Who Owns the Land?

Wherever I travel, land seems to be one of the core issues of contention in every nation. Who owns it, who has it, the power behind controlling it, food production, shelter, labour and much more are all linked into land. What should be our response to the political, economic, social and spiritual questions raised when considering land today?

This month’s devotion explores a number of concepts about land in the Old Testament and compares then with the New Testament. I encourage you to reflect on these points and prayerfully consider how they impact your own thinking about land in your country, region and globally. How should we as Christians respond and prioritise our efforts towards holistic transformation in our communities?

The Bible and Land

What was the function of the Land in the Old Testament and how does this impact us today?

1. The Owner: Leviticus 25:23-24 states that God is the owner of the land.

2. A Gift: the land was always understood as a gift from God. It was seen as a fulfilment of his promise to Abraham, and evidence of his special relationship with the Israelites. There are many references, especially in Deuteronomy that links the land with assurances of their election in Abraham. They were God’s people because they lived on God’s land, given to them.

3. An Inheritance: each Israelite family were given a portion of the land as their inheritance. Exodus 4:22 refers to Israel as God’s firstborn son revealing a relationship between God and son ship / inheritance of the land. Belonging to the Israelite nation, living in God’s land gave a sense of inclusion and covenant relationship.

4. Life with God: the land represented relationship security with God. He was their King and Father, they were his people and his firstborn.

5. Sense of Purpose:  the relationship and land came with responsibilities. The lifestyle of the people on the land was to demonstrate the morality, values and characteristics of God. It was to be a light to surrounding nations to reflect God and to call them to respond to God.

The Old Testament is full of references and inter-connectivity between God, his people and the land. Interestingly, the vocabulary of the land as a holy place is not used in the New Testament as it is in the Old Testament. The church was so quickly spreading out beyond the boundaries of the Israelite nation that defining a specific geographical area as the Land of Promise did not make sense. More importantly, the significance and holiness of the land described in the Old Testament was now transferred fully into Jesus Christ himself.

The Kingdom of God is here, referring to the presence of Christ. Thus the spiritual presence of the risen Christ now sanctifies any place where believers are present. The holiness of place has been substituted by the holiness of the Person, Jesus Christ. Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” This demonstrates a living reality of God’s promise to be present amongst his people in their land. God has come to redeem the world (John 3:16). This promise of salvation through Jesus is available to anyone living anywhere in any land. In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:20-26), Jesus directs her attention away from a geographical location as a centre for worship to the spiritual of God.

In Christ, the barriers between Jew and Gentile are removed. Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” In Christ, through the Gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:6).

In other words, what Israel had through their land, all believers now have through Christ. To be in Christ is to be in the Land!

Transformation and Land

The new community being created in Christ impacts how we engage with land:

1. Fellowship: the outpouring of the Spirit resulted in a significant change of attitude as people began to devote themselves to fellowship. The fruit was seen in practical sharing of everything (Acts 2:42, 44). There was an amazing effort undertaken to ensure that nobody was in need (Acts 4:34)

2. Hospitality: opening of homes to one another was a fruit encouraged and commended (Romans 12:13)

3. Generosity was the currency of love (Hebrews 13:16, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.) Financial support of one another being a sign of obedience and response to God’s call to love. At the heart of action was remembrance and care for the poor. (Galatians 2:9-10)

4. Sharing: a sense of inclusion and sharing of resources. Sharing God’s blessings with others is at the heart of this new community.

The Jubilee

The Year of Jubilee practiced within the Old Testament focused on two core issues of restoration and redemption:
1. The land
2. The family

When Jesus read out Isaiah in Luke 4:16-30, he drew from Jubilee concepts of restoration and redemption and proclaimed that now is the Year of Jubilee (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Economically the message is one of equitable distribution of resources, especially land. It was not a re distribution but a restoration of the opportunity of each family to be able to provide and sustain themselves. How does this look in our world today?

Socially, the Jubilee was a time when practical concern for the family and extended family was protected and restored. An opportunity to restore dignity and unity. To be forever trapped in debt would destroy this and thus an opportunity to leave this trap and together start again was a sign of fellowship and restoration, redemption and responsibility.

Theologically, the Jubilee underpinned the sovereignty of God over time and nature. His purpose to redeem and restore and to bring us back to recognise our total dependence on Him for all things. It also has forgives at the heart of restoration as the Jubilee overcomes past mistakes. The Jubilee also points to a future hope when all things will be restored forever.

For more study see OT Ethics for the People of God by Chris Wright


• How do we live this out today?

• What are the signs of transformation we should be working towards, praying for and advocating to see established?

• What should be our response to the foreigner, alien, stranger in our country.

• What other thoughts come to your mind?

Lord, you own all creation and have called us to be caretakers. Help us a the Body of Christ to reflect the Kingdom values and fruit in our communities. We pray for transformation and healing of families and restoration of their capacity to live in dignity and sustain themselves and one another. Help us to work together towards this.

Land Struggles

Syria: the fighting has escalated, with an estimated 15,000+ dead and many more injured, displaced and at continued risk of harm. Pray:

• For current discussion around a ceasefire and possible transitional government to bear fruit

• For access to those in need t receive care, food and support as they struggle through these difficult times.

• For God’s mercy to cover this land and that his people will have opportunity and capacity to demonstrate his love through this pain.

Côte d’Ivoire: the integral mission conversation and healing wounds workshop went well last week. There is still so much pain and mistrust in country and the church longs to be relevant and an agent of healing and transformation. Pray for:

All who attended the workshops this last week that God would continue to work in their lives restoring and releasing people into ministry.

• For the impact of forgiveness to be felt in a increasing and dynamic way throughout the communities.

Prayer Points in Brief

Consultative Group for Development Cooperation (CGDC) in Pakistan is working to prevent and reduce violence against women. They have asked us to stand with them and pray:

• The 10 churches they are currently working with to raise awareness and move towards preventing abuse.

• The Violence Against Women Summit planned for December 2012, praying for grimace and impact as they plan this event.

CLADE V: 9th to 13th July 2012, San Jose, Costa Rica. The theme is Following Jesus in God’s Kingdom of Life. Guide us Holy Spirit. Pray for:

Safe travel of all who are participating

• For God’s Spirit to guide conversations and outcomes

• For fellowship and reconciliation in the Latin American church, with a strong sense of solidarity to grow as they seek to serve God in their communities.

Micah Network Global Consultation: 10th to 14th September 2012, Thun, Switzerland. The theme is Integral Mission and the Community: local church, local change, global impact. Pray for:

Continued increase in the number people planning to participate. At the end of June we have just over 200 registrations – please pray for many more to register in the coming two months

Visa issues: many who are planning to attend are now faced with the daunting task of visa applications. Please intercede regularly for each participant as they apply and we support them. Pray that visas would be given.

Financial support: a number of participants are trying to raise their financial support to attend. Please pray for this and ask God if you can be a part of their journey by supporting them in a practical way. Contact Sheryl at to find out whom you can support.

Administration: we are still seeking someone to help in the event administration. Please pray for this much needed help so we can deliver a great service to all.

Content: please pray for our wisdom as speakers and facilitators prepare the content and discuss materially. Pray for God’s Spirit to guide us and to help us to  bring the important issues to the table.