An inheritance in something you get whether you want it or not, deserve it or not, and in one sense, you could say that it is an entitlement, something you have coming to you. An inheritance is a possession, property that is owned by one person and transferred to another. When my dad died four years ago, he had several properties in Oklahoma that my brothers and sister and I inherited. All of us lived in Southern California at the time, so it was very difficult for us to take possession of the properties. My dad died suddenly and did not have time to put his affairs in order and there was no will to state how the land was to be distributed. As a result, the properties are still tied up and none of us has received any money from our inheritance.
In Joshua 16:4 it says, “so the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.” This means that they actually went in and took possession of it, they began to occupy the land that belonged to them.
One of the cities the children of Joseph inherited was Beth-el, formerly known as the city of Luz. When Jacob was sick and close to death, he told Joseph about his encounter with God at Luz. “And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared to unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me” (Gen 48:3).
Jacob’s encounter with God takes place in a dream while he is traveling from Beer-sheba to Haran to escape his brother Esau after he has tricked him out of his inheritance, the blessing that was first given to Abraham, passed on to his father Jacob, and then belonged to him. It was the blessing of Abraham that entitled the children of Jacob to inherit the land of Israel. In his dream, God says to Jacob, “And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all the places wither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land: for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen 28:15).
My dad lived in Oklahoma when he was a child. His family moved to California when he was around eight years old as a result of the loss of their farm due to a family crisis. My grandparents became sharecroppers, which meant they no longer owned the land, but were able to continue farming.
The situation of the Israelites in Egypt was similar to my dad’s family in that their basic needs were always met, but they could never seem to get far enough ahead to return to their homeland and start over. It wasn’t until my dad was nearly 70 that he decided to sell everything and return to the place that his ancestors had called home.
Something that we inherit that we may not realize is our family culture. Now you may be thinking that a culture cannot be inherited because it is not something you possess, but in a way culture is more tangible than you think. Culture can exist in a building, in clothes, and in the haircut a person chooses. Elvis Presley, a famous singer in the 50’s and 60’s had a hairstyle that was copied by thousands of young men that wanted to present a particular image of themselves. The Beatles wore a type of clothing that when copied by their followers, ushered in a whole new way of life for young people in the United States. It was known as the hippie age.
Gilead, the descendant of Manasseh, Joseph’s first born son, was known as a man of war, therefore, he inherited a portion of land that was suitable for a warrior. It was kind of like giving a set of tools to a carpenter. Gilead’s inheritance matched his identity, his way of life, and his destiny.
One of the reasons I believe my dad returned to Oklahoma and purchased land before he died was so that he could relink his children to their ancestry, the heritage that he tried to pass along to us. My dad was a Native American. His father came from the Chickasaw tribe. The Chickasaw fought against the U.S. government and refused to be registered when a law was passed that required all Indians to be registered so that they could be treated as U.S. citizens. My dad refused to pay taxes and went to great lengths to remain anonymous in eyes of the U.S. government. The interesting thing about it was that my dad was a veteran and was very proud that he served in the military. It didn’t always make sense, but my dad used to say to us, you’re a Hough, and a Hough…whatever lesson he was trying to teach us was always put in the context of our family name, as if our whole identity was wrapped up in the family we came from.
Not every child wants to follow in his parent’s footsteps. The desire for independence and the ability to make choices for oneself is a natural human tendency. Even though the Promised Land had been conquered, it was not all being occupied by the Israelites. “And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are you slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?” (Joshua 18:3).
In my case, the reason why I haven’t moved to Oklahoma and began to occupy any of the properties that belong to me and my siblings is because I don’t want to be an Oklahoman. I have lived in Southern California almost all my life. I feel I belong here and my current lifestyle, which includes spending a lot of time at the beach, will not be able to be maintained if I move to Oklahoma. I definitely think it matters where you live and I like where I am living right now.
One of the problems we had shortly after my dad died was people occupying his properties that didn’t belong there. As soon as word got out that he had died, most of his tenants stopped paying rent. Some of his properties got trashed and abandoned leaving them open to vandalism. Because none of us kids were willing to occupy my dad’s land, it was determined that it would have to be sold.