Joshua 18:1-10 Conceiving the new realities of a Spirit-filled existence
Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel assembled themselves at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there; and the land was subdued before them.
2 There remained among the sons of Israel seven tribes who had not divided their inheritance. 3 So Joshua said to the sons of Israel, “How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? 4 Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me. 5 They shall divide it into seven portions; Judah shall stay in its territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall stay in their territory on the north. 6 You shall describe the land in seven divisions, and bring the description here to me. I will cast lots for you here before the Lord our God. 7 For the Levites have no portion among you, because the priesthood of the Lord is their inheritance. Gad and Reuben and the half- tribe of Manasseh also have received their inheritance eastward beyond the Jordan, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave them.”
8 Then the men arose and went, and Joshua commanded those who went to describe the land, saying, “Go and walk through the land and describe it, and return to me; then I will cast lots for you here before the Lord in Shiloh.” 9 So the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities in seven divisions in a book; and they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh. 10 And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord, and there Joshua divided the land to the sons of Israel according to their divisions.
After the land was allocated to the five tribes, it was time to cast lots for the remaining seven tribes. However, the seven tribes were apparently contented with their nomadic lifestyle and had yet to survey the land. As Joshua’s generation of Israelites was born in the wilderness, their only reality was a nomadic existence and could not perceive the new reality of possessing their own land. Today’s devotion teaches believers to conceive the new realities of a Spirit-filled existence while leaving the current reality of sin, sickness and poverty.
Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel assembled themselves at Shiloh.
Upon the final division of the land, the tent of meeting which was the tabernacle was set up at Shiloh. Shiloh subsequently became the place of worship that united all Israel under God, a status it held until shortly before David’s elevation of Jerusalem. Shiloh was chosen mainly because it was central and accessible to all tribes.
“How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”
After the land was subdued, only five tribes had taken residence in their respective territories. Seven tribes were still wandering in nomadic and purposeless existence as they had in the days of the wilderness. They were responsible to survey the land in preparation for the casting of lots. Their listlessness provoked Joshua to rebuke them for not taking steps to complete the possession of the land. Apparently, they were born as nomads and had no idea what it was like to possess their own land and to prosper.
“Go and walk through the land and describe it, and return to me; then I will cast lots for you here before the Lord in Shiloh.”
Joshua commissioned 21 men (3 from each of the 7 tribes), to make a topographical survey of the land. The men returned to Shiloh where Joshua proceeded to cast lots and determine the portions for the remaining tribes.
Believers must conceive the new reality of abundant living in the Spirit and take steps to leave the current reality of sin, sickness and poverty.
The seven tribes appeared unmotivated to complete the process of possessing the land because they were stuck in the reality of their nomadic origin. As the entire generation was born in the wilderness, they had no idea what it was like to possess their own land, country, culture and laws. After all, the nomadic reality was their only reality. Hence, they remain listless even in taking the last and final step towards surveying the land. Joshua had to remind them of the reality of God’s kingdom and take steps to possess it. Similarly, believers must conceive the new reality of life in the Spirit and take steps to leave the current reality of sin, sickness and poverty.
Many churchgoers despite years of being in church were perpetually sick, worried and poor. They are mired by the cares of life, by the toxicity in their workplace, and by the perennial injustice in the society; they are practically pessimists. They are apathetic towards the miraculous works of the Spirit because their current reality is saturated with dismay. On one hand, they are desperately seeking God for reprieve. On the other, they feel inadequate and apprehensive in entering into new experiences they are unfamiliar with. They expect God to reach them without them having to leave their current reality.
As Joshua compelled the tribes to survey the land and possess it, believers must be compelled to humble themselves, to lay down self-centredness and seek the face of God. Believers must develop a hunger to know God, to see His face and to touch Him. It is through the hunger of the soul that God fills it with His transcendent reality. My desire to see God was met after a 20-day fast where He revealed to me in tangible form His Spirit, and His angels. Ever since then, the things of the Spirit and the angels became a daily reality as opposed to a belief system.
The knowledge of the Word changes our understanding,
But the Holy Spirit changes our reality.
The apostles, Paul and Peter were classic examples that through uncharted waters and transcendent experiences, they broke new grounds for the Christendom. Because of their hunger for the Spirit, God continually revealed to them realms that were never before seen and heard. The apostle Paul wrote,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard refers to uncharted waters of spiritual experiences and revelations. God brings transcendent experiences into our world to help us enter into a new heavenly reality, which is the kingdom of God. The outpouring of tongues on the day of the pentecost served to awake believers to this reality, new manner of existence – For to us God revealed them through the Spirit. Subsequently, the Samaritans as well as the Gentiles themselves experienced the new phenomenon of the Spirit (see Acts 8, 10). Hence, Paul reassures believers of God’s superintending providence when we tread on the unchartered waters of the Spirit,
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:12.
The knowledge of the Word informs our understanding, but the Holy Spirit informs our reality. Believers can begin to understand God through the knowledge of the Word, but encounters with God is by way of the Spirit. Believers cannot grow with just cognitive understanding alone. Therefore, knowledge and experiences reinforce each other causing believers to conceive new and higher realities (see figure below).
Believers can read about love. But unless believers experience the Spirit’s love, they will not understand what perfect love is. Similarly, it is impossible to grasp the Spirit’s peace apart from experiencing the peace that the world cannot give. Believers came to me asking why they felt such peace and tranquility despite the pressures of looming deadlines. So much so they begin to question their own sense of responsibility and state of sanity. It is through their encounters with the Spirit did they come to accept perpetual peace as a new reality, a norm of a Spirit-filled existence. Such peace do not belong in the realm of cognitive knowledge but of transcendent experiences.
Therefore, new and extraordinary experiences of the Spirit are part of God’s curriculum for the believer’s growth. How can believers posture their hearts towards experiencing the things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard?
- Firstly, the believer must be convinced that new and transcendent experiences of the Spirit are a necessary element of God’s curriculum for growth. The apostle Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ during his journey to Damascus (see Acts 9) completely changed his perceptions of the early church Christians and their “charismatic” lifestyle. Hence, believers must seek to experience new things of the Spirit while remaining in the centrality of Christ.
- Secondly, the devil flees when believers draw near to Christ in love and submission to His authority. Hence, when believers pursue the things of the Spirit, there is no fear of possible attacks from evil spirits. James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” When the apostle Peter received his vision in a trance on the housetop (see Acts 10:9), there was no question that the source was the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, Cornelius in a company of people were baptised and spoke in tongues without doubting that was the work of the Spirit (see Acts 10:44).
- The believer will begin to conceive and experience the following realities:
- The perpetual peace of God.
- The enlightening of the mind towards God’s Word.
- The fruit of the Spirit expressed in kindness towards the unkind.
- Recovery from chronic illnesses.
- Fruitfulness in academy and career.
- Increasing in stature and favor with God and men.
- Greater authority and effectiveness in prayer.
- Increasing in the gifts of the Spirit.
Positive spiritual experiences affirms that our faith is progressing in the right direction. If our brand of faith cannot help us experience the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in increasing measure, then our paradigm of faith is incomplete. True faith brings perpetual peace, joy and love regardless of circumstances. It brings kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-discipline. True faith also brings the power to heal and to break the bondages of sickness, poverty and sin. Therefore, it remains for God’s people to press in, to grow in faith through the Word and through spiritual experiences.
Are you experiencing the peace, love and joy and righteousness of the Spirit in increasing measure? The knowledge of the Word is not an end, but a means to experience the living Word which is Christ Himself. Make it a practice to spend 10 minutes daily in solitude with the Spirit of Christ by opening your heart to Him. Release your anxieties and let Him fill you with His transcendent peace, love and joy. With prayer and fasting, seek to know God and understand His will. David wrote,
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up.
Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path. Psalm 27:7-11
Dear Lord, I desire to encounter and experience more of you. Create in me a pure heart that hungers for the intimacy of your Spirit. I desire to see more of the heavenly things so that I may learn to set my eyes towards heaven. My current reality does not hinder me towards the spiritual reality in the Word. Fill me with the peace and joy that prevails despite of circumstances. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.