The Forest

I came across this passage in the book of Joshua today, and it stood out in my mind. Here, some of Joseph’s descendants were complaining about why they didn’t have enough land for all of their stuff. Joshua’s response was basically, “Oh? You think you’re all that? Then go get your land for yourselves.” The people then complained some more, noting that their enemies – the Canaanites – had really good weapons (iron chariots). Joshua then gave the people a pep talk, reminding them that they are a “numerous people” with “great power,” and then decreed the following:


Now that’s what I call faith. Remember – this is Joshua talking, not God, and he just tells it like it is: “The hill country shall be yours.” He then proceeds to explain the process of how these folks are going to claim their land:

  • There are going to be natural obstacles in their way (a forest) that they will have to clear of their own initiative and effort. Note that Joshua does not foretell God’s plans to miraculously smite the forest away from the face of the earth. However, once Joseph’s descendants do this, the place that used to be the forest will be completely theirs.
  • There will be human barriers in their way, and these people will be difficult to defeat. In fact, Joshua states the situation baldly, noting that the Canaanites not only have better weapons than Joseph’s people do, but they are also quite strong. Regardless, he stands on the promise that Joseph’s descendants will not only take over the forest and tear it down, but will “drive out” their enemies, too. This also takes effort and initiative.

So here is my take on this passage. Where is the hill country in your life? And do I dare to have the faith of Joshua?

Sometimes, our faith is feeble, and we expect God to do all of the heavy lifting; on occasion, He chooses to respond in this way, but more often than not, He requires us to take on the lion’s share of the work.

This is how I see these verses playing out in my life:

  1. There is a hill country in my life – a promise that God has in store for me, and because He is God, the promise is already fulfilled in eternity. However, I have to do my part to help bring it about in the time-constrained world of history.
  2. In the process of claiming my hill country, I am going to need to raze some forests. I can tell you that God has me deep in the forest-razing season now, and it’s been easy to get discouraged. After all, everywhere I look, I still see lots and lots of trees!
  3. But that’s not all! I’ve got to hunt down and chase away the Canaanites in my life, too, who are not only stronger than me, but they’ve called my hill country “home” for awhile, and are likely none-to-keen on leaving.

This is a tricky business. After all, since God is sovereign, why didn’t He just give Joseph’s people the land (and knock out the Canaanites while He was at it)?

My honest answer? “I do not know.” Who can comprehend the mind of God?

However, there may be some merit to the truism that you tend to more greatly value things for which you have to expend significant effort. Perhaps, in His wisdom, the Lord realized that if He gave Joseph’s descendants the land straight-out, that they might not appreciate what a tremendous gift the land (including the defeat of the Canaanites) really was.

I believe that this principle holds true in my life, as well. I think the Lord allows me to partner with Him and lets me fight some tough battles so that the victory will be all the sweeter on the other side. Also, cutting down the trees of doubt and discouragement in my life – as well as expunging the toxic people from it, too – ends up being highly beneficial for me. Such a process – razing trees and chasing away toxic people – is immensely challenging and overwhelming at times, but is ultimately very satisfying in the end.

Why, you may wonder? The answer to me is simple – I get to learn an important truth about God. Here it is:

  • No matter how many trees stand in my way;
  • Regardless how strong my enemy may appear; and
  • Despite the number of iron chariots that I may see,

NOTHING AND NO ONE IS A MATCH FOR MY GOD. If He doesn’t clear the way for me, then He’ll equip me with the strength and resources needed to clear the forest and drive out my “Canaanites”.

I’m determined to claim my hill country. Will you get yours?

Here is my prayer for today: Thanks, Lord, for equipping me with the tools and weapons needed for me to clear my forests, and overcome those who stand in the way of the promises that You have for me. It will require a lot of effort – and in some instances, deep pain and suffering – but help me remember that by Your power and strength, THE HILL COUNTRY IS ALREADY MINE.

Of course, I don’t mean this in a name-it-and-claim-it way; I simply mean that whatever promises You have decreed for me have already been accomplished in eternity. It’s up to me to decide whether I agree with them or not, and then partner with You to do the hard work so that I can see these life-giving promises fulfilled.

Let’s raze some forests together! In Your name I pray, Amen.


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