THEME: Loving the Lord with All Your Heart and Soul
This week’s lessons remind us of the need to live for God in all the circumstances of life.
Yesterday we saw the first two things Joshua tells the eastern tribes before going to their inheritance across the Jordan. There is a third item, as he says in chapter 22, verse 5, “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave to you to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” You know, when we come to that last phrase, “with all your heart and soul,” we are reminded of what the Lord Jesus Christ called “the first and great commandment” because that is certainly the command to which Joshua is referring. It’s found in Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Joshua is telling the people, “You have obeyed in the past, and God has been faithful in the past, even in the immediate past. Now be sure to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
As he speaks about this, he shows what it means. It means to walk in all His ways, to obey all His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all their hearts and souls. And that’s what Joshua would say to us if he were here today. If he knew anything about what God has done in your life in the past, he would say, “Look, you have been faithful. You have obeyed. You have grown. And God has been faithful to you. Be sure to keep on.” Don’t forget that this first and great commandment remains always the first and great commandment. And if you really want to go on with God and be blessed as you have been in the past, this is how you should do it. You must love Him, walk in His ways, obey His commandments, hold fast to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and your soul.
I’m sure at this point that Francis Schaeffer is right when he says that we have to use our imaginations a bit to understand what is involved in this story. We have to remember first of all that for the first time in seven years, there was to be a serious parting among the people. The 2½ tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were about to go back down to the area of the Jordan, cross over it, and live on the eastern side. This is the moment at which this great parting took place.
You know, in times of difficulty a special bond develops among people. Certainly that is true in warfare. So when it came time to part, there would have been moments in which these soldiers would have gone through the camp to embrace and perhaps tearfully say good-bye to those who they had fought with side by side during the campaigns. This would have been a very meaningful and a very emotional time. And when at last the moment for parting came, the 2½ tribes gathered together with their possessions and made their way from Shiloh up in the hill country and down towards the valley of the Jordan.
They were about to pass over into their own land, as the other tribes remained in the hills, when suddenly word came from the area of the Jordan that something unexpected and terribly frightening was happening. Word came that the tribes that had gone down to cross the Jordan were building an altar. Now that was a significant thing because at this time there was only one altar, the great altar in Shiloh where the tabernacle of the Lord was situated. That was the altar that symbolized the worship of the one God and the unity of the people. And now, here the 2½ tribes down in the area of the Jordan were building another altar. And it testified to a departure from the way of the Lord. It meant apostasy.
We’re told in verse 11, “And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.” Isn’t that absolutely astounding from the way we think? Here were men who were comrades-in-arms, men who had fought side by side, men who had just had the most emotional parting and who were not jealous of each other or hostile to each other, but rather men who had the deepest possible affection for one another.
And, moreover, these were all people who were very tired of war. They had been fighting for seven years. They were anxious to be done with the fighting, and settle down, and develop their fields, and the towns, and all of those things. But when word came from the Jordan that the 2½ tribes were building a schismatic altar, as they understood it to be, immediately these men who loved their brethren and who at the same time were absolutely exhausted with the fighting, nevertheless, immediately gathered up their arms once again and were ready to go to war. Francis Schaeffer in his study of Joshua asked how that can be. And there is only one answer. It was not that they hated their brothers, or were jealous of them, or any such thing as that, as I’ve indicated. It was that the honor of God’s holiness was at stake.
What is the third reminder Joshua gives to the tribes? As familiar as this reminder must have been, why might it be necessary for them to hear it?
What was the event that almost caused the western tribes to go to war against the eastern tribes? From the lesson, what was said to be at stake?
Are there any areas in your life where you believe you may not be loving God with all your heart and soul? What steps do you need to take to correct this?