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D'varim/Deuteronomy 3:18 The L-rd your G-d has given this land to you to possess it.
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The Hebrew of this text is straightforward, although the normal word order is altered to add emphasis. The usual pattern is: verb, subject, object; this phrase is: subject (The L-rd your G-d), verb (, Qal, affix 3ms, he has given), indirect object (, to you) and then direct object (introduced by , the-land-the-this). The phrase ends with another verb - , Qal infinitive + 3fs suffix, from the root , to take or seize, to possess or inherit, so literally here: "to possess her" as the land is a feminine noun - giving a purpose or reason for the gift. The action of possessing is not without effort or cost; this is not a simple legal inheritance - hearing the lawyer read someone's will and walking out with a cheque, a pile of share certificates or a property deed - the verb encompasses significant physical engagement and outlay in order to secure the possession. The Israelites will have to fight the peoples of the Land in order to dispossess them from their positions; it will be a struggle over some protracted time period; there will be casualties and hard physical work as the armies of Israel march from city to city, taking the Land that now belongs to them.
It is this purpose, then, that makesHaShem's gift of the Land purposeful. He gave the Land to our people in order that they should exert themselves and take possession of it. His intention was they should clear the Land of the people currently living there, whose sin had reached a level that could no longer be tolerated. Speaking to Avraham, HaShem said "in the fourth generation [your descendants] shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete" (B'resheet 15:16, NASB). By the time Israel was approaching the Land, HaShem could tell Moshe, "The land has become unclean, and this is why I am punishing it - the land itself will vomit out its inhabitants" (Vayikra 18:25, CJB). This makes it clear that just as G-d will, in later generations, bring the Assyrians and the Babylonians to conquer Israel when their sin too becomes too great, here He is using the Israelites as His agents to clear and purge the Land of the people and their sins that defile it. The Israelites were not being given a Land that was empty and just waiting for them to occupy without doing any work, where they could just whistle in and do as they pleased. On the contrary, HaShem intended them to forcefully wrest the Land away from its current occupants and both physically and spiritually clean it of all the idolatry and sin.
We tend, as individuals, to have a very close focus on our own lives and concerns, those things that directly affect us and our families. This is right and appropriate, so that we attend to the jobs we have been given, carry out our responsibilities and provide for those in our care. On the other hand, we become so close to the brick or bricks of every day living that we cannot see the wall or the building of which they are a part. We pray earnestly for our immediate needs and for others close to us, but often fail to appreciate the greater intentions or purposes of G-d in this world and among His people. He is gracious and provides generously for our physical and spiritual wellbeing, guiding us through the maze of relationships and events that make up His world, but sometimes we need to take a few steps back and raise our eyes in order to see the larger movement of His intentionality in our lives.
Qohelet, the teacher in Jerusalem, wrote of G-d that "He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts eternity in their mind, but without man ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that G-d brings to pass" (Ecclesiastes 3:11, JPS). Not only does G-d make everything happen "in its season", He also places a sense of eternity in man's heart to inspire him to lift up his eyes and ask the bigger questions than "What's for lunch today?" G-d wants us to engage with Him about the eternal issues of life and death, the difference between the here and now and what is to come, justice, freedom, service and love.
The evidences of G-d's intentionality are to be found throughout the pages of the Bible. Rav Sha'ul proclaims, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free" (Galatians 5:1, NASB); G-d wanted us to be free, to know what freedom was, so He set us free that we might have that freedom. John added: "these [things] have been written that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of G-d; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31, NASB); the gospel record itself was written so that people may believe that He is Messiah and King and so have life in Him. It is not that the gospels don't make a good story, or tell us more about G-d, or that there was any shortage of material (cf. John 21:25), but that G-d has a purpose that He wanted to accomplish through the oral record and the written word that followed it. G-d purposed to show man the way to find Him and have relationship with Him.
Throughout His earthly ministry, Yeshua showed a constant awareness of G-d's purposes and intent. He warned the disciples that, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day" (Luke 9:22, NASB), then just a little later, "it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51, NASB). Yeshua accomplished G-d's purposes precisely because He was aware of them and never deviated from them. so that Peter can tell the Jews assembled in Jerusalem on the day of Shavuot, "[Yeshua was] delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of G-d, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death" (Acts 2:23, NASB). This was no fall-back position to accommodate or adapt to the whiles of men - this was G-d's deliberate purpose to bring about the means to rescue and redeem mankind.
In many peoples' minds there seems to be a disconnect between the high purposes of G-d, worked out on the stage of history, and the mundane work-a-day lives that we each feel we live. We can express faith and certainty that G-d will orchestrate the major players in the world's drama to accomplish His purposes, while at the very same moment doubting that He has any real purpose or involvement in our own very small lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Firstly, Yeshua emphasised the importance of each and every unique human life: "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29-31, NASB). Secondly, speaking of Himself as the Good Shepherd, He said, "the sheep hear His voice. He calls His own sheep, each one by name, and leads them out. After taking out all that are His own, He goes on ahead of them; and the sheep follow Him because they recognize His voice" (John 10:3-4, CJB), so highlighting the uniquely personal relationship that the shepherd has with each sheep: He knows and calls each of them by name and they know Him by the sound of His voice.
Further Study: D'varim 32:4; Romans 1:18-20; Isaiah 43:1-2
Application: What are G-d's purposes for your life? Are you working with Him to bring them about? If not, or you don't know what G-d wants to do with and through you, now would be an excellent time to bring the subject up and ask Him - it is a question He wants to answer.
© Jonathan Allen, 2010
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