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Joshua has just divided up the land to the twelve tribes, the people have rest from war, things look great and then comes Joshua chapter 22. This is about a five minute read, so you're going to want to read along to get the picture of where we are going. Let's Joshua 22.

I. Joshua's Caution ? Be Very Careful To Pursue God. It's significant that the words Joshua gives to the three parting tribes are not about politics or war, they are about worship. In essence he directs them to have a zeal for the glory of God that is guided by truth, love and service. 1. Truth ? follow the commandments and the law, literally the Mitzvah and the Torah. The former, the commandments or Mitzvah, refer to the broader statements of guidance, like the Ten Commandments. The Torah or law refers to the greater body of teaching such at that contained in Leviticus Numbers and Deuteronomy. ?Be very careful to observe?? is the caution and it is a caution to be zealous. Go after it, know it, keep it, if you will pursue God, this is your compass. Otherwise you will pursue everything.

2. Love ? the Hebrew word used here can have a very broad range of meaning that is to be determined by context. This context would define the word ?love? as, 'to breathe after or to desire deeply.? The man who sighs with love for the woman of his heart has a ?breathe after? kind of love. Joshua is saying that to . . .

Joshua has just divided up the land to the twelve tribes, the people have rest from war, things look great and then comes Joshua chapter 22. This is about a five minute read, so you're going to want to read along to get the picture of where we are going. Let's Joshua 22.



I. Joshua's Caution ? Be Very Careful To Pursue God. It's significant that the words Joshua gives to the three parting tribes are not about politics or war, they are about worship. In essence he directs them to have a zeal for the glory of God that is guided by truth, love and service. 1. Truth ? follow the commandments and the law, literally the Mitzvah and the Torah. The former, the commandments or Mitzvah, refer to the broader statements of guidance, like the Ten Commandments. The Torah or law refers to the greater body of teaching such at that contained in Leviticus Numbers and Deuteronomy. ?Be very careful to observe?? is the caution and it is a caution to be zealous. Go after it, know it, keep it, if you will pursue God, this is your compass. Otherwise you will pursue everything.

2. Love ? the Hebrew word used here can have a very broad range of meaning that is to be determined by context. This context would define the word ?love? as, 'to breathe after or to desire deeply.? The man who sighs with love for the woman of his heart has a ?breathe after? kind of love. Joshua is saying that to pursue God will call you to obey the Torah which in turns invites you to deeply desire God. This is the heart of worship, being driven by truth to thirst after God, to alternately gasp after Him like a man coming up for air and then to deeply take in like a breath on a warm spring day. May it be that God is like air to me. This is my worship. 3. Service ? Joshua tells them to hold fast to God and to serve him with all your heart and soul. That's a bent knee heart that recognizes the dryness of sin and lets go of it in order to take hold of God. In fact the word there is translated ?cling to? or ?cleave?. It's the same word used in Genesis 2:24 describing how a man shall leave his father and mother and shall ?cleave?, bond or connect to his wife that in essence the two become one flesh. It reminds us of how the church is the bride of Christ and how we are one with Christ. This is the source of how we will ever serve God, it is by being connected to Him and all our heart and soul used of Him as we pursue Him. It will be that your whole life is a worship service as you cleave to God.



II. The Caution of The Ten Tribes- Be Very Careful to Pursue God. There is about 40,000 soldiers in the three tribes as they make their way down the hill side and then down the steep descent to the Jordan river . Then, in verse 10 it states, they built a large altar by the banks of the Jordan . Word must have traveled quickly because before the three tribes could disband to their lands, Eleazar's son and the ten princes representing each of the other tribes show up. Clearly this was a serious issue and there were a great number of things at stake, but don't miss the bottom line statement behind their actions?Be Very Careful to Pursue God. I suppose you could paraphrase that and say, Be very careful How you pursue God. That really was the issue wasn't it, the way they had done what they had done was more the problem. Consider a number of observations regarding their actions: 1. Fear anything that resembles idolatry or that could lead to it. The second altar by the banks of the Jordan looked like it was going to be used for sacrifices. This would be a capital offense, a death sentence, that's why Israel responded the way they did. Deuteronomy 12:5-7 commanded that they have but one place for sacrifice and the eating of the offerings. Idolatry can be a slippery thing, like water snake that's extremely poisonous and slippery in your hands, hold it behind the head firmly. Colossians 3:5 says, 'therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed which amounts to? Idolatry.? Be very careful how you pursue God, especially as idolatry moves past you.

2. Self preservation requires quick action. The ten tribes believed that if this other altar was used for sacrifices the repercussion could be upon their heads as well as the offenders. God punished Achans? family as well as Achan, the nation of Israel lost 24,000 people at Peor because of the actions of a few. Self preservation refers to not just me but all those around me. Sin has a way of transferring its? effect. Because of this we need to move quickly, don't procrastinate, don't dodge or hide, don't wound carelessly but go and speak to the other quickly. Just as these ambassadors were sent, we too function as ambassadors for Christ, in evangelism and in reconciliation. Be careful how you pursue God.

3. God's grace is greater than all our sin? The ten princes present their case, calling the three tribes to see the danger that exists and then?Grace. If your land is unclean to you, possibly referring the fact that the Tabernacle is not there, then come and live with us. We?ll give you some of our land. The wonder of grace and the power of God through that to overcome differences is beautiful. Just think of all the hymns and songs that proclaim grace as the door to life physically and spiritually and to life eternally in Christ. It is the means by which God has caught your attention, engaged your mind, directed your body, renewed your soul and redeemed your whole person. You owe your very life to Jesus Christ who has skillfully thrown the rope of grace about you and drawn you to Himself.

III. The Caution of the Three Tribes ? Be Very Careful to Pursue God. There is a great irony here, the very thing that the three tribes had in mind for why they built the altar by the Jordan became a very real threat to obtaining it. What they deeply desired was to pursue God and for their children to pursue God, hence the marker that would serve to remind and affirm that they belonged to Israel and were partakers of the altar at Shiloh . The misinterpretation of that intent almost destroyed them. Consider their response to the situation.

1. They rest in the Sovereign Omniscience of God. Look at verse 20, twice they invoke the name of God as their witness that they were not intending evil. It is a soft answer to a hard accusation and we all need to learn the value of such a response.

2. They feared for their children. The whole intent of the altar was that their children would always pursue the heart of God. Here's the catch, if the children were for some reason denied access to the ordinances of worship such as sacrifice and the eating together of that with the other peoples, then they would be at risk of drying up spiritually. The sacrifices were there to direct them in their relationship with God, cut that off and they would drift. I suppose a modern day parallel is when we minimize the partaking of communion, we go months without doing so. What begins to happen is the same thing these people feared? isolation, distraction, accusations, idolatry, spiritual drought.

3. They named the altar ?Witness?. It seems that God sets up a number of memorial markers that are like ?Witness?. There is the marker of marriage that points to the communion of a man and woman for all to see. There are the markers of faith and integrity, love and generosity, hope and hard work, peace and convictions? all these are like memorial markers. Then there is the marker of the Lord's Supper and Baptism. They too stand like ?Witness?, proclaiming a communion with God as partakers of Christ. It is again a call and a caution, be very careful to pursue God through such witness.

In the end it's clear that Joshua, the Ten tribes and Three Tribes all wanted the same thing, despite the apparent contradictions. They all issued to each other the same invitation, let us too be very careful to pursue God.

Rev. Spence Laycock pastors at Church of the Open Bible, Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.
www.churchoftheopenbible.ab.ca