A Story Worth Telling
In Joshua 22 we find the 2½ tribes of Israel being released to go back to their families after fighting to take possession of the Promise Land. You may remember that these tribes, Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, wanted to stay on the east side of the Jordan because the land was good for their cattle.
Evidently, they must have been talking on the way back to their families and came to the conclusion that they needed to construct an altar to unify them with the other 9 tribes. They believed that in the future the descendants of the 9 tribes would say, “What right do you have to worship the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and you people of Reuben and Gad. You have no claim to the Lord?”
Not knowing their reason, the 9 tribes on the west side of the Jordan heard of the altar and prepared for war. Verse 13, however, says that first they sent a delegation to talk with the 2½ tribes.
Up to this point in history we have seen the Israelites go through a lot. They have had to figure out how to walk in trust with God. They witnessed the power of God as He was freeing them from Pharaoh. They witnessed the cloud by day and fire by night. The provision of manna and quail. But along the way they struggled to trust God. At the Red Sea. Complaining in the desert. The golden calf at Mt Moriah. The 12 spies in the land of Canaan.
Through it all they have seen the 10 plagues. They have seen the earth split and swallow up an entire clan. They have seen the Levite tribe redeem their inheritance by obeying the Lord. The Red Sea part. Water from the rock. The walls of Jericho crumble. The sun stand still and numerous other battles the Lord fought on their behalf.
Through these experiences the Israelites are starting to figure out what it means to be obedient to God and are willing to go to civil war to follow Him completely. Not only were they willing to go to war to be obedient to God, they have been through enough experiences to know the wisdom in sending a delegation to the 2½ tribes to see why they would risk their lives to build this altar.
If the story of the Israelites ended here one could reasonable deduct that they are beginning to understand what it means to follow God. They have the zeal for the Lord needed to be obedient to His commandments, balanced with the wisdom from experience to ask questions before going to war. It would seem the Israelites are starting to grow up. Of course we have history to know they would eventually mess the whole thing up. However, at this time they were still fumbling forward. That is important to remember if we are gleen the lesson of this passage because we will find ourselves in this same place they Israelites do at this moment in scripture.
You see, I’ve seen and experienced a lot too, just as you have. I’ve seen the walls of my Jerichos crumble. I’ve been led by the Holy Spirit (sometimes I wish for a cloud by day and fire by night). I’ve complained in the desert and sent out my 12 spies, only to be deflated in the same way the Israelites were. I’ve made my golden calves and drank the dust of their disobedience.
The challenge for us is how will our story end? Will we, like the Israelites in this moment in history, serve the the Lord with zeal and wisdom? Will we learn from our experiences and serve God with obedience? Will we lift high His banner of love and compassion to a world who is so desperate for it?
Here is the big question: will we continue to fumble forward in an waivering pursuit of God? Will we ensure the pages of our history read of our uncompromising obedience to God? Or, will we, over time, be assimilated into the culture, as the Israelites?
Just like the Israelites at this moment in history, we have a decision to make — a proverbial fork in the road. What kind of people will we choose to be?
No Reason To Fear
These questions are big and could strike fear in the hearts of those who want to follow God. Some of you might be thinking with me, “I’m sure the Israelites wanted to follow God, but they failed. How can we ensure that we will follow God.” Well, like most things with God there is no formula. I don’t have “5 steps to following God” to share with you — no recipe to ensure everything will turn out perfect.
However, let me encourage you with a few things. We have many advantages over the Israelites. One huge advantage we have is the Holy Spirit, who lives in each believer. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live our lives in a manner that brings honor to God. He reminds us of God’s Word and leads us along a path the glorifies God.
In addition to the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have the blood of Jesus that covers our sins. Revelation 12:11 says, “We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.” Overcome what? The accuser…Satan. We do not have to fear Satan because the blood of the Lamb has already defeated him.
And lastly, we have Jesus, the intercessor, sitting at the right hand of the Father speaking to Him on our behalf (Rom 8:34). The name of Jesus is powerful. The Bible has plenty to say about the power of Jesus name. I’ll remind you of just one aspect. Every time a demon flees, shudders or is cast out, it is at the name of Jesus.
So, through Jesus & the Holy Spirit, God has given us everything we need to ensure that our story is not a tragedy. Even with all that the choice, like the Israelites, is still ours to make. Let’s make sure the story of our lives is a story worth telling.
Tags: Joshua 22
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