Have you ever walked in a room and wondered if you belonged? It happened to me a few weeks ago. I didn’t have the right initials after my name or the right title before it, and I had to give myself a good pep talk to convince myself I not only had a right to be there–I had something to contribute. Sometimes the confidence to claim what is rightfully yours is as scarce as rain on a Texas summer day.
That’s where Zelophehad’s daughters found themselves at the beginning of their story.
It had been a long forty years. The entire generation of Israelites who fled Egypt had died in the wilderness, save for Joshua and Caleb. They were finally ready to start making plans for the conquest, and Moses counted the people in preparation for dividing up the land. The land would be divided proportionally according to the number of people in each clan, and portions would be assigned by lot (Numbers 26:52-56). The rights to the inheritance would pass from father to son throughout the generations. Simple enough, right?
Not so fast.
Zelophehad’s daughters came before Moses with a question. Zelophehad, of the tribe of Manasseh, had five daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Tirzah. Zelophehad died in the wilderness like the rest of his generation, but he left no sons. Zelophehad’s daughters came before Moses and the assembly and asked that their father’s inheritance be given to them so that his name would not be lost from his clan. Moses went before the Lord with the question, and the Lord told Moses that what Zelophehad’s daughters were saying was right: they should be granted their father’s inheritance.
This is important because it establishes that daughters had a right to inherit their father’s property when there was no male heir. However, the daughters’ question goes deeper than just a few acres of land. It had to do with their place in the covenant community.
For Israel, land and covenant were inexorably linked. The land was part of God’s covenant promise to Abraham, and from then on Israel understood that living in the land required one to live in covenant relationship with God. God was the true owner of the land, and only those who lived rightly before him could continue to possess it (Leviticus 25:23; Deuteronomy 28:15, 63-64). Ownership of land was proof that one was a member of the covenant community.
Zelophehad’s daughters’ question was really about their status as members of the covenant community. Is this covenant also for us? Are these promises also for us? As single women with no father or brother to provide for us, do we belong to this covenant community? God emphatically answered yes. Yes, they belonged. They were not condemned to a vulnerable position on the fringes of society, grafted in only by a father’s or husband’s privilege. They were members of the covenant community in their own right, and they could claim their rightful inheritance.
[Tweet “Zelophehad’s daughters claimed their inheritance. Will you claim yours? @leigh_powers”]
What blessings do we hesitate to claim that are rightfully ours in Christ? Consider this prayer Paul prayed for those he knew and loved:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:17-23).
I’m convinced that we greatly underestimate the power that is ours as believers in Christ. There is an “incomparably great power” available to us who believe. Perhaps it is this C.S. Lewis had in mind when he had Screwtape describe the church to his demonic apprentice as “spread out through all space and time and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.” If we are in Christ, all the power of heaven is available to us to resist temptation, conquer strongholds, impact our communities, and live victoriously. Yet we hesitate to take authority over our lives and circumstances because we think the power and promises belong to other people–people who are smarter, stronger, more spiritual, or just have it more together than we do. But there are no second-class saints. If you are in Christ, you are a member of the covenant community of faith. All the blessings and resources of heaven are available to you. Claim the inheritance that is rightfully yours.
Q: How are you claiming your inheritance?
We’ve got more posts in this series coming, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!