Faithful Servants, Remain Faithful
Stephen Caswell © 1999
Faithful Servants, Remain Faithful
British Paints Add
On T.V. once in a while you get an add or series of adds that gets peoples attention. One such series were the adds that Ray Burgess did for Berger Paints. They were quite clever because in the end they didn't say the final line, everyone knew. Berger Paints keep on keeping on! The manufacturer claimed their product would last. It was not some product here today and gone tomorrow. Berger Paints were dependable. The Lord is looking for this from His people. He is looking for Faithful Servants who will remain faithful! They will cling to Him all their lives like good paint sticks to a wall. Do we keep on, keeping on?
The conquest of the land of Canaan had ended. God had divided the land to the 12 tribes through Joshua and Eleazar the high priest. Last week we saw cites of refuge appointed throughout the land. The Levites received 48 cities and their surrounding pasture lands. The conquest was now complete and the land had rest from war. The 12 tribes were now responsible to finish off the remaining Canaanites in their own inheritance. Since the conquest was complete, Joshua dismissed the 2 1/2 tribes from the east side of the Jordan River. They could return to their families and enjoy their own inheritance. Today we will observe their dismissal from service. There are four main points I would like to observe regarding them.
Joshua 22:1-2 Then Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh, and 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. ”You 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.
a. God’s Commandment
Joshua remembered the service of the 2 1/2 tribes from Transjordan. The Reubenites, Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh had kept the Lord’s commands. Here Joshua reflected back on the charge originally given by Moses. Joshua confirmed the same charge when the Lord commissioned him in chapter 1:12-16. Note in these verses you have kept all, have obeyed, have not left, have kept. This highlights the way they completely followed the Lord’s commands. They had done all that was required of them. Joshua was pleased with their service and praised them here for their faithfulness. They didn't leave their brethren, they finished the task. They had served their brethren well. They had stuck to the task even though they were away from their families for 7 years. That is quite a commitment!
They devoted themselves to the task at hand and put on hold their own inheritance. In these verses we see that they obey Moses and Joshua. Then we are told they kept the commandment of the Lord. To obey God’s appointed leaders is seen as obeying God. Obedience to God’s commands always brings blessing. This is a theme that runs right through the book of Joshua.
b. God’s Promise
Joshua 22:3-4 “And 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. God promised to give Israel the land of Canaan. The conquest took seven long years, but now it was over. God had given them rest just as He said that He would. Joshua had promised the 2 1/2 tribes 7 years earlier that they would return to their possession after their brethren had received rest. This had now come to pass. So Joshua dismissed the 2 1/2 Transjordan tribes with honour. He told them to return to their own homes, their own families, their own possession. They had fulfilled their task and were now free to enjoy God’s inheritance. Obedience always leads to blessing. They could now have their promised rest.
The 2 1/2 tribes had kept their word to Moses and helped their brethren. Joshua praised them for this. I thank the Lord for His faithful servants here in this church. Some have sacrificed much for the Lord’s work. When the Lord saves people, He puts them into service. Sometimes the Lord calls people into a special area of service in the church. He touches your heart about a special need and you respond in service. Has God called you to such a ministry? Have you been faithful and stuck to the task? All believers are called to service. All have been commissioned to be Christ's witnesses. All believers have received spiritual gifts to use in the church. Are you faithful to this commission? Are you using your spiritual gifts? God promises to bless obedience! Firstly we have seen how Joshua remembered their past faithful service and praised them.
Secondly he gave a Reminder
Joshua 22:5 ” But 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.“
We all need encouragement along the way. But we also should be told not to rest on our laurels. After Joshua had praised them for their faithful service, he reminded them to keep going the same way. The word commanded or commandment is used 6 times in the first 5 verses. The first three occurrences say that they had kept God’s commandment. In the next 3 uses they are challenged to keep them in the future. They must continue the same way they started. The words translated take careful heed in verse 5 comes from the same root word as have kept in verses 2-3. The word take careful heed, means to keep oneself, on peril of your life. Joshua was concerned that these 2 1/2 tribes remain faithful to the Lord as they had been in the past.
Joshua was concerned for them because the Jordan River did separate them in a very significant way. Therefore Joshua took the opportunity to warn them to stay true to God. Joshua emphasises this by repeating it and expanding on it in the rest of the verse.
1 To love the Lord your God. - This is the only motivation for obedience. Obedience is far easier when you love someone. To love the Lord is at the heart of all God’s commandments. To love the Lord and our neighbour in fact fulfils the law and the prophets. Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ”You shall not commit adultery,“ ”You shall not murder,“ ”You shall not steal,“ ”You shall not bear false witness,“ ”You shall not covet,“ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ”You shall love your neighbour as yourself.“ Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.
Love keeps people from just conforming to a standard. Love is required to really transform our hearts. It is no coincidence that love is put at the front of this list. To serve God we must first love Him. Jesus spoke concerning the importance of loving the Lord and our neighbour. Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said to him, ” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. ”And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
2 To Walk in His Ways. - 3 To keep His commandments. - This speaks of lifestyle. To walk refers to the way we live. Our journey through life is made up of many steps. It is many of these individual steps that make up our lives. Psalm 37:23 says, The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in His way. The man who serves the Lord seeks to walk, or live, in God’s ways. This involves keeping His commands. The word keep is the same one in v. 2 and 3. It is the same word translated take careful heed at the beginning of this verse. It is not enough to know God’s word or even believe it. They must obey it.
4 To hold fast to Him. - This speaks of devotion to God. The word hold fast means to cling to or to cleave, it speaks of loyalty and affection. Joshua uses this word in the next chapter. Joshua 23:11-12 Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God. “Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations — these that remain among you — and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you, They must not to forsake the Lord by giving their loyalty to the remnant of the nations left. They must hold fast to Him and stay in close fellowship with the Lord.
5 To serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. This was a part of the law that Moses rehearsed to Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-6. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! ”You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. God requires total commitment from His servants. He doesn’t want a part of us. We must serve Him with all our heart and soul and strength. This of course ties in with loving God. The word serve here carries the idea of being a bondservant or voluntary slave. It also carries the idea of worship with this. They were to obey the Lord as His servants and worship only Him. After all the Lord was their master. He alone had redeemed them from bondage in Egypt. Moses is referred to as the Lord’s servant 3 times in this passage. Moses was a great man of God because he was a servant. They would do well to follow his example.
Illustration of Running a Marathon
Ever since ancient Greece men have competed in the hardest race of all the marathon. This race is a little over 26 miles long. This race requires preparation and commitment. Those who run in the marathon know it will involve pain and suffering. Each runner has a plan and sticks to it. The race takes over two hours to complete. So there is no use going out fast if you don’t have the resources to finish. The Christian life is like this too. It is good for believers to start their races well, but they must also finish well too. This requires commitment and focus during the race. Christian athletes musn’t allow themselves to be distracted along the way! They may start well and obtain a good lead. But it can’t stop there. They can’t become preoccupied by their good start. They can't let up until their race is finished.
Joshua remembered their past faithfulness. But he also reminded them of the need for future faithfulness. We do need to be encouraged in our Christian faith. But this must be balanced with the challenge to persevere. They probably knew these things, but reminding them would be a safegaurd to them. We so easily forget. 2 Peter 3:1-2 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, This would start with love for the Lord. From there godly living and faithful service would flow naturally. Is your service motivated by love or guilt? Do you walk in obedience to God’s commands? Are you clinging to him? Or have people or other things taken you away from serving the Lord? Are you serving the Lord wholeheartedly or only reluctantly?
Thirdly He told them to Receive
Joshua 22:6-7 So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents. Now to half the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given a possession in Bashan, but to the other half of it Joshua gave a possession among their brethren on this side of the Jordan, westward. And indeed, when Joshua sent them away to their tents, he blessed them, They received the fruits of faithful service. In verse 4 we are told that Joshua told them to return to their own possession on the other side of the Jordan River. They had fulfilled their promise. They had obeyed the Lord’s command. Now Joshua dismissed them with honour. But he didn’t send them away empty. Joshua gave them 2 things to take with them. Blessing and Bounty.
The first thing they received was blessing. Joshua bestowed a rich blessing upon these 2 1/2 faithful tribes. The word blessed is used in verses 6 and 7. This word means adoration, praise, congratulate, bless. I believe that the blessing that Joshua bestowed upon the people involved elements from all of these. No doubt he praised them for their courage and faithfulness during 7 years of conflict. He congratulated them for serving their brethren so well and in doing so serving the Lord. But I am also certain that Joshua would have prayed for God’s blessing upon these men who had sacrificed much for their brethren. He would have asked God to bless them materially since they had sacrificed so much for 7 years. He would have asked the Lord to guide them. I am sure Joshua delighted to bless them this way.
As well as sending them away with a spiritual blessing, they received material riches too. Joshua 22:8 and spoke to them, saying, “Return with much riches to your tents, with very much livestock, with silver, with gold, with bronze, with iron, and with very much clothing. Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.
During the 7 years of conflict Israel gathered a great amount of wealth from the Canaanites. The Lord allowed them to keep most of the possessions of Canaan. Only in Jericho did they have to destroy it all as first fruits to the Lord. They gathered much livestock, precious metals and clothing during the conquest. Joshua divided these spoils up amongst the people. All received something from the spoils. So Joshua told these 2 1/2 tribes to take much bounty with them. They were then to share it with their brethren on the other side of the Jordan. They did not return empty handed, but received great spiritual and material blessing.
The Hardworking Farmer
Farmers plant their crops long before harvest time. They have to plow the ground, plant the seed. Then thay must wait for the rains to come. After this there is weeding and fertiliser. Then they wait for the crop to produce its fruit. This all takes time, hard work, and patience. But the crop is worth it. After the harvest comes in there is a time of rejoicing.
In the same way these 2 1/2 tribes received the fruit of faithful living. Obedience always brings blessing. Matthew 6:33 ”But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. They received a rich reward. They returned to their homes with blessing, honour and riches. Are you living a life that God can bless? Are you seeking His kingdom righteousness first? If you serve faithfully you will be rewarded!
But what was their Response to God’s blessing?
Joshua 22:9-11 “ So the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, which they had obtained according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses. And when they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan — a great, impressive altar. Now the children of Israel heard someone say, ”Behold, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan — on the children of Israel’s side.
The 2 1/2 tribes responded well. When they came to the region of the Jordan River they built an altar. Why did they do this? Joshua had not instructed them to. Why did they build this large altar on their borders? The following verses show that it was misunderstood by the other tribes, who thought they were succeeding from Israel. Israel thought they would sacrifice to other gods on the altar. Israel thought they were rebelling against the Lord like at Baal Peor.
There are probably a number of reasons that lead to the construction of this altar. Joshua 22:23-27 gives us some of them. If we have built ourselves an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer on it burnt offerings or grain offerings, or if to offer peace offerings on it, let the LORD Himself require an account. “But in fact we have done it for fear, for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your descendants may speak to our descendants, saying, ”What have you to do with the LORD God of Israel? “For the LORD has made the Jordan a border between you and us, you children of Reuben and children of Gad. You have no part in the LORD.” So your descendants would make our descendants cease fearing the LORD.’ Therefore we said, ‘Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering nor for sacrifice, ‘but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the LORD before Him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings;
a. Remember the Lord
The 2 1/2 tribes received their possession outside the land of Canaan in the country of Gilead. Originally this was not going to be their inheritance. But God allowed them to have it after they asked for it. The Jordan River separated them from the other tribes. And the Jordan River was no small barrier. In flood time it was almost impossible to cross. The Jordan River has mountains 2,000 feet high on either side. The river runs through the Jordan valley which is between 5 and 13 miles wide. There were no bridges across the river. Travelling from one side to the other was a major undertaking and this made them feel quite remote.
On the way home they probably reminisced about the last 7 years of conquest with their brethren. They no doubt rehearsed Joshua’s words to them as he praised them and then challenged them. When they came to the Jordan they probably talked about their first miraculous crossing 7 years ago when the Lord stopped the river flowing. They were determined to remain faithful to the Lord and the altar they set up would be a witness to them of God’s faithfulness. It would remind them of their covenant with Him. The worship of the Lord had sacrifice as a central focus. This altar would be a testimony to the following generations also.
b. Remember Unity
The altar would also bear witness that they were a part of Israel. They did not want their children to grow up thinking they were not a part of Israel. Their separation from the other tribes could lead to this. The altar of witness would remind them that they were a part of the 12 tribes. They were keen to maintain unity with their brethren. These motives were good.
Response At A Wedding
I have been to a few weddings over the years. They are always times of joy and happiness. They are usually very solemn occasions too. This is probably why so many speeches are made. One of the speeches given at weddings is the response of the bridegroom. He has the honour of acknowledging how beautiful the bride and bridesmaids look. The bridal party go to a lot of trouble to look really pretty. It takes time, effort and usually a financial cost too. So the bridegroom responds to the effort and work they put in to make the occasion special. They give a word of praise and thanks to the bridal party. Their response is appropriate.
These tribes responded well to the challenge that Joshua gave them. They were thankful for God's spiritual and material blessings bestowed on them through Joshua. They committed themselves to obey the Lord. They determined to maintain unity with their brethren. What is our response to God’s blessings and bounty? Have you committed yourself to remain faithful to the Lord? Or have you taken these things for granted and drifted away from Him? Do you instruct your children to follow the Lord? Do they have the witness of a truly Christian home to help them in this? Teaching from the word and Christian music can help here! I pray that we will leave a good witness for our kids. I trust our example will lead them to the Lord.
Joshua looked back over 7 years and remembered the faithfulness of these 2 1/2 tribes. He praised them for their service. We too need to look back occasionally and see how we are going. Those who are running well should be encouraged and praised for this. We all need encouragement in our Christian life. Is your life worthy of praise because you have been obedient to God?
After Joshua remembered their faithful service and praised them he gave them a challenge too. He told them not to rest on their laurels. They had started well, but had to keep going the same way. In the Christian life we need to be reminded about our commitment to Christ, lest we fall away. Are you committed to Christ? Does love for the Lord motivate your service? Do you keep His commandments? Do you cling to Him above all else? Or have other things stolen your affections? Have possessions or friendships come between you and God?
The 2 1/2 tribes received abundant blessings and riches. They received abundant fruit for their labour. Is your Christian life one that God can bless? Are you seeking His kingdom and His righteousness first? Those who do receive their needs and God will reward them later.
The tribes responded well to Joshua’s challenge, by establishing a permanent reminder for their children. They were thankful for God’s blessings. They determined to remain faithful to God and maintain unity with their brethren. What is your response to God’s blessings and His challenge to remain faithful? Have you considered how to help your children cling to the Lord and serve Him? Are you setting a good example before them? Are you exposing them to the witness of the gospel at home and at Church? I pray that you will choose to do so!
2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.