Posts Tagged ‘#promisedland’

I found this St. Augustine quote the same day that I was introduced to the daughters of Zelophehad. Somehow, until this point in my quest to know and understand God’s Word, I had missed their story … until now.

Theirs is a story of unfortunate loss that could mean ruin in the lives of these five sisters. It is also a story of petition, of courage, of exceptions to the rule/law, of righting wrongs. It is a story of redemption, of liberation, of equity at the hands of God.

The story is told in the book of Numbers (I will paraphrase, but click on Numbers 27:1-11 to read from the Bible).

The Israelites had completed their wandering through the desert and God told Moses to take a census. This census (of adult males) would help in land distribution in the Promised Land, for the various tribes.

As the census was being completed the five daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah) approached the tent of meeting. They walked and talked directly to Moses, the priest and the leaders … in front of all present (no doubt, all men). They had no (male) advocate to plea their case, so they told their own story, plain and simple. This tells me that they were thoughtful and clear communicators, with confidence that was given from a loving and wise upbringing.

And what did they plea? Inheritance. As their father had only daughters, there was no legal claim to inheritance for these sisters. Their father would have been recorded to have been childless and his line in history (that of the tribe of Manessah) would end with him (no legal claim to a part of the Promised Land … no home).

I love how Matthew Henry states, “though it was yet unconquered, untouched, and in the full possession of the natives, yet they petition for their share in it as if it were all their own already.”

Let’s divert … this just sounds like faith to me. They ask for what they do not see, yet they believe … in their hearts and minds … that this heaven-like Promised Land, is indeed promised to them! Even as women in this barren land. They believe that they have something to inherit, that God himself has set aside a piece of heaven for them. The only way for them to have such confidence is if they had grown up immersed in the stories, not just of the Promised Land, but of the Messiah.

Back to the story at hand. They petition for land in the name of their father, for, in their own words, “why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son?”

It is recorded that Moses did not discuss this with the other leaders, but that he “brought their case before the Lord.” He was not going to mess around with human wisdom, but went straight to the head honcho.

And God answered,

What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right.
You must certainly give them property
as an inheritance 
among their father’s relatives
and give their father’s inheritance to them.”

God affirmed them. He affirmed their plea, their right to ask exemption, their right to live as (equal) landowners among the Israelites who were male. He affirmed them with hope, with a future.

Before the suffrage movement, or women’s liberation, yet after hundreds of years of this law not being challenged, these brave and wise women asked … and they received.



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Moses wrote Deuteronomy as a speech to the Israelites, including the history of their struggle prior to and during their time in the desert.

The Israelites are at the end of their wandering through the desert … forty years of wandering. Now they are about to receive the promise of their very own home, flowing with milk and honey.

Their hard struggle is almost over and they are about to see the most spectacular view … the Promised Land.

Forty years of wandering …

How old were you, forty years ago? How old will you, your child or grandchild be in forty years?

When Moses is speaking to the ‘wandering Jews’ he is not necessarily speaking to the same audience that viewed and experienced the plagues in Egypt. This audience is the children and grandchildren of those who fled Egypt, walked through the dry bed of the Red Sea. It is a new generation of wanderers.

How about your wandering? Has it been a multi-generational season of struggle and difficulty? Maybe a lifetime? Could it be a generational curse such as substance abuse (and it’s affects)? poverty? illness? fear? Or has the length of your struggle been ‘just’ a few months? a handful of years?

I remember someone talking about waiting for hip surgery. As they waited (years) they began to compensate for the hip that needing replacement, by putting more weight, more pressure on the ‘healthy’ one. Once they had the surgery, they were then put on a wait list to have the other hip replaced, for it had become weak under the stress of the compensation made for the other one.

The thing about struggles is that we compensate for our weaknesses. They have affected you … maybe in ways that you do not even know, leaving invisible (or visible) scars and bruising.

You have been living, like the Israelites, on an adrenalin high. Your body chemicals have kept you going … or they went on hiatus, leaving you to feel like bowl of jello … without the bowl.

Moses reviews the history of their wandering, pointing out where their parents and grandparents went wrong (remember the golden calf) and challenging them to be different … for they would get to receive the promise made between God and their ancestors. He tells them that their wandering has had a refining purpose.

You have been refined through your struggle, your wandering. You have developed muscle and strength that could only have been gained through your experience. The effort was not without gain.

He tells them, in Deuteronomy 8, what to expect in their promised land … for he will not enter those gates with them. He whets their appetites for all the good that awaits … on the other side.

Anticipation for the end of the journey has been created … then they, like we who have come to the end of our struggle, will ask … now what?

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