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21 March 2020 – Joshua 1:12-15

But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you after he said, ‘The LORD your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the LORD your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.” Joshua 1:12-15

 Adolph Harstad writes:

Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh were the first tribes to possess their land. After Israel rebelled at the report of the spies sent into the land from the south (Numbers 14), and after thirty-eight subsequent years of wandering, the nation approached Canaan from the east. While en route to this eastern port of entry into Canaan, Israel conquered a large part of Transjordan – the land east of the river. Transjordan was cattle country with abundant grazing land. Since Reuben and Gad were tribes with large herds and flocks, the ranges of the Transjordan were appealing. So they requested of Moses, “If we have found favor in your eyes, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not cause us to cross the Jordan.

Transjordan was not originally considered part of the land of promise proper. This partially explains why Moses was at first incensed at the request. He responded, “Shall your brothers go to war while you stay here? Why do you hinder the heart of the sons of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD has given them? … And behold you have arisen in the place of your fathers as a brood of sinful men to stir up yet again the burning anger of the LORD against Israel” (Nm 32:6, 7, 14). Those sharp words seem to reflect that the tribes did not originally plan to help their brothers conquer Canaan proper, the territory west of the Jordan.

Numbers 32 records that Reuben and Gad then made a promise. If they were granted the land east of the Jordan, they would first build pens for their livestock and cities for their families. Then their fighting men would cross the Jordan with the other tribes and fight with them to conquer Canaan. Only after that would they return to their homes east of the river. Moses softened his words and approved their request on the condition that they honor their promise to help their brothers  …

As a man to his brothers – not in the tone of suspicion or accusation – Joshua now reminds these tribes of the command of Moses. He appeals to their sense of brotherhood and their communion in the faith. Joshua is paraphrasing the words of Moses from Numbers 32:20-22 and Deuteronomy 3:18-20. A key concept that Moses had presented in his command was that of the LORD giving rest: “until the LORD gives rest to your brothers as [He has to] you.” Joshua now picks up on that concept by first summarizing Moses’ words, “The LORD your God is granting you rest, and He has given you this land.” And then encouraging, “You shall help them until the LORD will give rest to your brothers as [He has to] you and they – they to – will take possession of the land which the LORD your God is giving to them.”

The two and a half tribes are enjoying the God-given rest of physical and spiritual security. They are settled after forty years on the move. Their pagan enemies, with their enticing idols and fertility worship practices, are defeated and eradicated. These tribes now possess their land from the LORD. They enjoy an obvious advantage over the other tribes. Now if they love their brothers and neighbors, they will not be satisfied until all Israel shares in that rest, and so fulfill the covenant of Moses: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” …

Will Reuben, Gad and Manasseh honor their promise to help their brothers enter into that rest? Or will they claim that earlier promises can sometimes be left unfulfilled and discarded in light of life’s later realities? Now that they themselves have what they want, will they, like a dissatisfied and selfish spouse, beak their solemn vow before God and ignore the welfare of their own flesh and blood? Much is at stake in their response. Because God is dealing with the whole covenant nation as a unit, Moses had warned the two and a half tribes, “If you turn away from following Him [the LORD], He will again abandon him [Israel] in the desert, and you will destroy all this people” (Numbers 32:15). See Joshua 22:4 for the … conclusion. For this era of salvation history, God’s grace prevails over human sin and temptation. May it be so fur us as well! 

MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 6

Q. How many persons are there in the godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

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