Joshua – Strength and Courage (Joshua 22-23)

Scripture reading – Joshua 22-23

Proving the propensity of humanity is often war, and little peace, Israel’s victories over the nations that had occupied Canaan, and the division of the land among the tribes, was immediately followed by a misunderstanding that brought the nation to the brink of civil war (Joshua 22).

Joshua 22 – A Misunderstanding, and a Threat of Civil War

With the battles over, and the nation secure, Joshua summoned the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh (22:1). Those tribes had chosen the land of Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:12-20) as their inheritance. Their families had remained behind, while their men went to war with their brethren, as they had promised Moses and Joshua (Joshua 1:12-18). With the nation at rest, and the land divided, the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were discharged, and allowed to return to their families and lands on the east side of the Jordan (22:1-9).

Acting as the shepherd leader, Joshua challenged the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to take “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).

A Provocation of War (22:10-20)

Crossing the Jordan, the tribes on the east side determined to memorialize their relationship with the LORD and Israel, and built an altar as a testimony to the generations that would follow (22:10).

Misunderstanding the purpose of the altar, some in Israel feared the tribes on the east side had departed from worshipping the God of Israel at His altar in Shiloh, and determined to go “to war against them” (22:11-12). Fortunately, a delegation of leaders that included Phinehas, the son of the high priest, were sent to investigate, and question the purpose of the altar (22:13-14).

Learning the altar was a monument, and meant to serve as a testimony of their relationship with the LORD and Israel, and not as a place of worship (22:21-29), the tribes on the west side accepted the explanation, and made peace with Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh (22:30-34).

Joshua 23 – Joshua, “Old and Stricken in Age”

This chapter is the first of two final assemblies called by Joshua as he recognized his life was numbered, not in years, or months, but in days and hours. We are reminded, Joshua is “waxed old and stricken in age” (23:1).

Summoning the leaders of the nation, Joshua said, “I am old and stricken in age” (23:2). He then reminisced all the LORD had done for Israel, how He had driven the nations out of Canaan, and given them their inheritance as He had promised (23:3-4).

Like the great leader he was, Joshua foresaw the challenges Israel would face in the years after his death. His words herald 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 Israel, and never forsook His people (23:4-10). He challenged them to be “very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (23:6). He admonished them to separate themselves from the heathen who continued to live in parts of the land (23:7). He promised, as the LORD had driven out nations greater than Israel, He would bless them and do the same if they would love, and obey His Law and Commandments (23:8-11).

Joshua warned: should the people fail to love the LORD, keep His law, and separate themselves from the heathen and their ways, “the anger of the Lord [would] be kindled against [them],” and they would perish (23:16).

What a tragedy! The LORD longs to bless His people, but His blessings are conditioned upon us loving, and obeying Him.

Joshua 22:55But take diligent heed 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 unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith