Tuesday, May 7, 2024

God Owns the Land

When ancient kings conquered ancient peoples, they would send those peoples into exile and then send peoples from other lands to inhabit the newly-conquered territory. This was a way to throw these peoples off-balance and separate them from all the things that they knew so that they couldn't regroup, gather themselves, and wage a counterattack to try to get their independence back. 

So it was no shock when the king of Assyria sent foreigners to inhabit Israel after he conquered the kingdom of God's people. 

What was shocking was that these peoples found the Promised Land wholly unwelcoming. It wasn't a good land for them. It wasn't a land flowing with milk and honey. They weren't thriving there, as they had in their own land. And the only thing they could come up with to explain why was because they didn't understand the Lord or how to worship Him. They must be doing something wrong in His land. 

Remember, at this time, gods were strongly connected to the land. There was no concept, outside of Israel, of a god of all creation. So these other peoples considered the Lord simply the little-g god of Israel and thought that the key to success in His land was learning to worship Him properly.

On one hand, we know that God doesn't work that way. He doesn't operate the way the gods of the nations operate. He is not a god who is tied to the land, as we've seen in previous stories about Him. He is God of all creation, Lord of everything. 

On the other hand, He did have a special connection to the land of Canaan, to the Promised Land, to Israel. This was a land that He selected all the way back in the early chapters of Israel, in the time of Abram, to give to His people. This was a land He led them out of slavery to inhabit. This was a land He fought with them for to gain possession. This was the land flowing with milk and honey, with all the good things He promised to His people and prepared for them for generations before they even pitched their first tent there. 

God had a claim to the land of Israel, and He never gives up a claim He stakes...even when His people are exiled and there are strangers living there. (God has never met a stranger, by the way.) 

The good news about this for us, for you and me, is that the same is true for every heart to which God has staked His claim, as well. Come what may, come destruction or ruin, come trial or trouble, come exile or wandering, God never gives up a claim that He has staked. 

And that means that when He says we are His, we are His. Forever. (Which is also, by the way, what He said.) So....good news. 

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