The proposed division of the Promised Land brought up a special question of considerable importance to the people of Israel. A man named Zelophehad, from the tribe of Manasseh and the family of Gilead, had died – not in any particular plague or judgment, but along with the generation that perished in the wilderness. Since he had no sons, his five daughters were anxious to obtain an inheritance in the Promised Land, for they had neither father nor brother to inherit any land for their family. Their believing expectation that the Word of the Lord would be performed in due season, their desire of an allotment in the promised inheritance, and the modest but candid manner in which they asked – all these things are a good example. By asking for a possession in the land of Canaan, Zelophehad’s daughters not only showed a great respect and honor for their father, whose name was dear to them; but they also revealed that they had a strong faith in the power and promise of God, concerning the giving of the land to Israel. They understood that having a place and name in the Land of Promise was a foreshadow of the possession of a lasting inheritance in heaven – hence their desire to not be left out when Canaan would be divided up among the people of God.
By Divine direction, which Moses had sought, the request of Zelophehad’s daughters was granted; and it became “a statute of judgment” in Israel that a person’s daughters (or whoever was the nearest relative) would take possession of the inheritance of those who died without leaving any living sons. Thus the “name” of a man would not “be done away from among his family.” And this “statute” was not merely recorded on account of its national importance, but also for higher reasons; for this desire to preserve a name in a family in Israel did not just spring from natural feelings in such circumstances, but it was also connected with the hope of the coming Messiah! Until He appeared, each family in Israel desired to clearly preserve its identity.
The narrative about the daughters of Zelophehad shows us that the Lord does not only takes notice of the affairs of nations, but also of private families; and He orders them according to His will. Just as the petition of Zelophehad’s daughters was granted, those who desire an inheritance in the heavenly Land of Promise shall most assuredly have what they seek for!
Although the Lord had resolved that Moses would not enter the Promised Land, He still mercifully blessed him with the sight of its long-anticipated glories. He told him that he would ascend Mount Abarim (which was the name of a ridge of mountains along the eastern coast of the Red Sea, of which Mount Nebo and Mount Pisgah formed a part); and that from thence, he would “see the land” before departing this life. This view of the Promised Land from a distance would strengthen his faith in the Divine promises. But herein, strong assurances are implied of an everlasting inheritance in the covenant-righteousness of Him Whom Moses beheld in the bush! Abraham died 18 centuries before the birth of Christ; but he saw the Lord Jesus afar off, in a spiritual sense. Before Jacob died, he could say – with holy confidence – concerning the coming Redeemer, “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord!” And although Moses passed away out of this life without being allowed to enter the earthly Canaan, he could rest assured that he would not be kept out of the heavenly Promised Land.
Moses received these words with that calmness and submission which a long life of holy walking with God would have led us to anticipate; and he only evinces, in the following verses, his anxiety that a leader might be appointed in his place, who would be fully competent to the great and arduous responsibility of shepherding the people of Israel.
In verses 18-23, we have the gracious answer of God to the supplication of Moses; He appointed a successor to lead the people after he passed on to glory. The conduct of Moses in so cheerfully obeying the Lord is always to be admired and applauded, and we should desire grace to imitate it. Envious persons do not love their successors, but Moses was not that kind of person. We should concern ourselves – both in our prayers and in our endeavors – for the rising generation, so that Christ’s cause may be maintained and advanced when we are in our graves. God choice of a successor for Moses was none other than Joshua; he had signalized himself by his courage in fighting Amalek (Ex. 17:9-14), his humility in ministering to Moses (Ex. 24:13), and his faith and sincerity in witnessing against the report of the evil spies (Num. 14:6-10). He was a man in whom the Spirit of grace dwelt. He was a Godly man who feared the Lord, hated covetousness, and acted from principle. He was fit to do the work that was entrusted to him. He had a spirit of courage. A man is not fully qualified for any service in the Church of Christ if he is destitute of the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit – no matter what human abilities he may possess. The equivalent of Joshua’s name, in Greek, is Jesus. And as he succeeded Moses, we are reminded “that the law was given by Moses” (who, by reason of our transgression, could not bring us to heaven); but “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” for the salvation of every believer!
Lord Jesus, from the hill of Calvary and the Mount of Olives, You have opened our eyes to behold fair views of that blessed country where You have gone to take possession for Your people. Lord, strengthen our faith every day in this well-grounded assurance, until You are pleased to give the signal for my dismissal to the heavenly Promised Land. Amen.
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