Joshua 22:1-5(NKJV) 1Then Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh, 2and said to them: “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you. 3You have not left your brethren these many days, up to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God. 4And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brethren, as He promised them; now therefore, return and go to your tents and to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
In yesterday’s post we looked at the 2 ½ tribes of Israel who chose to receive their inheritance on the east bank of the Jordan River. This was part of the inheritance God had given to Abraham, but not the Promised Land proper. It was within the will of God, but not the center of the will of God. It was a land that appealed to this groups flesh because it suited the lifestyle they had chosen. We find that God allowed them to settle there as long as they sent their warriors into Canaan and helped the rest of the Israelites obtain their possession as well.
This was not something God directed them to do. It was something God allowed them to do. They were willing to help others take the land of destiny, but they did not want to live in the land themselves. They were willing to go as far as they had to go in order to stay in God’s good graces but not to dwell in the place of his presence. I am concerned that this is the stance of too much of the church today.
There is no indication that God rebuked Rueben, Gad and Manasseh for their choice. I have talked with some who speak of certain behaviors that are appealing to their flesh and they say, “It does not say in the bible that I cannot do this.” That may be true, but there is another question we need to ask. Does this behavior lead me closer to the center of God’s will or make me more vulnerable to falling into sin. Does this behavior help me grow in God or does it keep me at my current level.
I believe there are some things that we can learn from the 2 ½ tribes that chose not to go into Canaan. In today’s scripture we see that Joshua commends Rueben, Gad and Manasseh for keeping their promise. However, in verse 5 we see that he gives them a warning. He tells them to make sure they keep the commandments of God and follow the covenant with all their heart. He did not feel the need to give this kind of warning to those who stayed in Canaan. I believe this points to a potential problem that Joshua could see in the future of these tribes.
We must remember that we are not without opposition in the world. There is a real devil and he has a real agenda for the world. He hates the people of God and is constantly working to destroy them. The farther you are from the will of God the more vulnerable you become to the enemy. Joshua knew this. Rueben, Gad and Manasseh were not currently in sin. They had done what they said they would do. The problem is that what they said they would do was not the fullness of what God wanted them to do. It was not sin, but it was not full pursuit of God’s purposes either.
As we follow the tribes on the east bank of the river, we see some problems that arise almost immediately. In Joshua 22:10-29 we read about an incident that happens not long after Rueben, Gad and Manasseh return to the east bank. As the rest of Israel looks across the river, they see an altar being built. Altars are very important to Israel. There is only one altar God has authorized for the offering of sacrifices and that is the altar that is part of the tabernacle. To offer sacrifices anywhere else breaks the covenant and brings judgment on all of Israel not just the offending tribes. The Israelites on the west bank of Jordan mobilize for war against Rueben, Gad and Manasseh. They have seen the curse of disobedience to the covenant and they are not going to allow it now.
There are two things I want to point out here. First, the fact that part of Israel chose to live outside of the center of God’s will caused strife. There was a lack of communication between the two groups and this caused misunderstanding. In verse 25, those on the east side say that God has made the Jordan a border between the two groups. This is not true. They made the Jordan a border between themselves and the rest of Israel. It was God’s will for them to be with the tribes in Canaan. They chose to settle on the east side of the river.
Whenever one group wants to go farther with God than another there will be strife. There will be mixed goals, lack of communication and misunderstandings. Eventually there will be a problem. This is what happens between these two groups of Israelites. Neither one was actually in sin, but if they had all been on the west side of the river this would not have been a problem.
Second, it is important to see that compromise affects the whole group. We need to understand that when we choose to live a life that is less than sold out to the total will and destiny of God it will affect more than just our own lives. It will affect our family. If we have children, we will influence them to follow our example. It will affect the church as a whole because we are a body and what touches one member touches all. We need to look beyond ourselves when we think of how much we want to give to the Lord.
We also find in Joshua 22:25 the motivations for building this second altar. They do not intend to offer sacrifices upon it. They are afraid that the rest of Israel will forget them and cut them off from the altar on the west side of Jordan. Their motivation was fear. Any time we are not in the center of the will of God we are more open to fear. Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space. They will cancel each other out.
In verse 19, those who live on the west bank say to Rueben, Gad and Manasseh, “If the land where you are is so unclean that it requires an altar, then move over here where the land is clean. You don’t have to stay on that side of the river.” I would encourage any in the body of Christ who are living outside the center of God’s will to come in! You do not have to live in an unclean land. You may not be in sin, but there is more for you than what you have.
Rueben, Gad and Manasseh did not intend to sin where this altar was concerned. They intended to cross the river and offer sacrifices just as the rest of Israel did. It was only to be an altar of remembrance. The Lord directed Israel to build many such altars. However, what might happen in the future? The altar was there. It was a temptation to the east bank tribes to sin. It was closer and easier to get to than the altar in Canaan. Would they begin to think that their altar was just as good? Would they ever choose to compromise and offer just one sacrifice. There is no record they did, but they put themselves in a place of temptation needlessly.
Finally, they put themselves in a situation where there was no border between themselves and the enemy. The Jordan was not to be a border between Rueben, Gad and Manasseh and the rest of Israel. It was a border between Israel and the enemy. By living on the east bank of the river, they were more vulnerable to attack. Why live in place that makes us more vulnerable to the enemy.
I want to encourage those of us who are children of God in Christ to go all the way into God’s will and destiny. The more we stay on the fringes the more we risk falling into sin and coming under the attack of the enemy. Commit wholly to the Lord’s will for your life. It may seem harder. It may require some sacrifice of the flesh. In the end it will result in a life lived to its fullest capacity. Do not settle for less than God’s best for you.
What happened to Rueben, Gad and Manasseh? We will find out tomorrow.