Greetings to you all.
How lovely it was to be able to spend a week at St. A’s at the end of January. January is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. It seemed the perfect time to come. I was warmly welcomed by the leaders, the team at church, and the staff and volunteers in LivingStones café. I had great fun and felt as though lots of new friendships were beginning. Thank You, Lord, for times like these!
January is also a time when many ‘take stock’ of their lives. Reflecting on our portion of blessings, urgent needs and desires often prompts a raft of New Year resolutions.
Reflecting is usually a good thing. The Bible contains several examples of God’s people pausing to take stock. One that I find particularly interesting is recorded in Numbers, chapter 26. The Hebrew people are poised to enter the Promised Land after a lengthy time wandering in the desert. The Lord commands Moses and Eleazar to carefully count the people, and so they do:
“Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, by their fathers’ houses, all in Israel who are able to go to war.” And Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, “Take a census of the people, from twenty years old and upward,” as the Lord commanded Moses… (Numbers 26:2-4, ESV)
In the ensuing verses, we hear the details of each tribe and their fighting strength. However, this was more than just a war audit. The census was to play a pivotal role in the division of the Promised Land between the tribes. It was not just about seeing what the people already had; it was about preparing for all the Lord was going to give.
We also find that special mention is made of the daughters of Zelophehad (in verse 33). It’s a little unclear as to why the author of the book does this. It remains unclear until chapter 27. Once we reach that portion of Scripture, we discover that the daughters of the late Zelophehad are in a difficult situation. As women with no close male relative, they will be treated in the ‘traditional’ way and denied their father’s inheritance. The Promised Land will be acquired and divided among the tribes, they will get nothing and their family name will be no more.
Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.” (Numbers 27:1-4, ESV)
What an impressive bunch Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah were! They took stock along with the rest of God’s people and understood what their family should receive as a gift from the Lord in the Promised Land. Then, rather than placidly letting blessings slip through their fingers, they fought for the fullness of their inheritance. Surely these sisters should inspire us to be similarly passionate about God’s promises? Our wonderful Father promises us the very best life in His service – do we lay claim to life in all its fullness?
In his letter to the Colossians, St Paul explains that he longs for his fellow Christians to enjoy this fullness of life in Christ Jesus. In so doing, he challenges us to act like Zelophehad’s daughters and earnestly desire our inheritance. He also shows us how lovely it is to desire a Godly inheritance for those around us:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:9-12, ESV)
As the New Year gets under way, let’s pray for each other as Paul prayed for the Colossians; and, like Zelophehad’s daughters, let’s be dissatisfied with anything less than the inheritance the Lord has promised.