I love moments of sarcasm in the Bible. One of the best is when Elijah is on top of Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal for the purpose of calling down rain. When the rain doesn’t come, Elijah taunts the prophets suggesting that their god is on vacation or perhaps relieving himself. Who says the great prophets were boring old men?
In Joshua 17, the tribes of the descendants of Joseph come whining to Joshua that they have not been given an inheritance of land in accordance with their numbers.
The descendants of Joseph came to Joshua and asked, “Why have you given us only one portion of land when the Lord has given us so many people?”
Joshua 17:14 (NLT)
Joshua offers them the hill country. It is both inhabited and forested. They can drive out the inhabitants and go into the forestry industry. They didn’t so much like that idea since it would require more than a little work on their part so they told Joshua that they would be unable to take that land (I’m sure they were hoping for some additional prime property, something move-in ready).
Then Joshua said to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph, “Since you are so large and strong, you will be given more than one portion. The forests of the hill country will be yours as well. Clear as much of the land as you wish and live there. And I am sure you can drive out the Canaanites from the valleys, too, even though they are strong and have iron chariots.
Joshua 17:17-18 (NLT)
Never tell a leader you’re big and strong and then try to convince them you can’t do the work they’ve asked you to do. Joshua would have none of what the descendants of Joseph were trying to hand out. He offered them a prosperous land. If there were tribes living there, surely it wasn’t a horrible place to live. If they had iron chariots, surely the land would be prosperous. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh didn’t want to involve themselves in the work required to take their inheritance.
Sometimes, a blessing looks like work. I don’t think Joshua was trying to be mean when he gave those tribes exactly what they didn’t want. I’m willing to bet that Joshua saw the potential in the hill country—something the descendants of Joseph could not see at the time.
Even though God promised a large portion of prosperous land to Israel, they weren’t able to just walk in and move in. Their blessing took work. A lot of work. After five years across the Jordan River and they had yet to claim everything that God had promised to them.
Don’t despair if what’s before you doesn’t look like a blessing. If a blessing looks like something else at first, work it.
Daily Bible reading: Joshua 16-18, Luke 5:1-16