Locating the Borders of a Promise: Part 4 of 9

shutterstock_5568790The Land’s Owner and its Tenant Rules

A certain man owning several properties once had tenants grossly delinquent in paying their rent. Due to their refusal to cooperate, he found no easy way to remove them from his property until he devised the following sure-fire method: as the landowner, he was legally allowed to maintain the upkeep on this home. So, one day he stopped by that home to do some fix-ups. That day’s project was repainting the front and back doors. After their removal, he loaded them in his truck and hauled them to his shop. It took several days to get these doors painted the way he wanted; during which time his rent-skipping tenants had packed-up and moved out. As he re-hung those freshly painted doors, I’m sure he thought they looked better on that house than any doors he’d painted before!

Were this man’s actions just or unjust? The answer to this would depend on which side you’re on – the landlord’s or the tenant’s. Here we have a landowner willing to allow people to live in his investment so long as they abide by his established policy. He wasn’t the one who broke these rules; the tenants did when they refused to obey the set terms. For this reason, how could anyone fault this landowner for removing such folks from his house or for not allowing them to move back in, or even for renting this property to someone else?

These same questions should also be asked about another parcel of land commonly called the “Promised Land.” The Bible shows the Lord of this land similarly made stipulations, which His tenants were to obey if they wanted to remain on His property. Let’s begin by finding who the Bible says lawfully holds ownership to this land.

The Land’s Rightful Owner

Is possession nine-tenths of the law? Should simply occupying a house give its tenant special rights of ownership? Though I am no legal expert, I am confident that a person simply occupying a house does not make him or her rightful title-holder. Evidence of such ownership (both secular and biblical) is to be determined through legal documentation.

With this in mind, nowhere in the Bible do we find it said that the Children of Israel owned the land in which they settled. We do, however, overwhelmingly find scriptures showing God being this land’s owner. In regard to the vastness of God’s land ownership, David said, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psa 24:1). According to the Psalmist, not only is God the title-holder of the “Promised Land,” He also claims ownership to the entirety of the world. This is quite a spread, even for Texas standards! (Also see {earth} Psa 50:12; Exo 9:29, 19:5; Deu 10:14; 1 Chr 29:11; Job 41:11; Dan 4:25; 1 Cor 10:26{world} Psa 89:11, Psa 98:7; Nah 1:5)

Speaking from the threshold of this authority, God decreed, “The land shall not be sold forever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev 25:23). The Message Bible translates this verse: “The land cannot be sold permanently because the land is mine and you are foreigners – you’re my tenants” (Lev 25:23 MSG). From this we see God declares Himself to be the land’s established title-holder. His position leaves the Children of Israel, like the Canaanites before them, as merely tenants living on His property.

Stipulations for Occupancy of the Land

God allowed the Israelites to move into Canaan, take over its lands and houses, and then call that area their home. But because God owned the land, He also had the right to set its rules. For that reason, He could give His land to – or take it away from – whomever He saw fit.

Was God unjust to the Canaanites who had first lived in the Promised Land? Some say He was and claim that He cruelly removed these former residents and stole their homes only to give them to the Israelites. But their view of this account differs greatly with that found in the Bible. The Bible shows that God did not forcibly take Canaanite homes to give them to more preferable tenants. If God had, such activity would be conflicting to the Bible’s summary of Him being merciful to all men, and to Him being no respecter of persons (see Act 10:34-35).

The biblical record shows the reason these homes and lands were lost was due to the continual sinning of Canaanites becoming an affront against the rules of the land’s owner – God. Similarly, God gave terms of residency to His first tenants, Adam and Eve. They also rebelled against God’s rules, and because so, were removed from their land – Eden. The Canaanites also rebelled against the Land Owner and likewise were removed from their homeland.

The foretelling of the Canaanite eviction is found in the same area where God gives the timeframe when Abraham’s descendants were to receive this same land for their home.

Genesis 15:13-16
(13)  And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
(14)  And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
(15)  And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
(16)  But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

God told Abraham that his descendants (the Israelites) would not be allowed to move into this land until its current occupants’ sins were full. Such offense placed them in complete violation of God’s rules for occupancy. And since God is omniscient, He already foreknew of this coming Canaanite rebellion and of their consequent removal to make way for the Israelites, which – as promised – happened almost 400 years later.

God, as the Land’s rightful owner, gave His former tenets, the Canaanites, a set of rules by which to abide. He did the same for this same land’s new tenants, the Israelites. These regulations are found listed in the Bible’s “Old Covenant.” There we find both promises of prosperity for those who kept these stipulations, and curses and removal from the land for those who disobeyed and rebelled against them. (In regard to these blessings and curses, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 give detailed explanation how God uses them as an established rule in His Kingdom.) If the Israelites obeyed and were responsible, they could stay; but just like He evicted Canaan’s disobedient former tenets, the Bible states God would also remove the Israelites from this same land if they were undeserving. Moses lists for us a set of God’s rules in Deuteronomy 6.

Deuteronomy 6:10-15
(10)  And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
(11)  And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;
(12)  Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
(13)  Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
(14)  Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
(15)  (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

When the Israelites entered Canaan’s “Promised Land”, they inherited the same territory as was prophesied to Abraham. This fulfillment came completely furnished with homes and all the trimmings needed to make life for them rather easy. But, as stipulated, for them to remain within these new borders, they would need to remember to follow the rules of their land’s owner – God. In these passages from Deuteronomy, we find these rules included:

1.  Remembering the LORD saved you from bondage.

2.  Fearing and serving only the LORD.

3.  Not following after any other gods.

Here we see the Israelites remaining or not in this land was completely based upon their obedience. If they obeyed, they stayed; if they disobeyed, they were removed. Even after everything that God did for them; the Bible records the Israelites slipping away from these God-established regulations in preference to their own lust-driven ways. Similarly, just as God waited for the Amorites to fill-up their measure of iniquity before removing them from the land; the Israelites eventually filled-up the measure of their iniquities as well.

Part 3 of 9 | Part 5 of 9

 

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