1. Read vs. 1-5 and describe the commendation Joshua gave to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh. Yet, what exhortations did Joshua choose to add to his words of commendation? What can we learn from Joshua about the way of "lasting" victories in the Lord?
2. Read vs. 6-9. What does this passage tell us about the life that positively takes up one's cross, and fights for the Lord and fellow brethren in the Lord bravely and manfully?
3. Read vs. 10-12. In order to protect the worship of the Lord the Israelites were prepared to go to war even against fellow brethren. What can we learn from the Israelites (Mat 10:34-37)?
4. Read vs. 13-18a. What did they mean by "the sin of Peor" (Num 25)? What lessons or messages did the Lord teach the Israelites in dealing with "the sin of Peor"?
5. Read vs. 18b-19. What does their invitation, "Come over to the "Lord's land", where the Lord's tabernacle stands, and share the land with us", show us about their point of concern? In what respect is their concern legitimate? What lesson is there from this passage (5; Lk 22:54)?
6. Read v. 20. In what respect is "Achan's sin" different from the "sin of Peor"? Yet what do they have in common?
7. Read vs. 21-34. V. 24 says that they built the replica out of fear. What does this show us about them? How can we overcome this kind of fear (Pro 3:5; 1Jn 4:18)?
“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.”
Today we would like to think about the blessedness of the one who daily lives by faith in the Lord. Joshua has 24 chapters. This book ends with two farewell messages given by Joshua. Joshua addressed the first farewell message to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh. Joshua gave the second one to all the leaders of Israel. Today we will study Joshua’s first farewell message. In his first farewell, message Joshua blessed the Transjordan tribes by helping them to live by faith in the Lord. Let us see how Joshua helped them to live by faith in the Lord and then, sadly, how they failed to live up to the message.
I. Joshua blessed them (1-8)
Look at v. 1. "Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh..." Why did Joshua summon them? Look at vs. 2-4. "And said to them, ‘You have done all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now--to this very day--you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you. Now that the LORD your God has given your brothers rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan.’" It has been observed that it took seven years for Joshua to conquer the land and another seven years to distribute the land. If this is indeed the case, we can say that the soldiers from the two-and-half tribes of Israel waited for nearly 14 years to return home. While I was in Korea, I served in the Korean Navy for three and a half years. I thought this length of time was way too long. And apart from the first 18 weeks of training in boot camp, I was allowed to spend time with my family. But this was not the case with the Transjordan tribes. While the other tribes spent time with their families, the soldiers from the Transjordan tribes had to be away from their families. In those days they did not have e-mail. They did not have cell phones. They did not have airplanes or cars. They did not have any postal system like the U.S. Post Office. So during this long period of time they might not have been able to communicate with their family members as much as we do. As a result they might have missed their family members so much that a lot of them might have been tempted to drop everything, and go back home. But they did not do that. They overcame their human desires. Joshua saw this and said, "For a long time now--to this very day--you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you." Here the word "deserted" is a military term. In the military, desertion is a very serious crime. This is especially true during wartime. If you are at the front lines, the stress might be unbearably great. Yet, you are not supposed to desert your fellow soldiers. No matter how stressful the situation might be, you are not supposed to desert your brothers. You fight together and you die together. And you are never to desert your fellow soldiers. What will happen if you desert your fellow soldiers, especially during a battle? They will surely charge you with a capital crime. This Sunday morning around 4 a.m., I came to the center. In the office area I saw Shep. Nathan seated in front of a PC praying. At first I did not know why he was there. But as I went into my office I saw that my color printer was printing out flyers for the Bible Lecture Series on April 8. Then I was reminded that we are in a time of war, fighting not a conventional war but a spiritual war, a war to build the rule of God in the hearts of young college students. In fighting the Lord's battle, all of us are called to work as soldiers of Christ. As soldiers of Christ, some are faithful, and some are not. But the last thing we want – God forbid - is to desert our fellow soldiers. However it is not always easy. This is especially true when the war is prolonged. However, the soldiers of the Transjordan tribes did not desert their fellow brethren. So Joshua said, "For a long time now--to this very day--you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you." At first they almost deserted their brothers. But on Moses' rebuke they repented. Then they fought the Lord's battles at the front lines. They kept their word. So Joshua said, "Now you can return home." Yes! Finally the moment came for them to return home!
Joshua was a shepherd for them. As a shepherd Joshua wanted to bless them. How did he bless them? Look at v. 5. "But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."
Before blessing them or before giving them any rewards such as giving them medals of honor, Joshua had to issue a warning. With what words did he warn them? Look at v. 5 again. "But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law..." At first glance it seems as though Joshua is being too harsh on them. But when we think about it, the words Joshua gave them are truly the greatest blessings of blessings. They are worth far more than cash rewards of billions and billions of dollars. So let us read v. 5 again. "But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul." Joshua is an experienced soldier. He is a warrior of warriors. He is a disciple of disciples. Under Moses he received training for 40 long years. Then as a soldier of Christ he fought numerous battles. Through these battles he learned one important secret - the secret of winning victories all the time. What was the secret? It is summed up here in v. 5, especially the part after the colon: "to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him, and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul!" Notice that there are five verbs: “to love,” “to walk,” “to obey,” “to hold,” and “to serve.”
Since these verbs are like the five points of a star I would like to call these "The Five Points of Joshua,” who was himself easily on the level of a modern day five star general. Right now, the U.S. is engaged in a war against Iraq. The overall combatant commander is four star general Tommy Franks. He is not yet a five star general. But I believe General Joshua deserves the honor of being a five star general. From a spiritual standpoint, what makes a soldier a true “general of generals” is his adherence to the five points of Joshua, a true five star general. In fact, these five points are one, and they have an internal system, with each point supporting and strengthening one another. In order for us to be able to walk in the ways of the Lord, we must first love the Lord. I love Hanbat Seolong Tang soup, so it is no trouble for me to walk all the way to Hanbat restaurant (and thank God because they recently opened up a new branch in the Cerritos area). Similarly when we think about it, it is the Lord alone who is good and good all the time. The Lord is so good that in the NIV Bible the expression "The Lord is good" is repeated 72 times plus one more. Later the Apostle Peter recognized that the Lord is truly good, so in 1 Peter 2:1-3 he says, "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." Obedience, however, does not come easy. But according to Joshua's five point system, even this "obedience" comes very naturally as one keeps walking in the ways of the Lord. I recognize this as true based on my work experience in downtown LA. I worked in downtown LA for about 14 years. During this period, I drove from Long Beach to downtown LA. Inevitably I developed specific routes which were very quick, thereby limiting my travel time. Because I have been using these routes so many times, I never even have to “think” about where to go, but very naturally (automatically) drive these routes. And on some occasions, I was surprised to find myself using the same route when I was supposed to use another route, for I was heading to some other place and not to my work in downtown LA. This too is how the Lord works in us when we pick up the good habit of obeying his Word. Surely, as we keep walking in his ways, obedience to his commands will come as naturally to us as a man doing what he likes to do even without thinking. Now, after obedience comes holding fast to the Lord. Obeying the Lord's command has to do with us being in action. Holding fast to the Lord is going one step higher and being in a closer relationship with the Lord. It is to get to know the Lord “in person”: that is, discerning what he has in mind, and not just in letter but in spirit too, so that as we come to know the Lord in person, we would work with him even as a man “after” his heart. Thus we will reach the highest level of serving him, not as a slave but as a friend, not just as a rank-and-file soldier, but even as a one-, two-, three-, four-, and even five-star general.
After decorating the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, with the blessed words of Joshua's five points, Joshua blessed them and then sent them away. Look at vs. 6-8. "Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan with their brothers.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, saying, ‘Return to your homes with your great wealth--with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing--and divide with your brothers the plunder from your enemies.’ So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the LORD through Moses." This must have been an incredibly heart-moving ceremony that sent the three tribes away. Everyone must have shed many tears of thanks and mutual appreciation. They all must have come out, lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with their brethren, and shook hands with one another to say farewell, the tears still fresh in their eyes.Perhaps some even gave one another long, heartfelt hugs. Finally, the ceremony was over. Carrying tons of gifts on their donkeys and/or in their pockets or backpacks, they headed back home, waving goodbye for now.
II. No! We did it for fear... (9-34)
In vs. 1-8, Joshua gave the Transjordan tribes a blessed message, and his five points had one simple point: to live by faith in the Lord. So, how did these Transjordan tribes do? Did they live up to the standard Joshua gave? Vs. 9-34 says that they did not get an A plus. What shows us that their performance does not deserve an A plus? After all, wasn't it because of a mutual misunderstanding that the whole assembly of Israel wanted to go to war against the Transjordan tribes? And after clearing up the misunderstanding, didn't the leaders bring a favorable report back to the other Israelites (32-33)? But upon closer examination of the passage, we cannot entirely rate the performances of the Transjordan tribes in a favorable light.
In the first place, the replica (which is described as "imposing") they built was not what Moses had authorized: since at least Joshua’s time, the Lord had authorized only one altar and one only. In addition, an altar must be used for the purpose for which it is built, i.e. to sacrifice to the Lord. But they built the altar not for burnt offerings or sacrifices but as a "witness." So they gave the altar a strange name: "A witness between us that the Lord is God." Yet, the passage for today does not say either good or bad about the "name" of this altar. So let us not make an issue out of it.
What then is the problem? What shows that their faith was less than satisfactory? Vs. 24-29 give us a clue. Let us read this passage responsively.
In vs. 9-12, we see that when the Israelites had heard that the other three tribes had built an imposing altar on the border of Canaan, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them. So they sent a delegation consisting of 11 members; Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest led the delegation. In vs. 15-20 Phinehas asked the leaders of the Transjordan tribes pointed questions: "How could you break faith with the Lord of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Are you now turning away from the Lord? When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel?" When we examine Phinehas' questions, we can see that he is really asking them about one thing: the integrity of their faith, since the first question he asked reads, "How could you break faith with the Lord like this?"
Then Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: "The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the LORD, do not spare us this day. If we have built our own altar to turn away from the LORD and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the LORD himself call us to account." So far so good. "The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD!" What they said was beautiful.
But in vs. 24-25 they exhibited their real problem. Let us read this passage again. "No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, 'What do you have to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? The LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you--you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the LORD.' So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the LORD." In what respect is this statement a problem? What problem or problems does this statement show us? In view of what they said, the following observations are in order:
First, they lost faith in the Lord
V. 24 revealed their real motives: "No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours..." This indicates that their motivation to build the replica was based on fear of men, and not faith in the Lord. If you have faith in the Lord, you will not be afraid of men. Consistent with this truth Proverbs 29:25 says, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe." Indeed because they began to build the altar out of fear of men, they almost plunged the entire nation of Israel into a civil war. Psalms 56:11 says, "In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" But because they did not trust in God, they did not trust men either. So they became afraid of men. They then not only embroiled themselves in trouble, but the rest of the nation of Israel as well. But Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (Jn 14:1).
Second, they did not live by faith in the Lord daily
Before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, they did not have any faith in the Lord, so instead of waiting for God's right time to come, they came out to Moses and demanded that he not to force them to cross the Jordan River; instead, they wanted to settle on the east side of Jordan. In this way they became a bad influence to the others tribes. Moses then rebuked them for their unbelief. They then repented. By faith they obeyed Moses' instruction to fight on the front lines. But as they were returning back home they lost their faith again. Then they began to worry about their future. So they said, "We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, 'What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?'" The two words "some day" give us a deeper understanding of their problem: because they did not have faith in the Lord in a time called "today," they began to worry about their "future," i.e. a time called "some day." When you think about it, “some day” is an extension of the time called “today.” And our life consists of the time called “today.” Psalms 118:24 says, "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." And the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:17 that we must live by faith in the Lord from first to last. When Jesus came he exhibited that he lived by faith each and every day. He also helped people to live each and every day by a “living” – not dead – faith. In fact he helped everyone to live by faith in the Lord every minute and second. So on many occasions he asked people whether or not they had faith in the Lord at that particular moment. For example, in helping Martha, the sister of Lazarus, Jesus asked her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25-26) God is the God "I AM." In other words, God is the God of NOW. (See also Joshua 22:18b which focuses on the meaning of the word "today".) So he wants us to live by faith in him each and every day. Only by living with faith in God will we be set free from anxiety attacks. And of course, the best example is what Jesus said in Matt. 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” But because the Transjordan tribes did not have faith in the God of Now, they got into a big trouble.
Third, they did not have a personal faith
Once again I would like to ask everyone to stop for a moment and think about the real meaning of "personal" faith. What do we mean by "personal" faith? Look at vs. 24 and 25 again.
"No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? The LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you--you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the LORD.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the LORD." According to Webster's Dictionary, "personal" includes two meanings: “private” and “individual.” Private has to do with you yourself. Individual has to do with each person. In other words, it’s the same – you must have your own faith. This is very important because each person is saved by his or her own faith, just as Habakkuk 2:4 says, "The righteous will live by his faith." What does "his" faith mean? His faith means his own private faith, or his own individual faith, or simply his own personal faith. In other words, no one can save anyone else, such as by having you somehow “vicariously” believe for your friend. How fabulous would it be if I could save all the peoples of the world by myself believing in the Lord, all on their behalf?! But things do not work this way. Why? First of all God is the God of each person. In many places of the Bible we see God identifying himself as the "God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," not the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." This means that God works in each person's life individually. In each generation the Lord God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, works anew in the hearts of the people living in each generation. But the Transjordan tribes did not have this kind of personal faith in a personal God who works personally in the heart of each individual of every generation. So in their lack of faith they expressed their worries about the future generations, saying, "Some day your descendants might say to ours, 'What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?’" With these words, they even insulted the integrity of the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel living on the west side of the Jordan. Furthermore they doubted the Lord God who would surely work ever so faithfully in the future generations to come! From their bad example we learn that when we have a personal faith in the Lord, we can trust that the Lord will surely work in the lives of others like our sheep and the children of the next and subsequent generations.
Fourth, they did not have Biblical faith
Why then did they become so doubtful? Why did they grow so worried about the future generations? Again we find a clue to this question from what they said in vs. 24 and 25. There they were worried because the future generations living west of the Jordan might view the Jordan as the boundary for the Lord's Promised Land, and prevent them from crossing. But their worries are not supported by the promises of the Scriptures. What does the Bible say about the boundaries of the Lord's land? Surprisingly, Genesis 15:18-20 says that the Promised Land includes a far greater area than just the little bit of land located either west or east of the Jordan River. The boundaries go from the River of Egypt (the Nile) in the west to the River Euphrates in the east! Because they were not rooted by faith in the Bible’s promise to them, they became narrow minded. They came to worry about what people might say rather than what God had already said and thus established as a promised fact.
In conclusion, let us read v. 5 again. "But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul." Joshua prefaced his exhortation by saying, "Be very careful..." This shows that faith is a very sensitive proposition. It requires a lot of care. "Be very careful..." Once upon a time Albert Einstein said, "Subtle is the Lord..." As he understood the subtlety of the Lord, he made a careful observation of the universe created by the Lord. Then he made a lot of discoveries like the famous equation: E=MC2. Thanks to his deep understanding of the subtlety of the Lord, Einstein came to be known as one of the finest of all philosophers, scientists, physicists, and pacifists of his generation and beyond. Indeed, loving the Lord, walking in his ways, obeying his commands, holding to him fast, and serving him requires careful attention. As we love and obey the Lord just as a scientist like Einstein searched the Lord's wonderful creation, the Lord will certainly enable us to bear many beautiful fruits, especially in making disciples of all nations.
"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
This passage teaches us that each person must make a conscious decision to deny oneself, take up the cross, and follow the Lord, until the last moment of one's pilgrimage here on earth.
While it is by God's grace, not by human decision, that we are born of God as God's children, each and every day it is our choice to voluntarily love him, follow him, and serve him. Then, the Lord God blesses us with all the blessings he has for us, particularly the best blessing, that is, establishing his presence inside of us.
1. Read 23:1-5. This passage indicates that there still remain many heathen nations (and their lands) to be conquered. Yet what will the Lord do for the Israelites? What does this passage teach us about the way of salvation?
** The Lord will drive them out.
** We are to be saved by His power, not by our might. So it teaches us that we are to put trust in Him, and live by faith in His power.
2. Read vs. 6-16 and describe the two choices the Israelites have. How are the choices compared? What can we learn from the Lord who gave the Israelites these choices?
** 1) The first choice is to put trust in the Lord and obey him and walk in His way.
2) The second choice is to ignore the Lord's promise,compromise with the idol worshiping people, mingle with them, and live a life of idolatry.
** The first choice will lead man to freedom from bondage to the power of sin and death (and eternal condemnation), into the (quality) life that God has for his children.
** The second choice will lead man to subjection, slavery to the power of sin and death, both physically and spiritually, resulting in eternal condemnation.
** The Lord God respects and trusts his children, esp. their ability to make a choice to love him and live in His blessings willingly.
3. Read 24:1. Joshua picked Shechem as the place to give a farewell message. What is the significance of Shechem (Gen 12:6; 33:17-19; 34:2,26; 35:4)?
** It is significant because it is:
1) The place where the Lord God appeared to Abraham for the first time in the land of Canaan and promised to give that land to Abraham's descendants. [This promise is symbolic of the Lord's promise of salvation for all who believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Savior.]
2) The place where Jacob repented of his [hidden] sin problems, threw away idols, and renewed his covenant with the Lord. [This is symbolic of the need for us to repent of sin problems which disrupt our relationship with the Lord.]
4. Read vs. 2-13. In this passage the Lord God gave the Israelites a "history" lesson. What do you think is the point of the lesson (2)? What can we learn from this passage?
** It is to teach them the purpose of bringing the Israelites into the land of the Lord's promise, that is, to help them repent of idol worship, and establish the rule of God first in their hearts, and then in the hearts of many who would believe in the Lord through them.
** Without a history lesson it is impossible for us to get spiritual orientation about the purpose the Lord God has for us.
5. Read vs. 14-24. How many times did Joshua say, "throw away"? What did Joshua ask them to throw away? Why do you think Joshua repeated the same request?
** Foreign idols that were still "among" them (v. 23).
** Although the leaders kept saying, "Yes. We will serve the Lord", they still secretly enjoyed sinful, pleasure seeking lifestyles. So what they said with their lips was different from who they were in their hearts.
6. Read vs. 25-27. V. 25 says that Joshua "made" a covenant for the people. What does the word "made" tell us about the nature of the transaction Joshua put the people through "on that day" and "there at Shechem"? What can we learn here in securing the blessings the Lord God has for us (Mk 1:15; Jn 1:12; Mk 8:34,35)?
** Loving the Lord and following Him is a matter of choice, not a feeling.
Just as Jacob made a conscious decision to repent [at Shechem (after the painful experience re: his daughter Dinah)] of his hidden sins, and renewed the decision to love the Lord and serve Him, so also we need to think about the Lord's character which is holy, and decide not to do what the Lord hates, and do what the Lord loves us to do.
** We must first commit ourselves to the Lord, just as a bride chooses to marry a husband with a pure heart.
7. Read vs. 28-33. This passage describes the final outcome of Joshua, Joseph, and Eleazer. What do they have in common? What can we learn here in serving the Lord?
** They are all precursors of Jesus Christ. Joshua is a type of Jesus the Savior in that he was instrumental to bringing the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joseph is a type of Jesus in that he saved Israelites from the hunger and thirst of Egypt. Eleazer is a type of Jesus in that Jesus is our true High Priest praying to have our sins forgiven so we would be found guiltless before God.
They all were buried in the Promised Land, indicating that after running their races marked out for each of them, they all rested still in the hope of the perfect redemption to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
** Just as Joshua, Joseph, and Eleazer served the Lord faithfully, we too must serve the Lord faithfully and run the spiritual races of faith marked out for each of us.