A number of years ago I was in Sacramento, maybe some 20 years ago and I was with a group of people who were looking at the ‘Church beyond the congregation’ (Thank you Mr. Jim T). At one point the person hosting asked someone to share her story. She worked in a Credit Union and was part of the department that had to follow through with people whose debt was a significant problem, making contact by phone. The sharp end for some unpleasant conversations. She explained that she began to realise that she could not view being in work as simply so that she could earn some money. After all God was her Provider. She then came across Ps. 16:6,
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage (NRSV).
The boundary line so have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance. (NIV)
The clear implication is that within the boundary lines there is an inheritance. She began to thank God for her boundary lines at work, and began to ask for the inheritance within those boundaries. She went on to explain (humbly) that recently they had had in-house training for her department, and at the end of the session the trainer said, ‘But if truth be out, and you really want to work well here, talk to Rose (not her real name) for we have so many commendations from our clients about her work.’
She had called people as they were planning their suicide and averted that giving them hope, she had contacted people and had been able to share wisdom that had saved them from yet more debt; the bank had received calls and letters saying what a credit she was to them and how much she had helped them.
That story has stuck with me. First, a move to acknowledge the boundary as coming from heaven, then seeking to uncover the inheritance there, that inheritance always will involve what we can be for someone else, how we can at some level become a ‘life-giving spirit’.
Our boundaries will always be challenged. I suggest two of the main ways is through jealousy or through intimidation. Jealousy will always seek to displace us, to dislocate us (and one of the reasons why a percentage of joint issues are rooted in jealousy that has been unleashed against us, Proverbs informing us that though anger is cruel, jealousy is at another level and asks if we can even stand against it). Jealousy results in an encroachement on our boundaries, that piece of land that is indeed ours. This encroachement is warned against:
Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up (Prov 22:28).
Do not remove an ancient landmark or encroach on the fields of orphans, for their redeemer is strong;
he will plead their cause against you (Prov 23:10,11).
You must not move your neighbor’s boundary marker, set up by former generations, on the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess (Deut. 19:14).
Cursed be anyone who moves a neighbor’s boundary marker.” All the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deut 27:17).
The princes of Judah have become like those who remove the landmark; on them I will pour out my wrath like water (Hos. 5:10).
God does not take too kindly to it when we get involved in boundary moving and seek to encroach on another’s sphere. It was there in the original plan for the land, and thankfully even when there was bad stewardship the boundaries were to be restored in the year of Jubilee.
Jealousy and also intimidation to push someone back from their allotted place.
We can stand, even if Proverbs says ‘who can stand’. And stand we must, being the one central instruction in the ‘spiritual warfare’ (for this read ‘life’) passage. When the day of evil comes, stand, stand firm, withstand… That is important as the demonic (opposition in life) has a limitation on it location / territorial wise and time-wise. If we hold our boundaries then we restrict the location aspect and if we hold in the time frame will change.
In the middle of the passage on Gideon’s army we come across a statement that, ‘While each person held their position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled’. Their position. No comparison, no competition, no jealousy, no intimidation, no inordinate fear of inadequacy, no seeking to comply to someone else’s view of us, etc… Just here are my boundaries (one day they might increase) and in them I am something for someone else as I have an inheritance here.