows went to the rest of the people of Manasseh and their clans, the clans of Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida. These are the male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph by their clans....

Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters. Their names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, “God commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our kinsmen.” And Joshua did it; he gave them, as God commanded, an inheritance amid their father’s brothers.

Manasseh’s lot came to ten portions, in addition to the land of Gilead and Bashan on the other side of the Jordan, because Manasseh’s daughters got an inheritance along with his sons. The land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the people of Manasseh....

The people of Manasseh never were able to take over these towns—the Canaanites wouldn’t budge. But later, when the Israelites got stronger, they put the Canaanites to forced labor. But they never did get rid of them.

The people of Joseph spoke to Joshua: “Why did you give us just one allotment, one solitary share? There are a lot of us, and growing—God has extravagantly blessed us.”  Joshua responded, “Since there are so many of you, and you find the hill country of Ephraim too confining, climb into the forest and clear ground there for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim.”  But the people of Joseph said, “There’s not enough hill country for us; and the Canaanites who live down in the plain, both those in Beth Shan and its villages and in the Valley of Jezreel, have iron chariots.”

Joshua said to the family of Joseph (to Ephraim and Manasseh): “Yes, there are a lot of you, and you are very strong. One lot is not enough for you. You also get the hill country. It’s nothing but trees now, but you will clear the land and make it your own from one end to the other. The powerful Canaanites, even with their iron chariots, won’t stand a chance against you.”

Then the entire congregation of the People of Israel got together at Shiloh. They put up the Tent of Meeting.

The land was under their control but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had yet to receive their inheritance.

Joshua addressed the People of Israel: “How long are you going to sit around on your hands, putting off taking possession of the land that God, the God of your ancestors, has given you? Pick three men from each tribe so I can commission them. They will survey and map the land, showing the inheritance due each tribe, and report back to me. They will divide it into seven parts. Judah will stay in its territory in the south and the people of Joseph will keep to their place in the north....

So off the men went. They covered the ground and mapped the country by towns in a scroll. Then they reported back to Joshua at the camp at Shiloh.  Joshua cast the lots for them at Shiloh in the presence of God. That’s where Joshua divided up the land to the People of Israel, according to their tribal divisions.

The first lot turned up for the tribe of Benjamin with its clans. The border of the allotment went between the peoples of Judah and Joseph....

Mark 4 - Jesus went back to teaching by the sea...He taught by using stories, many stories.  Listen...A farmer planted seed...the seeds fell in different settings....

Are you listening to this?  Really listening?”  When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the 12, asked about the stories.  He said, “you’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom--you know how it works.  But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight...Do you see how this story works?  All my stories work this way....

The farmer plants the Word.  Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road.  No sooner  do they hear it than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them.  And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel.  When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm.  But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and difficulties arrive, there is nothing to show for it.  The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get.  The stress strangles what they heard and nothing comes of it.  But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.”

Jesus went on:  “Does anyone bring a lamp home and put it under a washtub or beneath the bed?...We’re not keeping secrets, we’re telling them;  we’re not hiding things, we’re bringing them out in the open.  Are you listening to this?  Really listening?  Listen carefully to what I am saying--and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own.  Giving, not getting, is the way.  Generosity begets generosity.  Stinginess impoverishes.”

How can we picture God’s kingdom?  What kind of story can we use?  It’s like a pine nut.  When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yest once it is planted, it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches.  Eagles nest in it.

With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity.  He was never without a story when he spoke.  When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.  

Late that day he chose to go across the sea to the other side when a large storm came up while he was sleeping.  When awaken, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet!  Settle down!”  The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.  Jesus reprimanded the disciples:  “Why are you such cowards?  Don’t you have any faith at all?”  They were in absolute awe, staggered, “Who is this anyway?” they asked.