"Begin to possess."

F. B. Hole.

Edification Vol 8, 1934 page 292.

In the Gospel God has made Himself known to us as a Giver. He gave His Son. Faith, too, is His gift, as well as all those mighty spiritual blessings to which faith introduces us. Then He gave us His Holy Spirit, "that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Cor. 2:12). The "things" are given, and given freely; but we are to "know" them by the Spirit; not merely know about them, but know them in their spiritual reality.

First of all faith lays firmly hold upon the fact that they are really ours. The divine "deed of gift" has been duly executed, as attested in Holy Scripture. Having laid hold upon this fact, we must now proceed to lay hold upon the things themselves by the Holy Ghost who is given to us. We must begin to possess our possessions.

All this is presented to us pictorially in the Old Testament record concerning Israel. They had the land of promise by deed of gift from God, but they had to put in their claim for it in the presence of hostile powers; and only bit by bit did they actually take possession. In Deuteronomy 2, we read how Moses brought home to Israel their responsibility as to this.

Put together two verses in that chapter and the point will become very clear:

"Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle" (ver. 24).

"And the Lord said to me, Behold I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land" (ver. 31).

So two things are quite definite. First, God had given. Second, He had also begun to give. The superficial reader might feel inclined to demur at this, and at least demand that, if both statements are to be accepted, they must stand in reversed order: viz., first, He began to give; second, He had fully given. The Scriptural order is however the right one. First He gives so that the title deeds are ours. Then He begins to give practically and in detail, as we begin to possess.

Now the exhortation, "Begin to possess," was twice repeated. There are two reasons why we should bestir ourselves and begin to possess our possessions; and they are illustrated here.

The first is that the title deeds are ours. They really are. If they were not, our beginning to possess would be utterly unwarranted; a mere lawless grabbing at what did not belong to us. And like all such lawless proceedings it would ultimately land us in disaster. Being ours by Divine gift, our beginning to possess is not a defiant trespass, but the calm assurance of faith. It is the right and proper response to the Divine gift.

You have, let us suppose, a friend whom you love and highly esteem. Longing to express your feelings, you scrape your hard earned pence together for a long time and finally present her with an expensive and beautiful dress. You are so pleased to give it! A fortnight later however, calling unexpectedly to see her you discern the beautiful dress fluttering on a scarecrow, erected to keep the birds off her kitchen garden! Now, how do you feel? Pained and mortified almost beyond expression! You expected the gift to be used and enjoyed by the recipient. You thought she would really possess herself of it, and not relegate it to the scrap heap.

Has God given these wonderful things to us in order that we may misuse them, or even keep them unused, like a dress carefully secreted in a draw, until such time as the age to come dawns? To ask such a question is to answer it. God has given the things to us; but we are to begin to possess them.

The second reason why we should bestir ourselves and begin to possess is, that God Himself begins to give as we begin to possess. The fact is that if He did not begin to work with us, in order to give us a practical entrance to our possessions we should never gain any foothold in them at all.

In Numbers 14, we read how God said that because of their unbelief, He would not begin to give the land to Israel for another forty years. Nevertheless the people insisted that they would begin to possess. "Lo, we be here, and will go up," they said. The rejoinder of Moses was, "Go not up, for the Lord is not among you." Yet they would not listen but presumed to go up and as a consequence were utterly smitten. At that time, though the title deeds were already theirs, God has not "begun to give" the inheritance to them and hence their attempt to "begin to possess" was absolutely futile.

When Moses spoke, as recorded in Deuteronomy 2, the hour for action had struck. God has begun to give in a practical way, and they were to begin to possess.

Now these things are written for our instruction. What about these things that are freely given to us of God? They are ours, and now is the time for us really to possess ourselves of them. This is shown by the fact that God has given to us His Spirit that we may know them in realized and happy possession. Are we laying hold upon them? Are we giving ourselves to the study of the Word of God which reveals them to us, and playing in the Holy Ghost so that we may be built up and established in them?

What hinders us in this? Just our natural lethargy coupled with love of the world. Verse 31, already quoted, is followed by verses 32 and 33, which say:

"Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people to fight at Jahaz, and the Lord our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people."

Immediately we begin to possess opposition springs up. The old powers do not yield without a struggle. It is a stern business. It means saying, "No," to many things which are not the things freely given to us of God. It means exercise and conflict and trouble. But it is well worth it. The joy of victory follows: the joy of really possessing a little bit more of that which is ours by an incontestable title, as given of God.

Do not be content with knowing that there are things which are freely given to you of God. Do not even be content to know about them. Aim at really knowing them by the Spirit given to you. Go in for the joy and satisfaction of realized possession.