This morning I want you to take a journey with me. This journey begins several thousand years ago, but it ends with you and me.

  1. Let's begin.
    1. For our purposes this morning, the journey began when God made this statement to Abraham in Genesis 12:7.
      The Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land."
      1. The phrase I ask you to note and remember is, "...I will give."
      2. Remember the land was God's to give.
      3. God promised Abraham that He would give Abraham's descendants something that belonged to God.
    2. Several generations pass (over 400 years) and Abraham's descendants became an enormous group of slaves living in Egypt.
      1. God spoke to Moses in the Sinai wilderness and commissioned him to go to Egypt, provide leadership for Abraham's descendants, and lead them out of their slavery.
      2. This was God's statement to Moses:
        Exodus 3:6-8 He said also, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I 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, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite."
      3. Later, this was another statement God made to Moses:
        Exodus 6:2-8 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, "I am the Lord; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them. I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 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; I am the Lord.' "
      4. Notice the phrase again, "I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord."
      5. The land belonged to God.
      6. God would give what was His to them to be their country.
    3. Later still, after God rescued these people from Egyptian slavery and took them through the wilderness to the border of the land God promised them, they refused to enter the land because they were afraid.
      Numbers 14:1-8 Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" So they said to one another, "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt." Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, "The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us--a land which flows with milk and honey."
      1. Note Joshua and Caleb's statement again: "...He will bring us into this land and give it to us."
      2. Joshua and Caleb clearly understood the land was God's, and God could give it to them.
    4. Thirty-nine years later when God brought the second generation of Israel to the border of the land, Moses stressed that the land was God's to give.
      1. Deuteronomy 1:8--The Lord has placed this land before us.
      2. Deuteronomy 4:1--"... Go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you."
      3. Deuteronomy 5:31 spoke of the land God gave them to possess.
      4. Deuteronomy 6:18 spoke of the land God gave your fathers.
    5. Because the land belonged to God, Moses plainly declared to Israel that the people who lived on that land were to have some specific understanding.
      1. He explained in Deuteronomy 10:18,19 that God had special concern for widows, orphans, and people who were in Israel but not citizens of Israel.
      2. He explained in Deuteronomy 15 that he wanted them to take care of the poor when they entered their new land.
        1. On every 7th year they were to cancel their debts to each other.
        2. They were to be generous with those in need, to "freely open your hand," and to give without grief.
        3. If a fellow Hebrew was in such horrible economic condition that his only option was to sell himself into slavery, they were to "buy" that Hebrew with the following understanding:
          1. They would treat such people as hired help, not as slaves.
          2. They could keep them in their service for only six years.
          3. They would not send them away empty-handed.
          4. They would honor a system of redemption.
    6. They were to have some specific understandings about the land according to Leviticus 25.
      1. Every seventh year they were to let the land rest--no cultivation or crop growing.
      2. They could not permanently sell the land.
        1. Every 50th year land was to return to its original owners.
        2. If you sold a house in a walled city, you have one year to buy the house back.
        3. If you sold a house in a village, every 50th year it became the property of the original owner.
        4. No Hebrew was to charge another Hebrew interest on a loan.
    7. There were also laws about the way you harvested your land.
      1. Leviticus 19:9,10 said you could not harvest an entire field or an entire vineyard; some had to be left for the poor and alien to harvest.
      2. Deuteronomy 24:19-22 said they could only harvest a crop one time (we country folks would call that the "first picking").
        1. That which was late to ripen was left for the widow, orphan, and alien to harvest.
        2. If you forgot a sheaf of grain and left it in the field, you were to leave it for the poor.

  2. Why? Why all these laws about the land, the people who lived on the land, and the way you treated struggling people who lived on the land?
    1. There are three reasons given.
      1. "I am the Lord God."
      2. "The land is Mine."
      3. "You must never forget that once you were slaves."
    2. "Never forget it all belongs to God. Never forget who you were without God.
      1. Does this sound familiar?
        Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.
      2. Paul used this statement in trying to encourage Corinthians Christians to stop judging each other on the basis of food.
        1 Corinthians 10:26 for the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains.
    3. Paul also explained to an audience in Athens that they needed to change the way they perceived God.
      Acts 17:23-26 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.
      1. If you are to understand who God is, these four understandings are basic.
        1. God is the Creator.
        2. God cannot be confined to a building built by humans.
        3. God is not dependent on humans.
        4. God is the source of life for all people.
      2. Without these four understandings, you cannot know God.

  3. Christians must understand the same things God wanted Israel to understand.
    1. "I, God, am owner--it all comes from Me."
    2. "Without Me you are still slaves." [For us, to evil.]
    3. "With Me you have redemption--I alone can destroy your slavery."
    4. "You show that you understand this by the way you treat others, even the most insignificant of people."
    5. Listen to James 3:9,10 as he spoke of the way we use our tongues:
      With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

[Song of reflection; elder offers the invitation; song of invitation.]

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 January 2003

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