For several years after I graduated from high school, my parents would go on vacation to Hawaii. Not having any kids at home opened up their finances and allowed them to do this. Every time they’d go, they would offer to pay for my families housing, and all we would have to do is pay for food and flight. Several years back, before we had our third child, we took my parents offer and went to the island of Kauai. It was supposed to be the whole family, including my sisters and their families, but it ended up being just my parents, me, my wife, and our two kids. We had a blast, and those two kids got spoiled to the brim, because they were the only grandkids there.
Now, my desire on the trip was to relax. I didn’t want to do a lot, I just wanted to be on the beach. Well, on one of those beaches, the kids decided they wanted the family to build a big sand castle. Everyone started out helping, but eventually my mom, my wife and myself were left to finished the task. Remember, all I wanted to do was just relax, so I felt more roped into this than anything.
But it turned out pretty good. It had a castle, a wall, and a moat that diverted the ocean water away from the structure. And that’s when it happened, it was like Godzilla in Tokyo. One of my kid’s big ol’ feet came trouncing through and destroyed our hard work. After that, daddy was no longer interested in helping build sandcastles. I had come to Hawaii to relax, and that’s what I was going to do. No more sandcastles for me.
And it’s this idea of reaching a place of relaxation, of rest, and then being asked to do more that could cost you that relaxation, that brings us to where we left off last week in Joshua chapter 1 verse 10. So if you have your Bibles, you can open up to Joshua 1:10, and as you do, let’s bring ourselves back to where we started last week.
Last week we began our summer study with the book of Joshua in the first half of the Bible, and we did this by diving into some of the characteristics of Joshua the man. We saw how Joshua trusted godly leadership. He trusted that Moses was following God, and even when some of the stuff Joshua was asked to do sounded a little on the crazy side, Joshua followed. The second characteristic was that Joshua himself sought a relationship with God. He was a witness of God on Mt. Sinai, he stayed at the tent of meeting where God met Moses. It was for reasons like these, that Joshua was picked by God to lead the nation of Israel into the land that God had promised Abraham 700 years earlier.
But it was the three times of God’s encouragement to Joshua, that we focused on; and it’s because of this repeated encouragement we asked the question, “How come Joshua needs so much encouragement?” And we came to the understanding that it’s because everyone needs encouragement. It doesn’t matter if you’re the kid shining shoes for a little extra money, or if you’re the leader of a nation, every one of us needs encouragement. And then we talked about how there are two ways in which we are to find encouragement. One being each other and the other the Scriptures. Both are resources of encouragement that are there for us.
This brings us to where we’re at in the book of Joshua chapter 1 verse 10; Joshua has been encouraged by God, and so he steps out to take command of the nation of Israel. Let’s read together.
10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”
12 But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!
Now the further and further we get into the book of Joshua, the harder the names get, and the more history of how we got to where we’re at will come into play. One history fact we need to know is that God was planning to divide the promise land up among the twelve sons of Jacob’s descendants, who God called Israel. So let’s talk a little about who these first three groupsare..
The first group is the tribe of Reuben. They descend from Reuben who was the first born son of Jacob, who’s name eventually got changed to Israel, hence why the people are called the nation of Israel. But Rueben lost his position as first born son to his brother Judah, because Rueben slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, who was the mother of some of Reuben’s brothers (Genesis 35:22). Some real weird stuff, that proves, God doesn’t whitewash history for us. But don’t be to hard on Reuben, because he was the one that kept his brothers from killing their youngest brother, at the time, Joseph. And that was a good thing, because God used Joseph to make sure that the nation of Israel would survive a horrible famine. So even though Reuben was a screw up, God still used him. Another person in Scripture that gives hope to us all.
The second group is the tribe of Gad. They descend from, you guessed it, Gad who was the seventh son of Israel. Now there’s not much interesting about Gad, who was one of the brothers that wanted to kill Jospeh. But what is interesting is the implied role that they played in defeating the king Sihon. We’re never directing told what they did, but Moses said this of them in Deuteronomy 33:20-21, “20 About Gad he said: “Blessed is he who enlarges Gad’s domain! Gad lives there like a lion, tearing at arm or head. 21 He chose the best land for himself; the leader’s portion was kept for him. When the heads of the people assembled, he carried out the Lord’s righteous will, and his judgments concerning Israel.”
So even though Gad himself didn’t play much of a role in biblical history, his descendants were strong warriors, and help defeat Sihon who was a warlord (www.israel-a-history-of.com/gad.html).
The final group is the half-tribe of Manasseh. Now, yes they descended from a man named Manasseh, but Manasseh wasn’t one of Israel’s twelve sons. He was actually the oldest son of Joseph, who was himself the eleventh of Israel. So the question obviously should come up, “why then is his descendants getting a portion of land, if he wasn’t one of the twelve sons of Israel?
And that answer is two-fold, first the tribe of Levi had been designated to become priests to God, and because of that status, they were not going to get a chunk of land, because as God put it, God was their allotment. But God had promised twelve sections of land, and he did this through the man Israel’s blessing in Genesis 48:15-16. It was in this blessing that the man Israel, blessed both of Jospeh’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. This is why Manasseh is called a half tribe, because the other half of the tribe are their cousins Ephraim.
Now all three of these tribes where cattlemen, and they chose as their portion of land, the land east of the Jordan because it was perfect for their cattle.
And it’s that very point of history that causes this interaction between Joshua and the leaders of these three tribes.
At this moment in the nation of Israel’s history there is an opportunity for a division to occur. Joshua just took command of the whole nation, and already he has the makings of a break between the tribes. Think about it. On one hand, there are nine and a half tribes that that are ready to move into the land that God had promised them. Those nine and a half tribes are looking toward the west, over the Jordan River, seeing that within a few days journey, they will finally be in the place that they have been told about. They have wandered the desert, they have fought battles, and now their prize was within reach. Sure they still have some more work to do, but they will soon be in the land.
On the other hand, you have two and a half tribes that have already received their allotment. They have fought battles, and have done so gallantly. They have a place where they can now begin to start lives and put down roots in areas that are wide open with possibility.
Do you see where the problem now lies? One side has their relaxation, and the other still has work to do.
So what does Joshua do? He sends out word that the nine and a half tribes must be ready to move in three days time, and then he specifically goes to the two and a half tribes and reminds them of what Moses had spoke to them. “‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.
This is a bold move by Joshua; a move that God knew he had to make, and so it makes even more sense as to why we see the three-fold call of God to Joshua to be courageous. And Joshua did. Joshua prepared the people to leave, and called those who had already gained their inheritance to remember that not everyone had received theirs.
And why is this so important, because it’s so easy for us, when we have gained our comfort, to forget that others have not. That when we have gained our place of relaxation, of rest, others have not. And I think this is most noticeable in how we live out our Christian lives. If you have put your trust in Jesus as your personal Savior; that means that you have decided to follow him, forsaking everything else, then you have your place in God’s family. But if we took the numbers of Christians in the world at face value, not questioning if those who profess to be Christians are born again, but just taking the largest number of professing Christians in this world, there are about 2.18 billion professing Christians around the world.
Right now there are about 7.7 billion people in the world, that means there are 5.52 billion people who are not professing Christians. There are people out there that do not have a resting relationship with Jesus. I once heard from a linguist, that there are approximately 18,000 language dialects in the world. Of which, only 8,000 have been reached with the Gospel. There are places in the world where missionaries are not able, or not allowed to go.
We who profess to be Christians, have our allotment, we have our rest, yet there is still work to be done. We are the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh siting on our our allotted land on the east side of the Jordan, but there are those who still are awaiting their allotment. There are still those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior, and the question is, what are we doing about it?
I don’t if the next sentence out of my mouth is going to hit a nerve with anyone this morning or not. Many of us in this room are retired, you’ve worked hard in your life to get to this place and I thank God that you are here, but your kingdom retirement has not begun. As long as you’re living, God is calling you to help in his work. There might not be things you can do, but there are things that you can do. The question isn’t are you called, the question is, are you willing?
Joshua went to these two and half tribes and reminded them of their calling, we need that too. We need to be reminded of the calling on our lives. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 9, “36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (v.36-38).”
Now who were those workers that were eventually sent out? Wasn’t it the very disciples that Jesus told to ask for workers? When we’re asking God to raise up people for his work, we need to be the first ones on the line, working until God calls us to rest with him.
I love how the two and a half tribes answer Joshua. They could have easily said, “no, we’re retired from battle,” or “no we have what we set out to get, we’re going to take it easy from now on.” They could have said this, and a split would have happened right at the beginning of Joshua’s tenure as leader, but they responded in a godly way, “16 Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!”
They recognized what they had to do. They recognized what was needed of them, and they recognized that there was still more to their calling. And they ended their pledge to Joshua with a fourth encouragement towards him to be courageous. And I believe this was God’s words through them, reminding Joshua that he was with him.
We can easily become comfortable in the place that God has brought us, because we can feel like we’ve done everything required of us. But God is calling us to greater work even today in his kingdom. The question is, are we going to stay on our side of the Jordan River, and allow our brothers and sisters to do all the work on their own, or are we going to rise up and fulfill the calling on our lives?
This week I want to challenge you to make three lists: First is a list of all that you have done in God’s work up until now. The Second is all the things that could be done. And if you need some help with this, just ask me, Jeff, or Marika for some ideas, we’ve got plenty. And then in the final list, write down all the things from the first one that you can still do, and all the things from the second one that you can do, and combine them. That combined third list is what God is calling you to do. That is your crossing of the Jordan River.
I want to encourage you that the calling on your life is not done, until your six feet under. We have work in God’s Kingdom to do. And if we respond as these two and a half tribes did, then, the rest that awaits us will be all the sweeter. Amen.