who-will-you-serveTuesday, January 31, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 21-24

Having divided the land among the Twelve tribes of Israel, the priestly tribe of Levi requested the cities promised as their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3).  Because the Levites were charged with the responsibility to minister spiritually to the tribes of Israel, they were given forty-eight cities, assigned by family, in the midst of the tribal lands (21:4-42).

Joshua 21:43-45 reminds us God was faithful to keep all that He had promised His people. He gave Israel all the land He had promised their forefathers (21:43).  He gave them victory over their enemies in the land (21:44).   God had not failed to keep one promise, of all He had promised Israel (21:45).

land-of-the-12-tribesAs a fact of history, you might remember that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh had requested of Moses that he would grant them the pasture lands on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:12-20).  With Israel at rest and the land divided among the tribes, the warriors of two and one-half tribes were discharged from their duties on the west side of the Jordan River and allowed to return to their families and lands on the east side of the Jordan (22:1-9).  Acting as the shepherd leader of God’s people, Joshua challenged the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to be “diligent [highly disciplined] heed [observe; keep; obey] to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave [abide in His presence] unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (22:5).

The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar on the east side of the Jordan as a memorial (22:10); however, a threat of civil war soon followed as the tribes west of the Jordan River misunderstood the purpose of the altar and feared the other tribes had departed from worshipping the God of Israel (22:11-12).  Fortunately, a delegation was sent to investigate and found the altar was not meant to serve as a place of worship and sacrifice, but as a lasting witness to their children and the generations that would follow them (22:13-34).

joshua-24“Old and stricken in age”, Joshua gathers the leaders of Israel for a parting exhortation before his death (23:1-2).  Like the great leader he was, Joshua foresaw the challenges Israel would face in the years ahead after he was departed.  Joshua’s words echo the passion of every godly leader who longs to see God’s people walk in the ways of the LORD. He reminded them how the LORD had fought for and never forsook His people (23:4-10). He challenged them to love the LORD (23:11), but also warned that compromise with the heathen in the land would invite God’s judgment (23:12-16).

Joshua gathered the Twelve Tribes of Israel at Shechem (24:1), the place where Abraham had received God’s promise that his lineage would inherit the land (Genesis 12:6-7).  Joshua rehearsed with the people how God had chosen Abraham (24:2-4), delivered Israel out of Egypt (24:5-7), and guided them through the wilderness (24:7-10).  He reminded the people God had given them the land as He had promised (24:11-13) and challenged them to revere and serve the LORD (24:14-28).

The Book of Joshua closes with the death of a generation of leaders and three burials. Joshua, the successor of Moses died at 110 years old and was buried (24:29-30). Fulfilling his dying request (Genesis 50:25), the bones of Joseph were buried on the land owned by his father Jacob (24:32). Finally, Eleazar the high priest, the son of Aaron, died and was buried (24:33).

prayerI close with an exhortation: Joshua invited the people to declare their devotion to the LORD with a covenant to memorialize their vow to serve the LORD (24:25-28). Don’t take lightly the opportunity of a spiritual decision when the Holy Spirit stirs your heart to walk an aisle and bow the knee before the LORD during an invitation. Like it was with Israel, so it is with every man and woman reading this devotional: We must individually decide whether or not we will serve the LORD with our whole heart (24:14-24).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith