God's Tenancy Laws

by Ray Hawkins

Canaan is a strange land. It yields its favours only to those who co-operate with its Creator and Owner, or who are fulfilling His will. The subsequent history of the land, even up to this century, can only be appreciated with this in mind.

Whilst God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob concerning the Land of Israel, Israel entered into a covenant relationship with the Owner of the land at Mount Sinai. It was on this occasion that they received their conditional charter of occupation which linked God, the Nation and the land in a strong and unique bond. Read it in Deuteronomy chapters 27-30.

Israel 's Three R's

This bond rested upon three important principles. We could sum them up as being the principles of Redemption, Relationship, and Revelation. It was these three 'R's' that in turn made the Israelites a nation apart, not only from their neighbours, but also from any other nation. And it is because of these principles that the land yielded up its favours to the descendants of the men whom God loved.


Redemption was the beginning of it all. Without it there could be no possession. The passover experience and the deliverance from Egyptian captivity had two aspects, the physical and the spiritual. Both were accomplished through the sacrifice of the lamb. Redemption took place under the cover of the blood of the lamb. The faith and obedience of the enslaved people to what must have appeared a strange command from the lips of Moses paved the way for a miracle.

For God made it known in no uncertain manner that Redemption is His responsibility, His achievement. It is for us to express our faith in Him by obedience to His will. This was hammered home to Israel through the lips of Moses. "I am the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; and I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect." (Leviticus 26:13)

Entering the land, gaining victories in the land and dwelling securely in the land all emerged from the ground of Redemption. Moreover, it was this experience of deliverance that became the motivation for obedience to God. They were never to forget that they had been redeemed. "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this day ..." (Deuteronomy 15:15).

When they did forget the act of Redemption, or took it lightly, it paved the way to hypocrisy, reliance on self-effort or open rebellion.


The natural result of redemption is the entering into a special relationship with God. It is a relationship which implies closeness, security, and providence. "I will make my abode with you, and my soul shall not abhor you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people." (Leviticus 26:11,12)

As can be imagined such companionship not only offered enjoyable privileges, but frightening responsibilities. It meant that they were the representatives of the Almighty in the midst of an idolatrous world. Being in posession of the Law and the promise of the Messiah should have turned them into blazing lights of God's grace to a heathen world. Somehow or other it just didn't work out that way. Their exclusiveness smothered the 'light' and silenced any serious attempt to be ambassadors for God. Failure was not merely the breaking of some behaviour patterns. It was the short circuiting of God's grace and mercy to a sinful world. It was also a rebuff to God who was their friend and Saviour. The bitter price of this offence will be looked at later.


As a result of Israel's Redemption and unique Relationship with God they received greater Revelation. For this otherwise insignificant nation received insight into the heart and mind of the Eternal which has been the envy of other nations ever since. As the Psalmist wrote, "He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel." (Psalm 103:7) Again these words are echoed in the 147th Psalm. "He showed His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgements unto Israel. He has not dealt so with any nation: and as for His judgements, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord."

The wonder of wonders is that God would have any desire to make Himself known to mankind. It is evident from the efforts of man-made religions, that God is impossible to find unless He makes Himself known. For where would you begin to look?

That The Almighty should entrust His revelation to a nation such as Israel has often perplexed men and women. The fact that He did is another indication that God moves in mysterious ways. But if He had given them to the Gentiles would they have fulfilled God's purposes any better? I doubt it.

These insights into the will of God were meant to be 'missiles' launched from Canaan into the Gentile world. They were to prepare the world for the Messiah who would come from the Jews, but who would enlarge the borders of Redemption and Relationship with God to include the Gentiles.

Unfortunately the 'missiles' of knowledge and love were never really launched. It seems to me that the attempts of the people as a nation to be 'a light to the Gentiles' resembled more a boy with a pop gun firing messages over the wall than a nation with a glorious message to give freely to the world.

An interesting aspect about the charter of occupation was that when it was given it was received by faith. W.M. Taylor DD.LLD wrote 'Minute and particular enactments regarding the holding of property were given to a homeless and wandering host, … Laws requiring the attendance of all men three times a year at some central spot were enacted before they had acquired a foot of land that they could call their own, and while they were sojourning in one unbroken encampment ... The very reception and promulgation of these precepts by Moses is as great a triumph of faith as was his observance of the Passover.'

Faith was the key. It unlocked Redemption, a Royal Relationship, opportunities for Revelation and the Ruling of Canaan. When faith broke down so did the tenancy agreements that Israel had made. When faith revived, so the people fulfilled their covenant agreements.

The tenancy requirements of God for His "little acre" revealed His broader intentions. As Dr Hertz has said, 'No religious document has exercised a greater influence on the moral and social life of men than the divine proclamation of human duty known as the decalogue ... In simple, unforgettable form this unique code of codes lays down the fundamental rules of worship and right for all time and for all men'.

If one word could sum up the tenancy requirements it would be love. Love for God, your fellow man, the land, especially God's "little acre". What Moses repeated on God's behalf in Deuteronomy 10:12 is still applicable to us today. "And now Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul."