Israel has just barely begun pushing into the Promised Land, with a couple of major victories under her belt, when she stops and camps and settles into the small bit that she's already taken. And it is here, so close she can almost still hear the rushing of the Jordan nearby, that she begins to divide the land among the tribes.
This portion will be for Dan, this one for Judah, this one for Isaachar, this one for Asher. Among them all will be this land for Levi, who gets not his own land but a portion among the portions of the others. And here will be the cities of refuge, six in total - and the cities of refuge in themselves are interesting to look at, but that's another story for another day.
What's interesting at this point is that Israel is not dividing the land she's already taken; there's very little of that and not nearly enough for all twelve of the tribes. Israel is dividing the land that she's promised. All of it.
Even the vast majority of it that still has other nations living in it.
This is not particularly comforting news if you happen to be one of these peoples who have yet to be conquered. This encroaching people is already staking a claim to your land, and they haven't even fought you for it yet! And it seems a bit presumptuous if you're Israel. Especially given that she literally just came upon the territory of a people with whom she made an ill-advised treaty, against the wishes of the Lord. She already has land in which she did not push out the people who live there, and she is now dividing the land of peoples she has yet to encounter.
But what a powerful reminder this is for those of us who live by faith.
Most of us, if we're honest, want the land cleared out before us. We don't count our chickens before they hatch, so to speak - promise from the Lord or no promise from the Lord. Even when God tells us exactly what's going to happen or what we're supposed to do or where we're supposed to, most of us won't move until the path before us is clear. Most of us won't take the next step until we know there's ample space to put our foot down.
We can't fathom a faith that divides the land before it's fought for it. We can't imagine claiming possession of something that currently belongs to someone else. And it doesn't matter what it is - if it's money or a new house or a new job or a new family or whatever. It's beyond our realm of believing. The door isn't open yet. The house isn't empty. The space is currently occupied.
It's not ours, even if God has said in no uncertain terms that it is.
But Israel sits down together and draws a map of a land she hasn't even seen. She takes it to the edge of her vision, just to the border of her divine imagination, and starts planning and plotting what goes where, who gets what, how this whole thing is about to go down. And in the matter of a very short period of time, everyone among her knows what is theirs, even though none of it actually belongs to any of them yet.
Imagine what it would do to your life to have this kind of vision of faith. Imagine what you could do if you could see the way that Israel sees. If you took ownership of what is only right now promised, but you believed so wholly in that promise that you started picking out decorations for your new digs.
That's essentially what Israel is doing. "Here are your borders. Start dreaming about what you're doing to do in them." And the tribes are picking out curtains and buying houseplants and painting signs. They're finding doo-dads to hang on their fences and organizing their lives around wells they didn't dig and harvests they didn't plant, and it's not wishful thinking. It's not a pipe dream. It's not just for fun, like maybe it will all just happen for them some day.
It's faith. In a promise. Made to them by God. For things they cannot see yet, that push on the edges of their own imaginations, but they believe it.
What do you believe?