Chapter 22 sees the return of the Eastern tribes to their allotted land across the Jordan river, after helping the rest of the tribes of Israel conquer the remainder of the Promised Land. Verses 1-4 says, “Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh 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 fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given them 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.'”
I see a parallel here between the Israelites serving God faithfully and being rewarded with their home in the Promised Land, and our own lives being measured, with the reward being a place in the Kingdom.
Verse 5 then says, “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 obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Soon after, the Eastern tribes set up an altar to God along the Jordan River as a reminder to the Western tribes that they worship the same God. But the Western tribes were alarmed that they may have actually set up an altar to other false Gods.
Thankfully, at this time, they had not set up altars to other gods. But maybe we have. We are going through tough times in our world right now. For most of us, this is the first time we have gone through really tough times. Even though our country is and has been at war many times in our lifetimes, and even though the United States has endured terror attacks and financial low points, for the most part, we have had it easy. Probably no one reading this lived through the Great Depression. This isn’t to say that we have not endured tough times individually for any number of reasons, but for the most part, we have all lived charmed lives. And that my friends, is poisonous. When times are good, we don’t feel the need to turn to God. When we hear about the Kingdom of God in church, and how we should be looking forward to it, we think, “I’ve got it pretty good right now, why would I want that to change to something else?” And yes, we allow things like careers, hobbies, future vacation plans, possessions, even our spouses and children, to become idols in our lives, taking our focus and gratitude away from our Heavenly Father.
We often look at all of those wonderful things as blessings from God, and certainly they may be! But He doesn’t bless us in order for us to turn our backs on Him and others. Instead, He blesses us and then expects us to be grateful every minute of the day for those great blessings, and in turn take the opportunity to bless someone else, as He has blessed us. Our blessings should make us outward focused, but instead it is far too easy to allow them to keep us inward focused, and then allow those blessings to distance us from God. We think that we did something ourselves to earn the blessings, or convince ourselves that we deserve this or that. Wrong attitude. Any blessing, including each breath you are taking as you read this, is solely a result of the grace of God. We deserve nothing, due to our sin nature.
As we endure this Pandemic crisis, which means different negative effects for so many people, some of which are terrible to think about, I hope that if you have not yearned for the Kingdom of God before now, that you are finally doing so now. In the Kingdom, there will be no pandemics, no viruses. There will be no fear and no anxiety. There will be no sickness and no death! Praise God. That is something to be yearned for. That is something to be excited for.
With so much extra free time right now for so many of us, this is a perfect opportunity to rededicate our lives to Christ and to reconnect to God. Will you do that? Are you trusting Him right now? You should be. He keeps His promises. As Joshua is about to die, in chapter 23, verse 14 he says, “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” That holds true today folks. But read the next two verses as well. Those also hold true today.
So what will you do? Here is what Joshua decided he would do: 24: 14-15 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates 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 ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
If you are choosing to make a renewal or re-dedication of your life today, I celebrate with you, but I also encourage you to mark the occasion in some way. This period of difficulty and uncertainty will pass. (And yes, that is a very good thing, but only as long as we are changed.) So we need a reminder of the commitment we are making, and a reminder that God was with us through this, because as things get easier, we tend to return to our old ways. So, make a note to yourself on your mirror, or change your smart phone wallpaper, or even stack some rocks up in your front yard, just like the Israelites did to remember things. Just do something so that the renewal isn’t short lived.
Encouraging verse of the day:
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
You can read or listen to today’s Bible passage at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+22-24&version=NIV
Tomorrow we begin a new week and a new book of the Bible as we jump into Judges 1-2 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan