God's Tenancy Laws

Canaan is a strange land. It yields its favours only to those who cooperate with its Creator and Owner, or who are fulfilling His will. The subsequent history of the land, even up to the present time, 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 that occasion that they received their conditional charter of occupation, which linked God, the Nation, and the Land in a strong and unique bond which we may read about in Deuteronomy chapters 27 to 30.

This covenant bond rested on three important principles, and we may sum them up as the principles of Redemption, Relationship and Revelation. It was these three principles that in turn made the Israelites a nation apart, not only from their neighbours, but also from every other nation. And it is because of these principles that the Land yielded up its favours to the descendants of the people God loved.


Redemption was the beginning of it all. Without it there could be no possession of the Land. 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 Moses, paved the way for a miracle.

God had made 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 taught to them by Moses: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright" (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 thing today" (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 and even to 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 provision: "I will set my tabernacle among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and 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 the people of Israel were the representatives of the Almighty in the midst of an idolatrous world. Being in possession 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 certain behavioural 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 Saviour and Friend.


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.

The Psalmist wrote: "He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the children of Israel" (103:7) and "He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and his judgements to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for his judgements, they have not known them." (147:19,20).

The wonder 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 one begin to look?

That the Almighty should entrust His revelation to any one nation, even the nation of Israel, is an indication that God moves in mysterious ways. If He had given His revelation to the Gentiles, would they have fulfilled God's purposes any better? This is surely a rhetorical question.

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 Jewish nation, but who would enlarge the borders of Redemption and Relationship with God to include the Gentiles.

Unfortunately the 'missiles' of knowledge and light were really never launched fully, the glorious message never given freely to the world, the nation "a light to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:6) never fully accomplished.

An interesting aspect about the charter of Israel's occupation of the Land was that when it was given the charter was received by faith. God gave detailed instructions to His people, who were at the time merely tent dwellers, and only passing through the territory they would later receive as an inheritance. "By faith he (Abraham) sojourned in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise . . . " (Letter to the Hebrews 11:9).

Yet, God gave Moses detailed instructions about their future occupation of the Land before they had acquired any they could call their own. The very reception and promoting of these instructions by Moses was a triumph of faith every bit as great as his observance of the Passover.

Faith was the key that unlocked Redemption, their Relationship with God, and opportunities for Revelation and the ruling of Canaan. And 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 Land revealed His broader intentions, and the giving of the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, laid down the fundamental rules for worship and right living for all the world as well, and for all time.

Love is the one word that sums up the tenancy requirements of God for His people – love for God, love for Man, love for the Land. What Moses repeated on God's behalf we may read in Deuteronomy 10:12: "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways and to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul."