This article is about our relationship with God: God as my portion and inheritance. Boldness in faith is also mentioned in this article.

Source: The Monthly Record, 1990. 4 pages.

God – My Portion

There is a rich variety of words used to describe God's relationship to his people. The Book of Psalms especially provides us with powerful poetic images. One of these is this: You are my portion, O Lord.

Psalm 119:57

From your knowledge of the Psalter, what illustrations of God spring to mind! He is our refuge and our strength (46:1); our salvation and glory (62:7); our sun and shield (84:11); our rock, fortress and deliverer (18:2). He is our helper (54:4), our judge (50:6), our shepherd (23:1). And much, much more.

Many of these are picture-words and vividly convey to the heart as well as to the mind what God is to his people. On the whole, the pictures are, at least on the surface, plain and bring to us an immediate impression of God's way of dealing with us.

But what about an expression like: "God is my portion"? Again, this is an expression used in the Psalms; again, at root, a picture word. But what precisely is the picture and what is the spiritual Impression intended to be conveyed by it?

Or, to put it more practically, we sing the words:

Thou my sure portion art alone which I did choose, O Lord.
For of my heart God is the strength and portion for ever.

When we sing these words, what ought we to have in mind?


I ask that question not simply so that we will have a fuller appreciation of the words we read or sing. There's a practical reason for dealing with this.

We're anticipating a bit, but I think this is something that can stimulate us to a useful quality in our spiritual life: boldness — the boldness of faith. And how much needed that boldness is.

The Bible clearly teaches the need of it. "The righteous," we are told, "are as bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1). Not only do the Scriptures tell us with clarity that the "fearful" or "cowardly" will not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 21:8); they give us clear examples of boldness in action and imply that such examples are recorded for us to follow. Think of the courage of Daniel. Have we the courage to face the lions today? Or recall with what freedom and confidence the apostles spoke the word of God when under the full influence of the Spirit of God (Acts 4:13; 4:31; 28:31). Compare that with how shy or tongue-tied we can be in our testimony to others. Or consider the confidence of Paul and Silas who sang praises in prison at midnight. Would we have been moping or wallowing in self-pity?

My own belief is that timidity, defeatism and a shrinking from action, born of unbelief, are more characteristic of the church today than are courage and confidence. To capture the spirit which the Psalmist had when he said: "You are my portion" will tend to redress the balance of our collective temperament in the direction of a Scriptural courage which is much needed today.

So what does this picture of God our portion portray? And how does it encourage courage?

From Smoothness to Inheritance🔗

Different Biblical writers use the word "portion" in different ways as a picture of their relationship with God. I want to concentrate on one series of pictures.

If I say that the basic meaning of the word is "smoothness" and that it's got a connection with smooth stones, you might not think I had helped you very much. But if you then reflected that smooth stones were used for the casting of lots, you would more readily appreciate how a "portion" could refer to what was allocated to a persons by lots. Hence in general a "portion" is an allotment: something "allotted" or "appor­tioned" to someone as their possession.

See the following cases of how "portion" is used in the Old Testament. It is:

  • the booty allotted to a participant in a battle (Genesis 14:24; Numbers 31:36) or even to those of the army that remained behind to guard the baggage (1 Samuel 30:24);

  • the share of the offerings which was to be allocated to the priests for them to eat (Leviticus 6:17);

  • the part of the inheritance which a family might be expected to receive from their father's estate (Genesis 31:14).

The word "portion" covers all these ideas. But the main way in which we have to see God as our portion is in terms of an inheritance allotted to us to possess.

Allotting the Inheritance🔗

There is one period in the history of Israel when the idea of a "portion" or "allotment" was specially to the fore. The Promised Land belongs to various Canaanite tribes, but under Joshua, the Israelites have entered it and begun its conquest. After a series of quick strikes at strategic places, the time has come to assign to each tribe districts which will be theirs to conquer and develop. These "portions" will then be their possession, their inheritance.

We get in the book of Joshua a glimpse of how this allocation of territory was effected. For example, when there were still seven tribes who had not been allocated their land, Joshua deputed three men from each tribe to divide the remaining unallocated area into seven well-defined "portions" (Joshua 18:5 and 9). Joshua then cast lots to see who would possess which "portion" (18:6).

From Joshua to the Psalms🔗

There can be little doubt that this picture of the division of Canaan into portions to be inherited by Israel's tribes lies behind the Biblical description of God as the "portion" of his people. You can see this most clearly in Psalm 16, verses 5 and 6: "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."

In his mind, the Psalmist goes back to the time of Israel's entry into Canaan; he recalls the partition of the land by Joshua and applies the language of that event to his spiritual experience. Hence he uses words like portion (KJV "inheritance"); lines, that is, boundary lines, and inheritance (KJV "heritage") to describe his situation.

To say "you are my portion" (Psalm 119:57); or "the Lord is my portion" (Lamentations 3:24) is to make a very far-reaching statement indeed. The inspired writers are laying claim to God as the one who has been allotted to them as an inheritance to possess. As the people of God were allotted territory, they see God as their allotment. As the Israelites were given their portion to take and possess as an inheritance, so David and Jeremiah lay hold of God and enter into possession of all that he is and they know him as their eternal inheritance.

In saying: "God is my portion", we lay hold on God as a person. We grasp all his riches as ours and think of ourselves as having a legal entitlement to them and we appropriate them as our very own. We say to him: "All your resources are mine to draw on. Your strength flows to me in my weakness; your wisdom comes to me in my folly; your righteousness is mine to cover my sinfulness; your presence is mine in my loneliness; your comfort is mine when my heart is broken by grief; you are my solid rock and the foundation of my life when everything else around me is falling to pieces; your life is what I draw on; your life is my life. YOU are mine."


I think you will already see that the boldness of that idea is most striking. If it weren't in the Scriptures we might think that it smacked of brashness and over­confidence. Who are we, frail sinful creatures that we are, to lay hold of God like that and claim him as our possession? But this is the way the inspired writers laid claim to God and their example was given for us to follow. The voice of faith can still say today: "You are my portion".

Let's try and highlight the boldness of this concept by contrasting it with other expressions which we might use in our approach to God.

Faith and Humility🔗

All believers who examine their lives, sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will be aware of the poverty of their spiritual experience and will feel shame at their failure and frailty. In such a situation, we use the language of humility and lament our worthlessness in God's sight and say: "In myself, I am nothing and I have nothing of any value. I'm a beggar on the dunghill. I'm weak and ignorant; poor and needy." But as well as that the believer lays hold of God as his portion and using the language of faith, he says: "In Christ, I have everything. I'm a prince in his kingdom. I have honour and dignity; power and wisdom. I possess all this for I possess God as my portion."

Faith and Submission🔗

The grace of repentance leads us to repudiate our past sinful style of life and to yield ourselves wholly to him in every aspect of our being. It teaches us to reserve nothing to ourselves but in devotion to assign all to him, as his it is. So the voice of submission says: "Everything that I have is yours: my time is yours to command; my money is at your service; the talents you implanted in me are yours to use; the gifts imparted by the Spirit, I yield them to you. All of mine is yours to possess." But, combined with that fitting and reverent spirit of sub­mission, the language of trust says: "You are mine -— mine to possess. All your riches are mine, for you are my portion, my possession."

God is Ours; We are His🔗

Again we can bring out the boldness involved in say, "you are my portion", by laying side by side what the believer says about God and what God says about his people. Deuteronomy 32:9 says: "For the Lord's portion is his people." The meaning of that is clear. Just as God allotted a portion to each tribe to possess, so God has allotted to himself a people as his possession. He lays claims to them; he takes them as his own.

That is a startling thought in its own way but we recognize the rightness of God laying hold upon whom he whom and taking them as his own. But what is more startling is that the believer may speak about God using the very same words as God uses to speak of his people. God says to his people: "you are my portion"; and the believer says to God: "you are my portion". Of course, this does not mean that we enter into a relationship with God on equal terms. It is of pure grace that he took a people to himself. It is equally of pure grace that he gives us this right to claim him as our possession. The greatness of the privilege involved in this should not deter us from claiming God as our portion. Rather it should encourage us.

The Portion and the Priesthood🔗

When other tribes were being allotted portions of Canaan, the Levites re­ceived no such inheritance (Joshua 14:4; 18:7). Instead, some of the offerings presented at the tabernacle were to be theirs (Deuteronomy 18:1). On that basis, God the Lord will be their "inheritance" (Deuteronomy 10:9; 18:2) or their "portion" (Num­bers 18:20). This meant that to have the Lord as one's portion was at that stage the prerogative of the priest.

If the boldness of the concept that God is ours to possess takes our breath away and the sense of privilege involved so amazes us that we find ourselves reluctant to claim such riches, then the knowledge that this is what was given to the priests can give us the confidence to lay claim to it. On the basis of the work of our great High Priest, access to the Father has been provided. We can now come boldly and claim the priest's inheritance: the Lord God is his portion.

To sum up: the true believer says in one breath, looking at himself: "I have nothing", and in the next breath, looking at divine grace: "I have everything". He says one moment: "everything I have is yours". And the next moment: "everything you have is mine." If we only say the first set of phrases, our spiritual life will be out of balance; it will be crippled and fearful. It is the bold laying hold of God in faith that is required and this will embolden the whole of our lives.

If we know God as our portion, what's the problem in facing the lions, or singing praises in prison at midnight?

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