Joshua 21: Every one was fulfilled

Joshua 21 marks the completion of the distribution of land among the tribes of Israel. The final tribe to receive land is Levi, which was to receive no dedicated block of territory as its own but, as priests, would be given specific cities and towns within the allotments of the other tribes. Forty-eight towns and cities, and all the surrounding pasturelands, in all were handed over to the Levites to settle, some of which were cities of refuge identified in chapter 20. All in all, then, it’s a pretty mundane chapter, talking about how each clan received so many towns and then detailing which towns were involved at the end of the day. But as we come to the end of the chapter, we discover ourselves on the brink of a dramatic transition. Joshua’s time as leader of Israel was nearing its end. He was old and would soon die. The last three chapters of the book will cover his farewell message to the people he had now served and led for well more than half a century. But before that could happen, we have to see one very critical point raised in vss 43-45.Here, in a classic, understated sort of way, the writer records simply that God gave Israel everything He had sworn to give them, and then He gave them peace and security on all sides. And at the very end, we have this profound statement: “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

Today, I want to take just a moment to notice three things about this statement.

The first is that these were God’s promises. As in, they were not Joshua’s. Right now, this is an exceptionally relevant thing to be talking about as we’re all watching daily, hourly, and even moment by moment coverage of the 2010 elections. Regardless of party affiliation, candidates from all across the country, on every side of every issue, have made all sorts of promises. Just today, I watched a debate between the two front-running candidates for the governor of Iowa, incumbent Chet Culver and former governor Terry Branstad. Both candidates made bold promises which, as I listened to the debate, I thought to myself there was no way they could possibly fulfill, much less guarantee. These two men are just like the vast majority of other political candidates stumping around our nation today with empty promises. But the promise conquer the promise land wasn’t from Joshua or any other man (or woman). It was from God. When God makes a promise He intends to keep it. Not only that, but He has the means to keep it as well. That’s a big deal because, as we’ve all surely noticed, not even the most popular leader in the history of the world has the power to do anything and everything. But God does. So when it comes to getting promises, God’s promises are the best kind!

Speaking of the best kind, notice also that God’s promises are good. To be honest, I find this a bit difficult to swallow for a couple of reasons. The first is that the promises God made to Israel involved impressive amounts of death and destruction. It seems rather callous to say that all of that loss was good. And yet the reality was that the Bible tells us these people were being destroyed not because of anything that Israel had done right, but because of the blatant and grievous sins which they themselves had committed. In other words, while the execution of these nations was anything but pleasant to our sensibilities, it was still necessary, and the end result was that wickedness and injustice were defeated in the name of good and right.

And the third thing that we must notice is that not one of these promises failed; every one was fulfilled. In a day and age when the vast majority of people don’t really trust our elected officials to do any of what they’ve promised during the campaign, this is a huge thing. God fulfills His promises. It’s an integral part of His character: He’s faithful. So when He says something, unless we screw it up, He will make it real.

For me today, all three of these things are a great comfort. The last two weeks have been difficult for me for a number of reasons that I won’t go into today. But I know for a fact that God has promised to grant my family, our church and I immense success as long as we hold the line and keep pressing on. That promise is not from me; it’s from God. It’s good, even though it may be difficult along the road to seeing it realized. And it will be done.

What promises has God given you? At the very least, you have the promise that, if you will remain faithful to Him, He will remain faithful and just to you, forgiving your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And you have the promise that, as bad as things might be today, tomorrow, next week or next year, all good things work together for the good of those who love Christ.

Given the fact that God could, would, and did deliver the promise land into the hands of Israel so many years ago, and all the other times we’ve seen His promises fulfilled, those are promises that we can cling to. Those are promises we can trust. Even when our friends, families, elected officials, etc., let us down, God won’t. And if that’s not a good word, I don’t know what is!

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