Clearly, we're in the "promises" section of our discussion about God. (And, full disclosure, as I have written this week, I feel like I have written these things before, but I can't find them and, well, this series is part of a project I'm working on.)
Our God is a God of promises. He wants us to keep even the foolish promises we make because keeping our promises says something about Him. And He keeps His promises. In fact, He keeps His promises so faithfully that He won't let us settle for less than the fullness of what He's promised us. He keeps reminding us, over and over again, when we can only see part of it, that there is oh, so much more than this.
Today, we'll look at another characteristic of God's promise, and that is this:
God's promise is often layered within another promise. Maybe even His promise for someone else.
When Israel entered the Promised Land and started dividing the land, they were casting lots for who would live where. God revealed to them which territory would belong to the descendants of which son of Israel (or which of the 12 brothers, if you want to think of it that way), and then, something interesting happens:
God gives a bunch of towns to Ephraim...that lie within the territory He already gave to Manasseh.
So picture it. God is dividing the land, and He sets aside a portion for Manasseh. And then, He comes back and says, "Okay, Manasseh, this is yours, but I'm giving some of it to Ephraim." And then, He looks at Ephraim, and He says, "This region belongs to Manasseh, but I'm giving some of it to you."
So whose land is it?
Okay, that was the easy answer. The more complicated answer is that it's God's...and it's Manasseh's...and it's Ephraim's. And it's only glorifying to God in being both Manasseh's and Ephraim's, only in their promises from Him being intermingled like that.
God has truly been about our togetherness from the very beginning.
This is lost on most of us as our world keeps pressing us that our faith is our own. That what we believe is a private thing. That our relationship with God is just between us and Him. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that there's something about being connected with a church, too, but there's something wholly different about the kind of intimate interconnectedness of God's promise like is described here in the dividing of the Promised Land.
Neither brother is complete without the other. Ephraim doesn't have a place at all unless Manasseh already holds the land, but Manasseh isn't full in the land without Ephraim. Without each other, one is homeless and the other is empty. Only together is the promise fulfilled for either of them, and together, it is fulfilled for both.
This is just how God works. This is how God still works. Our promises are often layered within the promises of others so that both can be brought to fullness and God can be glorified. If we don't accept and embrace this, someone is homeless and someone is empty and God's goodness dwells only in shadows.