And the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, Why have you given me but one lot and one portion to inherit…
I. IT IS FOOLISH TO COMPLAIN OF OUR LOT UNTIL WE HAVE MADE THE BEST USE OF IT. The Ephraimites had not cleared their forest, yet they complained of the narrowness of their possession. We do not know the extent of our advantages till we try them. In murmuring at the privations of life we spoil the enjoyment of its blessings. Hardships which we ascribe to the arrangements of Providence may often be traced to our own indolence. The one talent is buried because it is not five. We have no excuse for complaints before we have made the full use of what we possess. This may be applied to
(2) opportunities of service,
(3) means of self improvement, and
(4) sources of enjoyment.
II. OUR LOT IN LIFE WILL IMPROVE AS IT IS USED WELL. Joshua showed to the complaining Ephraimites that if they cleared their forest and so recovered the waste land, their lot would thereby be doubled. The neglected inheritance runs to weeds and becomes worthless. The cultivated possession improves with cultivation. Exercise strengthens the weak. If we make a good use of what opportunities for service we now possess, these will develop new and better opportunities. If we use well what powers God has given us, these will grow more effective. The talent that is not neglected produces other talents.
III. GREAT CLAIMS SHOULD BE SUSTAINED BY GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS. The Ephraimites claim to be great, and therefore deserving of a great inheritance. Joshua replies, "If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country and cut down for thyself there," etc. High rank should justify itself by high service, large wealth by large beneficence, titles of honour by deeds of sacrifice. Duty is proportionate to faculty. The more advantages we claim the more obligations shall we contract.
IV. THE BEST RIGHT TO A POSSESSION IS TO HAVE OBTAINED IT THROUGH THE EXERTION OF OUR OWN ENERGIES. Joshua bids the Ephraimites increase their lot, by the exercise of their valour in exterminating the Canaanites, and of their industry in felling the forest.
(1) It is unworthy to look to personal favour to secure us a position in the world not earned by merit or work. Joshua belonged to the tribe of Ephraim, and the Ephraimites seem to have expected favours on this account, but in vain.
(2) It is weak to depend on the paternal interference of the State when our own industry should obtain our rights.
(3) It is wrong to wait idly for a providential interposition on our behalf. God will give us our inheritance, but we must conquer it and cultivate it. He helps us when we do our best, but never so as to justify our indolence. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath blessed me hitherto?