Something to be Done to Gain Possession
Joshua 1:1-9
Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister…

In all primitive methods of allotting land — strange as some of them may appear to the modern legal mind — there was something to be done by the possessor himself in order to get possession. His tenure was made valid only by some personal act in connection with the property. He could not own a tract of land which he had not seen, as you might do in Australia, or New Zealand, or in the backwoods of America, although you were never there. It was necessary, in order that the land should become his, that he should do something in connection with it which implied a personal appropriation on the spot. This is the true significance of the curious antique rites by which persons got possession of land. They measured it with their feet, not only in marking it off, but also by passing frequently to and fro over its surface in ploughing and sowing, and all the other labours required for its cultivation, and thus literally obtained a foothold in it. And the same principle holds good still, although these quaint archaic customs have long been discontinued. As regards the new lands in the colonies bestowed upon emigrants by Government, it is absolutely necessary that the persons to whom they are allotted should cultivate the ground and erect buildings on it in order to secure their right of possession. They cannot hold their lands merely upon paper, without ever coming near them, or doing anything to reclaim them from the wilderness. It is thus a universally recognised principle that the right of ownership of the earth is acquired by human labour, man bringing himself in some form or other into direct personal contact with the soil. This is the ultimate ground of ownership to which all can appeal. God gave Abraham the promise of possessing the Holy Land, but Abraham did not get the fulfilment of that promise by remaining in Ur of the Chaldees. He had to leave his home, journey over the wide intervening desert, and traverse on foot the land of promise from end to end. God intended the Israelites to measure out with their feet, and so take possession, according to immemorial custom, of the whole region from Lebanon to the desert, and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. But they stayed their feet, and actually measured only a little strip of land, which was parcelled out among the twelve tribes; while the Canaanites, the Philistines, and the Syrians, and all the desert tribes, were allowed, by the easy terms which the Israelites made with them, to possess in peace by far the largest part of the heritage of the chosen people. Even in the palmiest days of David and Solomon, when the possessions of the Israelites were most extensive, they never reached the limits which God had intended for them. The great lesson, then, which the text conveys to us is that the Israelites owned only as much of the land of promise as they actually trod with the sole of their foot. They had a large promise, but it was to be made good by their own exertions. It is God's law, true of your spiritual inheritance as of the ancient literal inheritance of Israel, that only as much as you measure out with the sole of your foot is truly your own. You have the Bible, and you think you know it well; and yet of this vast religious literature you only really know a mere fragment. You confine your reading to your favourite passages, while you leave the rest unstudied; and yet it is in these neglected parts that new truth is most often to be found. Then you have the privileges and blessings of grace! They are great and extensive, but they are conditioned by the same law that only what you live up to, appropriate, and realise of them is your own. God's superabounding grace is limited by the bounds you yourselves put upon it. If you are made straitly, God's blessing must needs straiten to you. Your salvation is just as much as, and no more than, you yourselves experience of it. Christ says to you m every case, "According to your faith be it unto you." Then there is your own individual Christian life. What a vast, unclaimed, untrodden land of promise it is l You have each a boundless capacity; "you are made to seek, to long for the infinite truth, the infinite good, the infinite love." How little have the greatest saints been able to fill up the grand outline which God sketched out at first when He made man in His own image! How far short have you all come of God's design for you, and even of your own ideal! You have contracted the bounds of your being and the bounds of your world to the smallest dimensions by your devotion to the petty and passing things of earth. And then there is the heavenly Canaan, the true land of promise, towards which you profess to be walking day by day as pilgrims and strangers on earth. God has given it to all His true Israel; but they shall only possess as much of it as they shall tread with the sole of their foot. You will only get as much of heaven as you are fit for; and in the case of many I fear that will be but a very small bit.

(H . Macmillan, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,

WEB: Now it happened after the death of Moses the servant of Yahweh, that Yahweh spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying,

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