The end of chapter 21 ended with a beautiful statement of the fulfilment of the divine promise given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants. The Lord gave to Israel ALL the land he had promised them. They were settled, no longer to be slaves or wanderers, and were at rest as the Lord had promised them, for all of their enemies had been given into their hands. ALL the promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel came to pass in good time. This is a wonderful display of God's love for Abraham and his descendants.
Chapter 22 is also a chapter displaying LOVE. Joshua begins with summoning the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half tribe of Manasseh. He publicly acknowledges the tribes' obedience to himself, Moses and the Lord. They have remained faithful and kept the charge given to them by the Lord. Now it is time for them to rest - to go home to their families, to their land where their possessions lie. He tells them to LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD, to WALK in all His ways, KEEP His commandments and to CLEAVE to Him with all your heart and soul.
It is not coincidental that Joshua begins that exhortation by telling them to Love the Lord. If they love the Lord, they will walk in all His ways, they will keep His commandments and cleave to Him with all their heart and soul. Loving the Lord is the Key to all actions. It is interesting that the Living Bible version used in our books chooses to change "with all your heart and soul" to "enthusiastically." Those two phrases can be synonymous, but they are not always. I can show enthusiasm without involving all of my heart and soul. (I get enthusiastic about the Razorbacks, but I don't give them my heart and soul.) And I can feel something with all my heart and soul without necessarily bringing the house down with what the world commonly views as enthusiasm today.
As we answer our question today from our books about serving the Lord enthusiastically, let's remember that enthusiasm is not always displayed by giddy feelings, racing heartbeats, claps and shouts, and wild emotions, because we are really talking about giving our heart and soul completely. That can be displayed in quiet, loving ways, too, such as a walk next door to share a Bible story with an elderly neighbor, or an invitation to a church function to someone with an emotional hurt who isn't feeling very lovable right now, or a kind deed to someone who isn't always kind in return. Our heart and soul is given to the Lord daily, not just once a week.
You may remember a few weeks ago in the news the women who had served in Vietnam were finally rejoicing that they had succeeded in getting a war memorial built in Washington commemorating the women who had served in Vietnam as nurses, reporters, and social events coordinators. They were extremely excited as it was dedicated on Veterans Day. They didn't want anyone to forget that women had also served in that nightmare of a confrontation. Their lives were endangered - some womens' names are on the Vietnam wall memorial. They saw the blood and dismembered bodies of so many of our young countrymen. It had haunted them for years and with the completion of this women's memorial some of them felt like finally they, as a group so often overlooked when that war is looked back upon, finally there was some fulfilment to that era in their lives. They simply wanted their agony and contribution to be remembered by a nation they had served.
Similarly, when these 2½ tribes depart for their allotted land across on the east side of Jordan, they want to be remembered by the nation that they had served and helped forge. Suddenly the Jordan River looked like a BARRIER that they had not seen before. They were going to be physically separated from the majority of God's nation, a nation they had fought for and with. They did not want to be forgotten by the tribes on the west side of Jordan. Nor did they want their children to forget that they were a part of this nation that God favored. Separated from the rest of Israel, it was quite possible that their descendants would fall away from the common heritage of faith that belonged to the whole race. But these Israelites were proud of their race and traditions and had no desire that their descendants should ever consider becoming a separate nation. And the possibility existed that the Western Israelites would one day shun the separated and smaller in number Eastern Israelites. So out of LOVE for their country and their descendants, they build a MEMORIAL of great size for their contribution to God's people and the nation of Israel.
With a physical reminder beside the Jordan, neither side was likely to forget their sacrifice of these past several years, their separation from their families and the lives lost in battle. It would keep alive the memory of God's providential guidance, the unique Call by God upon this race of people and the common heritage that these people shared as children of God. The memorial was built out of LOVE.
Deanie reminded some of us a while back that Satan can trick us into DOUBTING OTHERS' MOTIVES. It is very likely that that is the case here in Joshua 22. If Satan cannot conquer us by having us desert the God we love, he will attempt to conquer us by dividing us from others that love the Lord. One of his favorite and most successful ploys is the "doubting of others motives." The ol' "I know what she was implying," or "I know she said this, but did you see the look on her face when she said it? It was very obvious to me that she meant just the opposite." "I KNOW WHAT SHE MEANT by that remark!"
Ladies, the next time you are tempted to think or say, "I know what they meant," or "I know what they are up to," or "I know what they intend," etc. - Listen for a "little bell" ringing in your mind that rings out "SATAN, SATAN, SATAN" and acknowledge the fact that you don't know for sure what the other person meant. Only God knows their heart for sure.
As children of God, we are to love one another. Love doesn't assume it knows the other's bad motives. Maybe that statement or that action wasn't meant to be unkind after all. Remember what I Corinthians 13 says? "Love is patient and kind; ... it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things ... endures all things." Love gives the benefit of the doubt. Love will choose to take the statement or action in the best light possible. Love will listen for the ringing of "SATAN, SATAN" and recognize it as Satan's tool. As here in our chapter, Love will check it out. Love will seek the facts when necessary.
The western tribes send ten chiefs with Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, as their leader. They are sent to check out the facts. Why is Phinehas the leader? Because he had shown his LOVE for the Lord as recorded in Numbers 25.
Looking back to that story, as the Israelites were nearing the promised land after almost 40 years of wilderness wanderings and after their encounter with Balak and the subsequent blessings from Balaam, before Moses dies, the Israelites began to "play the harlot" with the daughters of Moab - probably because Balaam had suggested to Balak this strategy of destroying the Israelite threat after he found he was unable to curse the Israelites as Balak had wanted Balaam to do (Revelation 2:14).
The Israelites began to bow down to the Moabite gods, Baal and Peor, and Moses says they yoked themselves to these heathen gods. God told Moses to hang these people in the sun for their idolatry. As the leaders were lamenting this idolatry of some of their people by weeping at the door of the tent of meeting, one Israelite man, Zimri, had the gall to bring one of the Midianite women into the camp to his family right in the sight of Moses and the whole congregation. Phinehas was so zealous and jealous for the Lord that he followed the couple into a tent and there pierced the two of them together with the one spear. This action stopped the plague on the Israelites, as the Lord said "Phinehas has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel," but not before 24,000 had been killed. Phinehas thus demonstrated his love of the Lord and his intolerance for idolatry.
This is the very act that Phinehas reminds the 2½ tribes of when he and the ten chiefs go to check out the facts when everyone assumes these tribes have reverted to idolatry. He reminds them of the sin at Peor and also of the sin of Achan in Joshua 7 and the consequences upon everyone.
After the facts are checked, the delegation is relieved to learn that no idolatry was intended, that they had clearly misread the intentions of the 2½ tribes. Phinehas makes the statement in verse 31, "Today we know that the Lord is in the midst of us."
When LOVE reigns in our hearts, actions and statements are assumed to be acts and words of love. When we push Satan out of the picture, the Lord can just as surely be in the midst of us.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR