Extending the Borders and Enlarging the Territory
The Israelites had sojourned in the wilderness until the last of an entire rebellious generation had died and been buried. They had walked to the banks of the Jordan and had seen its waters part before them. They had crossed the river and entered the Promised Land. And now the true work and the true challenge would begin.
Though God had promised that this people would inherit this land, and though he had promised that it would be their possession, he did not intend to deliver it to them in its completed form. He did not intend to give them a land whose every field was forever cleared and tilled, whose every crop was forever ripe for harvest, whose every barn was forever full. Rather, he intended to give them a land whose climate was right, who soil was rich, whose nutrients were plentiful, and whose waters were pure. He intended to give them a land that would respond appropriately and provide bountifully to their hard labor.
And so as the people took possession of the land, as they displaced its inhabitants, they set to work. They claimed the fields that had already been broken and planted, but they also claimed new fields and prepared them for sowing and watering and reaping. Year by year they expanded their territory, season by season the portion of the land that would provide for its new people.
And in much the same way, we as Christians are given a great promise—that the God who has claimed us will reshape us. We are told that we are to be perfect even as God is perfect, told that we are to put every sin to death and come alive to every virtue, told that we are to become more and more like our Savior Jesus Christ. But as the Israelites had to labor to claim what was theirs, so too do we. As the Israelites had to take possession of what God had promised, so too do Christians.
And so we enter the new life united to our Savior by faith and indwelled by his Holy Spirit. We come to understand the great promise that we are to be joint heirs of his inheritance and that all that belongs to him is to be ours. And then we come to learn how to receive and how to use what he offers to us so we can extend the borders of our possession, enlarge our territory, always pressing back the chaos of depravity so divine graces can take root and grow and bring forth precious fruit. Even our ugliest faults, our most established habits, and our most coddled sins begin to waver and crumble. Bit by bit we conquer the old and come alive to the new. Day by day we take more and more of the vast possession that is ours in Christ. And always and ever we look with expectation to the day the battles will finally be over, the land will finally be fully conquered, and we shall reign forever with Him.