The Joy Set Before Us
What is it that could convince a person to turn his back on all that the world has to offer? What is it that could keep one steadfast in pursuit of a heavenly goal in the face of the most severe opposition and oppression? What is it that could cause a man to accept with satisfaction that he may never receive reward in this life, while he faithfully looks for reward in the next life?
We find an answer in the life of martyred missionary, Jim Elliot. He was a young, gifted man with talent and potential. The world was ripe and ready for his taking, but Jim Elliot turned his back on the world in his pursuit of Christ. He committed to spend his life to advance the kingdom of God among remote tribal peoples. An incredulous world did not understand. His answer to the world’s criticism was, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot had an eternal perspective and he had glimpsed that which awaited him.
King David was also a man with an eternal perspective. Although he had a whole kingdom, with all it had to offer, he was focused on a greater possession.
Yahweh is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You do support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
David, in a beautiful and dramatic poetic form, drew a comparison of his inheritance in God to the inheritance of those who entered the promised land under the leadership of Joshua. When Israel took possession of their promised inheritance, the land was surveyed and divided into portions. The lot was then cast to determine which tribe would receive each portion.
David is stating that when the time came for the lot to be thrown to determine his inheritance that God was with him, supporting him. The survey lines that marked his inheritance fell along pleasant places. He received a beautiful heritage, his inheritance being Yahweh.
David chose the inheritance of a priest. The priestly tribe of Levi did not receive an inheritance of land along with the other tribes. Instead, God gave them something much better. He said that He would be their inheritance (Deuteronomy 18:2). All Christians are priests before God and are called a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6). Our inheritance is therefore a priestly inheritance. We can say with David, “Yahweh is the portion of my inheritance and my cup.”
This should excite the faithful saint of God. We have not been given an inheritance that is perishable, rather we have been given an everlasting heritage. The best of the best has been granted to us. Not only are we offered the best of creation, God’s most holy things, but the Creator Himself is our portion.
The Israelites were promised a special land flowing with milk and honey. They sent spies in to look over the land and they brought back some of the produce of the land.
Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs. That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the sons of Israel cut down from there.
This land of promise was so fruitful that it took two men to carry a single cluster of grapes. It so amazed the men that they named the valley in honor of their find. However, because of the obstacles to be overcome to take possession of the land, only two of the twelve spies were desirous of going in. This percentage is indicative of the number who arrive at the Outer Court of the tabernacle and remain there, compared to the number who are willing to press forward to possess all that is offered them.
Like Israel, many Christians are freed from the heavy burden they were under. Even as the Israelites were freed from the oppression and slavery of the Egyptians, Christians are freed from their slavery to sin. This deliverance only takes them to the wilderness, however. The land of promise still lies ahead. There are obstacles and enemies in the way. It requires courage and faith in God to proceed.
Israel decided that she didn’t want to face her fears. Instead she longed to go back to Egypt, signifying going back to the world (Exodus 14:3). Even though there was bondage in Egypt, it seemed better than risking life and limb to obtain the prize God held out to them.
Many Christians have responded in like manner. Having been freed from sin, they would rather go back to what is familiar, bondage and all, than to embrace the cross and throw oneself unreservedly over into the hands of God. There appears to be relatively few with the heart of Joshua and Caleb.
And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, "The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If Yahweh is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us-- a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against Yahweh; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and Yahweh is with us; do not fear them."
Multitudes will forfeit the good things God has for them due to their fear and carnality. Among the whole generation of Israel, only Joshua and Caleb received the promised inheritance. When they could have had rivers and valleys, figs, grapes, pomegranates, milk and honey, this unfaithful generation received only wilderness and a diet of bread (manna) and water. We looked earlier at those among the Levitical Priesthood who incurred great loss. When they could have had God’s most holy things and served in the presence of God Himself, they were relegated to the service of the building. For these unfaithful priests, their loss was similar to the generation that forfeited so much in the wilderness. Wittingly, or unwittingly, many Christians today are making decisions that will lead to a similar tragic loss.
We have a joy that has been set before us. This joy is to become possessors of God Himself. He is our inheritance. Yahshua said that His flesh was true meat and His blood was true drink (John 6:22). We are invited to taste and see that Yahweh is good (Psalm 34:8).
Many saints, having received salvation, have hardly given a thought to getting to know the One who purchased it for them with His own blood. Salvation was meant to restore fellowship between fallen mankind and God. Many having received this gift, however, seem clueless as to why it was given to them in the first place.
God did not redeem fallen mankind so that they could continue on in their idolatry and bondage while receiving a free pass to heaven. He called them to walk in righteousness, to be transformed and conformed to the image of the One who saved them. He called them to fellowship and intimacy with Himself.
As we have read, the Bride consists of those who have received white robes and have kept them clean. The Bridegroom will come back for His Bride as a thief in the night and steal her away. Many of those who fail to make themselves ready will be caught off guard. They will be left behind. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. They will have a second opportunity to wash their robes, but it will come at great price.
Embracing the cross requires faith in God. Faith is the opposite of fear. Those who are walking in fear are not walking in faith. Those who are walking in faith have faced their fears and overcome them. It required faith for the children of Israel to take possession of their inheritance.
When Israel came out of bondage in Egypt she had to cross the Red Sea. God was gracious and He manifested His provision for them before asking them to cross the waters. Moses stretched forth his rod and only after the sea parted did all Israel cross on dry ground. However, when Joshua took the people through the Jordan River to enter their inheritance, God required that they make the first move, demonstrating faith.
"And it shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of Yahweh, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above shall stand in one heap."
As we go in to take possession of our inheritance God will require faith from us. We cannot say, “Show me your provision first, then I will follow you.” God requires that we constantly step out into that which we do not see. Only then will He manifest His provision. Only then will He take us into our promised inheritance.
To overcome the fears involved in a walk of faith, we must have a tremendous source of courage to draw from. The source of this wellspring of courage is love. ““Perfect love casts out all fear” I John 4:18. The apostle Paul said that the love of Christ constrained him, holding him to the course (II Corinthians 5:14). We will need to draw upon this same wellspring if we are to take up the cross and proceed into the temple to the place of the Bride.
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