Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Making the Most of What You Have

Leslie Basham: How about instead of focusing on problems today, we focus on possibilities? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Let me just exhort you to maximize and make the most of what God has given you right where you are, whatever your situation. The land has to be tilled. The enemies are strong; they have to be defeated.

But by God’s grace, you can do it. And you can make that place where you are to flourish. God can make it to flourish as you partner with Him.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

Nancy's picking back up in the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy."

Nancy: I have a number of friends who have children who are now young adults. My friends are telling me that they thought parenting was hard when their children were little, but now that their children are young adults, it’s even harder in some ways. One way is because you don’t have the kind of control that you did when they were three. You can’t just say, “Do this,” and they do it. Hopefully you’re bigger than they are when they’re three!

But now that they’re older, the decisions they’re making are more significant and have more consequences. We see them making career choices, marriage choices, and character and moral choices. Sometimes as a mom you feel like, How do I help my children walk through these issues?

As we come to this latter part of Joshua’s life, we see him with some situations that are perplexing. He’s been taking the Children of Israel for years through lots of circumstances—the birthing of a nation in Canaan and the entry into the Promised Land. He has been with the nation since it was an infant nation.

But now the nation has grown up to the point where it’s got its own home; it’s got its own homeland. There are issues that surface. I think that sometimes these latter issues can be even more complex and difficult to deal with.

But God gives wisdom and grace for whatever season of life you’re in, whatever the challenges are. We come today to Joshua chapter 17. We’re in the second half of the book. The Children of Israel have been through the conquest of the land. They’ve dealt with the major enemies, the major opposition.

Now the land is being divided up between the tribes. They’re each getting their portion, their territory, their inheritance—which is very important because in that economy, with the setup in the nation of Israel in those days, family names were passed on from one generation to the next by means of the land. The land had to stay in the family.

So it was very important which land each tribe would have. We talked in the last couple of sessions about how those choices were made. As that apportionment was made, there are some issues that surfaced that Joshua had to deal with. We find two of those issues in the chapter we’re looking at right now, Joshua chapter 17.

The first issue had to do with some women who were known as the daughters of Zelophehad. That sounds like a stuffed animal or something, doesn’t it? We’re going to talk about them in the first half of this session, and then we’re going to look at another incident that arose with the sons of Joseph.

But first the daughters of Zelophehad, found in Joshua chapter 17, beginning in verse 3.

Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters, and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They approached Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the leaders (vv. 3–4).

Who was that group of men? These were the men who were responsible for divvying up the land. Eleazar the priest; Joshua, the military and political leader; and then the leaders of each of the different tribes had a leadership team that was working together to allocate the land.

So these five sisters came to this leadership team and said,

“The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our brothers." So according to the mouth of the LORD he [Joshua] gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father (v. 4).

Now let me give you a little background because, if you just read this passage, it would be hard to understand what was happening here. Actually, the first appearance of the daughters of Zelophehad comes in Numbers chapter 27. I won’t ask you to turn there, but let me just give you a brief background.

This was when Moses was still alive. It was before Israel entered the Promised Land. As you know, in those days the whole society was patriarchal, which means that the land was passed on from fathers to sons. The family lineage was tied, as we’ve said, to the family name and was passed on with the family land. It was considered very important that the land stay within the family. The people of Judah and the families within Judah would keep that land; they would pass it on from father to son to son to son.

What if there was no son? What was to happen to that family land and to that family name? If there was no son to pass the land on to, then the family name would also perish.

So here are five sisters who had no brothers and therefore had no one to provide for them and to continue their lineage after their father died; they would not have any land. So back in the book of Numbers, while Moses was still alive and as they were getting ready to go into the Promised Land, these women anticipated this issue.

They realized, “Our dad and mom are not having any more children, and there are no sons. So are we going to be left high and dry when the land is divvied up?” It was a legitimate concern. They were concerned for their family name and for their inheritance to continue to future generations. Now, I want you to notice a few things they did and did not do.

First of all, they did not sit back and do nothing, saying, “We’re just women. We can’t have any influence. We have no recourse here, no opportunity to do anything about this.” They didn’t do that.

The other thing they didn’t do was to spend their lives as victims, being bitter and resentful because this injustice had been done to them. They didn’t say, “We were owed this, but the laws were crooked in our day or didn’t take into account families like ours, and so we’ve had this injustice. Woe is us.” They didn’t do that.

And apparently, they didn’t stir up criticism or start a campaign against Moses or the leadership—as you know others in Israel had done from time to time. They didn’t handle it in any of those ways that would have been inappropriate.

They handled their concern, which was legitimate, in a way that was wise and appropriate. They took their case directly to Moses. They didn’t fly into a rage. They didn’t hyperventilate. They didn’t have a meltdown emotionally. They presented their case to him, and you can read about it in Numbers 27:1–11.

They presented their concern respectfully, directly. They logically laid out the facts. “Our father has no sons. We have no brother. What’s to be done with us when the land is apportioned?”

They gave Moses, who was God’s appointed leader, a chance to address their concern. And Moses wisely took the matter before the Lord. He said, “Lord, here’s this situation. What are we to do about this? You are the ultimate lawgiver. The law says that the land is passed from father to son. What should we do about this situation?”

I love the fact that God cared about this situation, that God responded. There are multiple verses in Numbers, Joshua and Judges dedicated to this situation that God was concerned about. He cares about those that others might consider the little people, the nobodies.

I mean, who ever heard of the daughters of Zelophehad, and who cares? God cares. God knew their situation. In fact, the phrase “the daughters of Zelophehad” is mentioned six times in the Old Testament. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. These five sisters are actually named four times in the book of Numbers, and then again in the book of Joshua. God cared enough to reference each of these women’s names four times in His inspired Word.

God cares about injustice. God directed Moses to give to these women a new ruling. God, in fact, changed the law—or He made a provision in the law—for women who would be in this kind of situation. He therefore established a precedent that became part of Israel’s inheritance laws in the case of men who had no sons.

So actually, these women ended up having quite a bit of influence because it wasn’t just for their case, but it was for others who would come along and who would also be in a similar situation. They were influential in shaping the inheritance laws of Israel.

Then, in Numbers chapter 36, God commanded that the daughters of Zelophehad, these five sisters, should marry within their own tribe, which was the tribe of Manasseh, so that their inheritance would never be transferred to another tribe. God said to them, “You can have a portion; you can have an inheritance, but you need to marry within your own tribe so that the land will stay within your tribe” (see vv. 1–12).

I love this verse in Numbers 36, verse 10. It says, “The daughters of Zelophehad did as the LORD commanded Moses.” They were obedient. These were not malcontents. These were not demanding women. These were not “women’s libbers.”

They were trying to address a situation, but they did it in a way that was within God’s appropriate ways of dealing with situations. And then when God said, “Here’s the restriction,” they said, “Okay. We will follow what God says.” They were obedient women.

Now we come to Joshua chapter 17, where they’re in the Promised Land. The women come back to Joshua, Moses’ successor, and they say, “Moses told us back then that we could have a portion.” They came to claim what God had said through Moses that they could have.

So in chapter 17, verse 4, the women having appealed to Joshua on the basis of what God had already said, it says, “According to the mouth of the LORD he [Joshua] gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father.” These women received what God had said they could have.

I think it’s important to notice that Joshua’s decision, his judgment in this case, was made on the basis of instruction God had already given to Moses. As I was thinking about this passage, I thought, How many decisions do we sweat over when God has already told us what to do? God’s already given direction.

See, Joshua didn’t have to sweat over this decision. He didn’t have to say, “Oh my, what shall I do? There’s no provision for this. These women are on my case; they’re getting on my nerves. I don’t know how to handle this.” Joshua didn’t need to get in a tizzy about this whole thing because God had already said, “Give them a portion.” So Joshua went back to what God had said through Moses and said, “Okay, that answers it.”

I wonder how much simpler many of our lives would be at different junctures if we would just say, “Has God already addressed this issue? Has God already said something about this? Oh, He has.”

That’s why you need to know the Word—and not just the Psalms or just a few parts in the Epistles. You need to know the whole Word of God so you have the whole counsel of God. It may not be that there’s a specific verse or passage that addresses your specific situation. But as you get to know God, as you get to know His ways, as you get to know the patterns—the way He has operated, what God loves and what God hates, how God decides things—you will get a frame of reference.

So when you are making decisions—when you are dealing with sibling rivalries among your children, for example, as Joshua was in a sense dealing with here—you will have a frame of reference: This is how such situations are to be handled wisely.

So we see in this situation with the daughters of Zelophehad the influence those women had and the wisdom Joshua had to handle the situation because he knew what God had already said. So this matter came and went with a minimum of hubbub. It wasn’t really that big a deal at this point because they were relying on the direction God had already given.

In verse 14 of Joshua 17, we come to another situation that Joshua had to have wisdom to deal with. This had to do with the sons of Joseph. Now, you remember that Joseph had two sons. Their names were Ephraim and Manasseh. God had said that each should have a portion.

Actually, half of the tribe of Manasseh was to be located on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The other half was on the west. This situation had to do with the half-tribe of Manasseh and the tribe of Ephraim who were located on the western side of the Jordan River.

Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, "Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?” (v. 14).

We don’t know all the details of what happened here or why. But we know that this situation arose where the descendants of Joseph—we don’t know if it was just Manasseh or Ephraim or both—were discontented with their lot.

We saw in an earlier session that the territories were determined by lot. Everyone else seemed fine with their territory. Some had more land; some had less land. Some tribes were larger; some tribes were smaller. Whatever the situation here, the sons of Joseph felt that what they had been dealt was unfair. They were not happy with the outcome.

If you have children, you’ve been through this. “His piece of cake is bigger than my piece of cake! He got more of this. He got to go to bed later.” Life is not fair! Isn’t that what you tell your kids? “Life is not fair.” I can think of multiple ways Joshua could have handled this. But I love the way he did handle it. It gives insight into the heart of this man.

The sons of Joseph didn’t feel that their land was big enough. They felt they should have more land. Actually, when you go back and find in the Old Testament the lists of how many people were in each tribe, and then you look at a map of who got what territory, the fact is that the sons of Joseph—Ephraim and Manasseh—got a portion of land that was disproportionately large considering their population.

There were those who had more population and actually got less land. But they were comparing, as we are want to do, and they were not happy with the land that had been given to them.

And Joshua said to them, "If you are a numerous people [as they had said they were], go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you” (v. 15). 

He was saying, “If this isn’t enough land, then go up to the hill country that’s part of your territory and clear out some land there. You’re going to have to work it, but it’s available.”

The people of Joseph said, "The hill country is not enough for us.” [I think what they were really saying was, “We don’t want to have to cut down all those trees.” Then they continued,] “Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the valley of Jezreel” (v. 16).

In their region, they had some hill country that was forested; that’s where they had to do the work. They were saying, “We don’t like the hill country because we’ve got to work too hard to get that, to clear out the land. And we don’t like the land in the plain because there are Canaanites there with chariots, and we’re going to have to fight to get that land.”

What they were really saying was, “We want some easy land. We want some land we don’t have to work for. We want some land we don’t have to fight for. So give us more land. We’re not happy with what we have.”

Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, "You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong” (vv. 17–18).

Joshua says, “Listen, you’re right. You’re a numerous people. You’re right. You’re a great people. So I have confidence that you can take this land, the land that’s been given to you, and you can make something of it.” Joshua, in effect, is saying to these sons of Joseph, “Look, the land has obstacles, but that’s what you’ve got to face. Those are the obstacles you’ve got to deal with if you want this land.”

The sons of Joseph were discontent with what they had, but they didn’t want to pay a price to have more. As I’ve thought about this passage, I’ve thought, How like our flesh. We want to enjoy all the blessings and the benefits of our inheritance in Christ, but . . .

  • We don’t want to have to deny ourselves.
  • We don’t want to have to make sacrifices.
  • We don’t want to have to practice spiritual disciplines.
  • We don’t want to have to wage spiritual warfare in the process of getting that possession.

Isn’t it true that we want shortcuts? We want the possession without making the sacrifices and paying the price to get it.

Well, Joshua refused to coddle the sons of Joseph. It’s interesting that he was dealing with his own tribe. Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim himself. But he didn’t show any partiality to them. He could have shown favoritism and said, “We’ll give you some more land. Let’s take some from one of your brother tribes over here.”

But he knew that that would not be healthy for them. He knew that they needed to grow up and take possession of the land themselves. You see, Joshua knew that he would not always be there to fight their battles for them. And you will not always be there to fight the battles for your children. Joshua knew they needed to learn how to work, how to do warfare, how to engage the enemy, how to get the land for themselves.

That’s why I believe God let Joshua lead the armies into the Promised Land and take most of the cities, but He left pockets of resistance in all the different territories so the next generation of leaders would have to learn how to conquer and take the land themselves.

Now as always, Joshua bases his direction on the Word and the promises of God. That’s one of the things that I love about Joshua. He’s always meditating on the Word. He’s always saying, “What does God have to say about this? What does God’s Word say about this? What has God already said about this?”

Joshua remembered, having been Moses’ assistant for many years . . . I’m sure he remembered that verse back in Deuteronomy chapter 20, verse 1 (though it wasn’t divided into verses in those days) where Moses said to the Israelites,

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Moses had told them, “God will give you power,” even though the Israelites did not have chariots themselves. You can imagine, being foot soldiers, how these chariots could have been very intimidating. But Moses said, “Though you don’t have chariots, God is greater than the chariots, and God will give you power to overcome them.”

Armed with that word from the Lord through Moses, Joshua says to the children of Joseph, “You can take the land. Yes, you’ll have to work for it. Yes, you’ll have to fight for it, but you can do it.”

Are you content with the territory God has given you? Or perhaps do you feel constrained by the territory God has given you? Think about your lot in life right now. Maybe you’re single and you feel constrained by singleness. “That’s a narrow place. It’s too narrow for me. I need a broader territory. I need a husband.” So you complain to God, or you complain to God’s servants.

Or maybe you’re married, and you feel like your marriage is too narrow a place for you. “If only he were a godly man. If only he would lead us in family devotions and spiritual things. If only my husband knew the Lord. My marriage is too narrow a place for me. Lord, I need a broader place. I need a more godly husband. I think I’ll go find one.”

Or maybe you have a lot of little children, and you’re saying, “This is too narrow a place for me. I feel pent-up. I feel restrained. I feel like, if only my children were grown, then I could really go and serve the Lord. I could be involved in Bible studies, and I could be counseling with other women.”

We tend to live in every circumstance except our own. And we always think there’s something about our own circumstance that is impossible, that’s too tight a place for us. Maybe it is your job that is too narrow a place. We think, Lord, I could really serve you if I could just have a different job.

I'm not saying you should not try and get a different job if you can. But some people live with perpetual discontentment. They are just never happy. But if you’re not content with what God has already provided you, you won’t be content with the things you think you want. If you can't manage to find God's grace and victory in the circumstances where God has placed you, there is nothing that will make you happy or will satisfy you.

Do you want more territory? Some of you say you want more ministry, more responsibility. "This place of ministry is too narrow for me. I have talents; I have more abilities that I could be using." Maybe you question your lot in life, or some aspect of it?

Let me just exhort you to maximize and make the most of what God has given you right where you are, whatever your situation. The land has to be tilled. The enemies are strong; they have to be defeated. But by God’s grace you can do it. And you can make that place where you are to flourish. God can make it to flourish as you partner with Him.

Don’t expect God to give you more if you haven’t taken possession of what He’s already given you. I hope that word will encourage you, whatever your lot or situation in life, to say, “Lord, what You’ve given me is enough. It’s a good place. Yes, it’s a hard place, but by Your grace we’re going to make it a fruitful, flourishing place.”

Leslie: That teaching from Nancy Leigh DeMoss is going to encourage so many women in so many types of tough situations. It’s an example of how practical the study of Joshua has been. We’ve been looking at the final season of his life in the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy." It offers practical counsel on living today for a vibrant future.

To order all the Joshua series on CD in one collection, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

If you’re like me, you look at your collection of Christmas music and think, I’ve listened to most of these year after year and need something new. We’d like to help you out by sending the brand new CD from Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the piano, It’s called Come Adore.

As Nancy plays many of her favorite Christmas songs, you’ll be reminded that the most important thing during the holiday is worshiping Jesus.

We’ll send your copy of the CD, Come Adore when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. We’ll send one CD per household for your donation here in November. Ask for Come Adore when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to send your gift and request the CD.

When you have to make a decision and the other people involved feel very strongly, the example of Joshua will help you keep a level head and promote peace. We’ll look at that example tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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