06(Joshua 01,10-18) Bowing Out Instead of Down
(Joshua 1:10-18). With the Lord’s encouragement of Joshua, he gives commands to ready the nation to cross over into hostile territory, and yet territory already promised to them. They prepared for battle, all the while being told the victory was to be theirs. The bulk of this section chooses to focus on the tribes of Reuben and Gad. To understand why, we need to journey back to an event that occurred under the leadership of Moses. Following a stunning victory over the Medianites, the tribes of Reuben and Gad made a proposal to Moses. We find that proposal and the response of Moses in Numbers chapter 32.
(32:1-5). The Promised Land would be great, but where they were now was good enough. It met their needs. They were satisfied with things as they were. They could raise a family here, make a living here. It suited them.
(32:6). Moses responds with a rebuke of their pragmatic decision. To make such a decision had repercussions beyond themselves. It would mean increased work and danger for the rest of the tribes as they struggled to complete the task. Reuben and Gad had enjoyed the benefit of mutual protection and provision during the 40 year journey together. They had benefited from the sacrifice of all. But now others would have to fill in the gaps. Others would not enjoy the benefit of their shared sacrifice.
The land upon which Reuben and Gad were to settle was given as part of the whole plan of God. It was a blessing, but the blessing was part of the command to take the entire Promised Land. This attitude was not some act of humility, or sincerely dissenting from the plans of the majority. It was sin.
(32:8-15). Moses had seen this sinful behavior before. Forty years ago, their fathers had chosen Egypt over the Promised Land and the will of God. They weighed their options and opposed going any further. They were exercising their desire to dissent from the plans and vision that had gotten them to Kadesh.
(32:16-19). The tribes came to Moses and realized their error. They pledge to send the men to battle to complete the mission. Their vow not to return to this land until the job is complete. They became better warriors because they are not burdened with family as they travel and fight.
(32:20-27). Moses accepts their offer, but with a stern warning in verse 23. If they do not go and battle until the victory is won, they won’t even get to enjoy what they have now.
In verse 23, what sin is Moses speaking about? Not adultery, or drunkenness, but the sin of not doing what you are supposed to do for the Lord.
It is a dangerous thing to settle down in the Lord’s kingdom while there are souls to save and battles to be fought. There is yet unclaimed ground. We have a fine church facility. It is new, lovely and has many conveniences. What more do we need? The choir sounds fine. Our Sunday School lessons are enjoyable. What more do we need? And there is the danger!
Group leaders will not participate in training and meetings because they are comfortable with their present style and preoccupations. They have settled east of the Jordan, and are unwittingly saying to the rest, “You go and fight those battles.”
Preachers quit learning and settle for the sermon file prepared over the years. The passion that once set the pulpit afire is quenched by the acceptable message that pleases all, offends none, and offers no direction. The “country preacher” title has less to do with location and more to do with laziness. Those who like their secure salary, their status in the community, the friendships they have developed look around and decide the land they live in east of the Jordan is a good land. Other churches may do battle with Satan in the community, but they will gain their friends with their illusions of standing for the truth as though dwindling attendance is what the head of the church, Jesus, had in mind all along.
Deacons settle for the title but no longer engage in servant ministry. Those who settle for what has always been leave serving a growing church to the fewer who continue on in battle. “I will find a need to serve” is replaced by, “If you need me, call me.”
Who simply chooses which part of the church to support, as though church were a buffet setting? It is an odd thing to participate in the wilderness years of church life only to settle when the years of conquering are before you. Who among us will watch as the church embarks on a ministry and actually choose to disagree with the leadership of God’s Spirit on the basis of personal conviction?
Well, brother, it sure is personal conviction that keeps you from being a part, because if you were led by Holy Spirit’s conviction you would arm yourselves for battle and join the fray.
There are battles that will not gain you an ounce of comfort, but you are called fight alongside the rest. There are chores and volunteer assignments that are not personally beneficial, but you are still called to fight. “It must not be God’s will for me to teach or I wouldn’t enjoy class I’m in so much”.
“I don’t have little children any more; let someone else work the nursery.”
“I like Sunday mornings here, but Sunday nights I found something more appealing, something good enough.”
“I’ve always given the same and it hasn’t hurt me yet. Besides, I might not agree with everything the church does with the money. Why should I give money to something I don’t need? Isn’t what I give good enough?”
Do these statements reflect personal opinions? You bet. Do they represent sincerely held personal convictions? Of course. Then, is it sin? Absolutely (Numbers 32:23)!
What is the big deal? The big deal is in verse 7. When you choose to disengage by not showing up or by skipping meetings or by bickering, you discourage the warriors. We have no great warriors in churches. We have weak warriors who win great victories through Christ. As weak warriors, discouragement is always at hand. Pastors, youth workers, music ministers, children’s directors, teachers and volunteers are all a hair’s-breath from settling east of the Jordan. And if the warriors don’t fight, battles are not won, the kingdom does not expand, and you get the church you wanted, comfortable, settled, predictable and easy to manage. Only know this: to do so, to discourage the others by your own disengagement is a SIN, and your sin will find you out.
This is not about numbers. God has never needed numbers. Look at Gideon. God took an army of thousands and whittled it down to 300 before it was the right size. It is not about having more people involved in kingdom work. It is about having everybody involved in kingdom work. However many that is, everybody is to be engaged in the battle because everybody has benefited from the efforts that led to things as they are.
What this was about was not numbers, but discouragement. By the way, that is why all of us are commanded to keep coming to church. That’s right – commanded.
Heb 10:24 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,”
Heb 10:25 “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
We are not to neglect meeting together in assembly because in that setting we are free to encourage those who need a lift, in that setting we can “stir up love”, in that setting we learn of “good works” of service to perform for each other. When you neglect the assembly, you take your ease, but your absence becomes a source of discouragement to the rest. You may like that power, but it is not Christ-like.
What are we to do? Look at the challenge of Moses again in verses 20-22. God is less interested in where you choose to settle down than He is in you continuing to serve Him. While there is a kingdom to conquer for Christ, you are to help. “But there will always be a kingdom to win until Christ returns.” Congratulations! Your first vision!
What are we to do? Follow the example of Reuben and Gad. Look back at Joshua 1:16-18. (Read)
They obeyed the command of the Lord for their life, and they encouraged Joshua. What had said to Joshua they echoed. By obedience and action they gave him strength to be a mighty warrior. They sacrificed comfort to help others. They helped the rest win the battle. They encouraged rather than discourage.
You have the same power to strengthen and encourage. The question is, will you bow out or bow down?