When I was reading Joshua Chapter 1 yesterday, there was one thing that caught my attention: verses 12-18.
In these verses Joshua is telling the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh to remember what Moses said to them in Numbers Chapter 32. In Numbers 32, the children of Israel had made to the East side of the Jordan River. The three tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had a lot of livestock and when they saw the land of Gilead, they thought it was perfect for livestock so they went to Moses and the other leaders of the congregation and asked to settle there instead of crossing over the Jordan and into the Promised Land. In Numbers 32:6 Moses asks:
Numbers 32:6-7 And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: "Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? (7) Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD has given them?
I have read these scriptures before, but verse stood out to me this time. I wondered why Moses would assume the heart of the children of Israel would be discouraged. Then I remembered the report of the twelve spies they received upon their return from the Land. In Numbers chapter 13 we see where the Lord told Moses to send men to check out the Promised Land. The twelve men that were sent were to be leaders - one from each tribe which included the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh. All twelve leaders saw the plentiful land. The bunch of grapes they cut down in the Valley of Eschol was so large they had to carry it on a pole between two of them. That was not a small bunch of grapes like we find in the produce section of a grocery store. They saw the land "truly" flow with milk and honey. I cannot imagine the breathtaking beauty of such a place. The provision the Lord made in giving the Children of Israel the Promised Land was beyond anything they had seen in their lives.
And then the spies (remember, these men were leaders of their tribes) said this:
Numbers 13:28 Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.
The people of Anak were descended from the race of giants. They had large cities, fortified even, and appeared to be strong. They then proceeded to list where each group of inhabitants lived and it struck fear in the heart of the children of Israel. Only Caleb and Joshua believed they could overcome the inhabitants of the land. Chapter 14 begins saying the Israelites lifted their voices and cried and wept. Regarless of all they had seen the Lord do to free from the slavery they endured in Egypt to the miracles He performed in the wilderness, these people still lacked the faith necessary to believe the report of the Lord. Because of their rejection of Him, the Lord then let a generation die before He let the children of Israel inherit what He had given them.
So, back to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. We have three tribes that decided they were not going into the Promised Land. We have Moses asking why they would discourage the rest of the people by not going into the land. The three tribes said they would still fight with the other tribes and in fact, they would go before the Children of Israel. There would be consequences should they refuse to fight as they promised to Moses. Thus, Joshua was very careful to remind them of the agreement they made with Moses for the land they wanted to settle in...the land "Moses gave them." In Joshua 1:14, Joshua told the three tribes that their wives, little ones, and livestock would remain in the land Moses gave them. Not the land God gave them. Joshua was very clear about their inheritance. He made sure they knew he knew they were not to inherit with the remaining tribes because of their earlier decisions. In fact, Joshua made it clear that once they had helped the children of Israel possess the land, the three tribes were to return to the land of their possession and enjoy it, which Moses gave them on "this side" of the Jordan (chapter 1 v. 15).
How many times are we like the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh? We settle where we think it is best because it looks good and fits our needs. We don't go forward into what was promised to us out of fear or complacency so we don't end up with the full blessing and provision of the Lord. We see others, and on occasion help, others receive what they were promised only to have to return to our chosen lot. I wonder how much better, prettier, plentiful, etc, the Promised Land was. I wonder of the three tribes regretted their decision to stay on the other side of the Jordan River. Remember, the leaders of their tribes had seen the land. They were among the ten that gave bad reports to the Children of Israel. Yet, they still said they would go before them and help the people take the land. They were going to fight for something they would not receive. Would you have done the same?
It would be a difficult decision to make. We humans are generally speaking a selfish people. Our society today has revealed just how selfish we are with our entitled youth, our desire for convenience, and our search for instant gratification. So, to ask the average person to fight for something that would not benefit them in any way in today's society would probably be considered laughable. And yet, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to be servants to others. We are called to be willing to lay our lives down just as Jesus did for us.
And yet, in battle, we need help defeating our enemy. I know I can forget sometimes that the battle belongs to the Lord. It is not mine. While we are reading an Old Testament book and learning how the Lord led them through conquering the people of their inheirtance, we have to remember that He does no less for us. We don't want to be left behind in a land that provides less than God has promised, either. We can't let fear overcome our faith. We have to remember the promises of the Lord do not change. The gifts and calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Don't allow the fear of what is to come or the perceived impossibility of the task before you (Matthew 19:26).
Deuteronomy 31:7-8 Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. (8) And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed."
How can we lose a battle with the Mighty Warrior going before us?
Tomorrow we will move to Chapter 2. Let us hear your thoughts on Joshua. Join the discussion on Facebook.