Joshua 22-23: Obedience
April 10, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
We have different assemblies in these chapters, with different consequences and results. First Joshua summons the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (22:1). He tells them that they have done their duty in helping their brothers subdue (though not yet totally conquer) the land (22:2-3), and therefore as Moses promised they can go back and take possession of the territory which had already been allotted to them “on the other side of the Jordan” (22:4).
However, there is an apparent glitch. Soon the rest of Israel learns that these tribes have set up an altar (22:10). It appears that they are building an alternative altar to God—an action that both at Peor (22:17; Numbers 25:1-9) and with Achan (22:20; Joshua 7:10-26) had been shown to bring disaster, not only on the people who built the altar, but the rest of Israel too. So Israel gathers to go to war with the other tribes (22:12), and a delegation is first sent to warn them and tell them to stop from their divisive and blasphemous behavior (22:13-20). Essentially, if they were building an alternative center of worship, they were claiming God as distinctly “theirs” rather than as the God of the whole of Israel, and therefore disobeying the very word of God regarding how his worship is to be organized.
But, mercifully, the rest of Israel has got the wrong end of the stick, and in fact the altar is not a sacrificial altar but a place of “witness” (22:27-28, 34), the name for which it will be called hereafter. The tribes “on the other side of the Jordan” are concerned to ensure that everyone—themselves and the rest of the tribes—remembers that they are also truly a part of Israel and therefore a part of God’s people and his covenant (22:21-29). What had appeared to be an act of treason was really an act of piety. It is well to check and discover that what at first glance seems disastrous and defamatory may in fact be the very reverse, as it was in this case.
The last assembly, in chapter 23, comes as Joshua is now advanced in years, and he gathers all Israel to him and warns them to follow God and obey him and love him. Any who think that keeping the law of God is distinct from loving God will not find that division between affection and obedience in the Bible. If we love God we will obey his commandments (1 John 5:3), and the way to grow in our obedience is to grow in our love. Out of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), and hands and feet (words and action) follow where the central desires of our being lead. They, Joshua says, are to “cling” to the LORD God (23:8). Their success in victory has not been their doing, but God’s, and if they abandon God, then that successful pattern will turn into a pattern of decay and failure. Disobedience of God, abandonment of his covenant, has consequences.
In chapter 24 tomorrow, we will find a special “covenant” renewal brought by Joshua to all Israel at the end of his life. Today, commit once again to serve God. Love him with all your heart, soul and mind. Obey his Word that it may go well with you and that you may land safely on Canaan’s side.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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