Israel’s Original Inheritance
“To you I will give the land of Canaan As the portion of your inheritance” (Psalms 105:11). (All scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.)
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As descendants of Abraham, Israel expected to inherit the promises given by God to Abraham. To a large extent, that was true. To Jacob, God repeated two portions of the Abrahamic covenant. These would become Jacob and Israel’s inheritance.
First, God would give them the land of Canaan, “the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed” (Genesis 28:13). The promise of the land being part of Israel’s inheritance is confirmed in Psalms. “The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac … He confirmed … to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, Saying, To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion of your inheritance” (Psalm 105:9-11).
Second, Jacob’s seed would expand and fill the entire earth, “And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south” (Genesis 28:14). This pointed to Israel eventually becoming the fleshly offspring of the Abrahamic Covenant via the New Covenant. The nations of the world, by embracing the opportunity of salvation under the New Covenant, would become Israelites as well (Isaiah 2:2-3, Romans 2:28-29).
Inheritance Dormant Until Moses
Israel’s promised inheritance remained dormant while Jacob built his family in Paddan-aram, returned back to Canaan and then moved to Egypt under Joseph’s protection. The inheritance would have seemed unobtainable as the Israelites were forced into servitude under the Pharaoh “which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8 KJV). However, Israel’s inheritance was never to be realized through their own strength and wisdom. That inheritance would be provided by the wisdom and power of their God.
This reveals to us seven principles of any inheritance from by God.
First, the inheritance is only available through the grace, wisdom and power of God. “He also drove out the nations before them and apportioned them for an inheritance by measurement.” (Psalm 78:55).
Second, God chooses one’s inheritance for them and only that inheritance can be everlasting. “He chooses our inheritance for us, The glory of Jacob whom He loves” (Psalm 47:4). “And gave their land as a heritage, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalms 136:21).
Third, any inheritance not in accordance with God’s will, will be overturned. Gentile dominion over Israel during Gentile Times was allowed by God for 2520 years to discipline Israel but it would ultimately end as the prophet Ezekiel and Jeremiah wrote: “Surely in the fire of My jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession [inheritance]” (Ezekiel 36:2-5). “For I will make a full end of all the nations Where I have driven you, Yet I will not make a full end of you” (Jeremiah 46:28).
Inheritance of the Land Realized
When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, fulfilling Israel’s inheritance of the land was the first thing mentioned. “So I [God] have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). God reiterated this point in Exodus 6:8: “I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession [inheritance].”
After Israel reached the Jordan River and was about to cross over, God had Moses explain to the people why Israel had failled to inherit the promised land forty years before.
“You did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go. Then the LORD heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh” (Deuteronomy 1:32-36).
This reveals the fourth principle regarding an inheritance promised by God. One must have faith in and demonstrate obedience to God in order to receive the inheritance offered. The generation of Israelites released from Egyptian bondage never learned this lesson (Psalm 95:7-11).
Finally Possessing the Land
Not until the Exodus’ generation had died off did the children of Israel enter and inherit the land. God told Moses in Deuteronomy 1:38: “Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it.” Moses added in Deuteronomy 4:21, “I would not enter the good land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.” God’s instructions to Moses regarding division of the land confirms it was their inheritance. “Among these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. To the larger group you shall increase their inheritance, and to the smaller group you shall diminish their inheritance” (Numbers 26:53,54).
Israel Had to Fight to Possess Its Inheritance
There was work that Israel needed to accomplish to secure its inheritance. God said, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places; and you shall take possession of the land and live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. … But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live” (Numbers 34:51-55).
Israel had to fight to evict the inhabitants of the land and destroy all of the idols. These were all enemies of God. Israel had to overcome them, else they would become a continual thorn in Israel’s side. Israel did not follow God’s advice. They never cleansed the land of its people nor its idolatry, and as a result, they were a continual temptation to the Israelites. This reveals to us the fifth principle of God’s inheritance. One must fight against sin and overcome idolatry to realize God’s inheritance.
Law Was Part of Israel’s Inheritance
Under the Law, Israel’s inheritance was more than the land and their increase as a nation. God’s Law, His testimonies, precepts and commandments, were also part of Israel’s inheritance. “Moses charged us with a law, A possession [inheritance] for the assembly of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). David added, “I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:111).
The value of this portion of Israel’s inheritance under the Law is brought to our attention in the Psalms. “The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; [His] testimony … is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart; [His] commandment … is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring forever; [His] judgments … are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb …by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward” (Psalms 19:7-11).
This teaches us the sixth principle of God’s inheritance. God’s inheritance, especially His word of Truth, is of surpassing value and leads to joy and everlasting life.
Losing Possession of the Inheritance
When God gave Israel His Law, He set before them blessing and cursing based on their obedience or disobedience. “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments … then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees … will bear their fruit. … I shall also grant peace in the land. … I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword … I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people” (Leviticus 26:3,4,6,7,12). “
If, instead, you reject My statutes … and so break My covenant … I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever … you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up … you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you. If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins” (Leviticus 26:14-18).
Despite much discipline, Israel never learned the lesson of heart-driven obedience to God and His Law. As a result, Ezekiel prophesied that Israel would lose possession of its inheritance temporarily. “Thus says the Lord GOD, Remove the turban and take off the crown; this will no longer be the same. Exalt that which is low and abase that which is high. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it. This also will be no more until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him” (Ezekiel 21:26,27).
It would take the risen Jesus, high priest after the order of Melchizedek and mediator of the New Covenant, to provide the everlasting inheritance promised to Israel. “For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those [Israel] who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).
Israel’s loss of the land of Canaan teaches us the seventh principle of God’s inheritance. Even if we initially receive the inheritance, lack of faith and obedience will cause us to lose it.
Israel’s promised inheritance under the Law and their failure to secure it teaches important lessons to the followers of Jesus.
- An inheritance offered by God is only available through His grace, wisdom and power.
- God chooses inheritance for them and only His inheritance can be everlasting.
- Any inheritance not in accord with the will of God will be overturned.
- One must have faith in and show obedience to God to obtain His offered inheritance.
- One must fight against sin and overcome idolatry to realize God’s inheritance.
- God’s inheritance, especially His word of Truth, is of surpassing value and leads to joy and everlasting life.
- Lack of faith and obedience will cause us to lose any inheritance we receive from God.
Israel did not have the faith nor the obedience necessary to secure the earthly inheritance offered under the Law. However, Christ and his Church will ultimately proivde Israel with their promised inheritance in his earthly kingdom. “All Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is my [new] covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27).