JOSHUA 22:1 – 24:33 and LUKE 7:1–35
Joshua calls the 2 ½ tribes that agreed to settle on the eastern side of Jordan to commend them in fulfilling the Word of the Lord in keeping His charge during the time of Israel’s possessing the land in Canaan. The Lord was promising them Rest as they could now could go back over the Jordan and enjoy the fruits of their inheritance. Joshua also gives them instruction and warning to keep God’s Law and commandments and to serve Him with all their heart and soul. This is the same commandment the Lord gave His disciples when He was asked as to what was the greatest of the commandments (Math 22:37). They were sent back with great riches and spoils from their enemies.
Once they came upon the borders of Jordan the 2 ½ tribes decided to build an altar which was meant to be a testimony of what God had done. The problem is the children of Israel, once they heard about it did not see it that way. Here is a problem that could have easily gotten out of hand. How was this situation handled? Are there lessons that can be drawn from this example that would prove helpful for us today? In verses 11-20 Israel expressed great concern as they discussed amongst themselves in going to war against their brethren. Why would they even think of such a thing? What was their big concern? In reading of Israel’s response they were mindful of what happened during the period of Balaam (vs 17). They also were reminded as to what happened regarding the sin of Achan at Ai (vs 20). These were legitimate concerns and they assumed that the 2 ½ tribes were building an altar in rebellion to God (Deu 13:12-15).
If the 2 ½ tribes were actually building an altar in turning away from God they would have been justified in going out against them. This was not the case however. The 2 ½ tribes made very clear their intent as to why they built a memorial to the Lord. That it would serve as a witness to future generations. Phineas, and those who were with him were more than satisfied with the responses from the 2 ½ tribes. It came down to a communication breakdown. Herein is one of the key lessons to learn from this event. Israel misjudged the intentions of the 2 ½ tribes. It was a reasonable concern however if they were to follow through and war against their brethren there would have been disastrous consequences.
Do we ever misjudge the intentions of a person or a situation? Have we ever made assumptions and held fast to them only to find out they were misgiven? Have we ever judged a person, a leader or a situation without knowing all of the details? I believe we could answer yes to all of the above. It is one thing to have this experience on smaller matters where the fallout may not be so serious but we cannot allow it to happen at this level; as seen in this example with the 2 ½ tribes and Israel. The children of Israel consisting of Phineas and other leaders first approached the 2 ½ tribes to communicate their concerns. This was wisdom as they were able to share the sentiments of all of Israel. They cited the recent experiences of Balaam and Achan to further support their reasoning’s for coming after them. They did not just go up to attack randomly or foolishly. The 2 1/2 tribes responded wisely. They acknowledged that they too share the concerns of offending God and they would not put themselves into such a position. This went a long way in disarming the concerns of Israel. The 2 ½ tribes did not respond flippantly or dismissively to Israel. The manner of their response showed respect to Israel’s concerns. The result was a diffusing of a potential disaster. We do well to model this approach ourselves. We may not always understand the reasons why people; be it leaders, churches or acquaintances do what they do but it is wisdom to seek the Lord in how best to respond. If the 2 ½ tribes were making an altar (like Jeroboam later did) they would have been justified in going to war as seen from Deu 13:12-15. Likewise the 2 ½ tribes could have taken offense in what Israel did in their coming against them. Their initial response (vs 22) demonstrated to Israel that they well understood their concerns. This allowed them to make the case as to why they built the altar. The end result was pleasing and peaceful to all. There is a great lesson in learning to respond rightly, even when wronged, offended or misunderstood. The Lord is well able to deal with a right or wrong of a situation; what He oftentimes looks for is how we respond at such times.
Joshua is now very old and is in the position of giving final instruction to the children of Israel. We actually see many similarities between Moses and Joshua in their final remarks to the people. First and foremost he proclaims the Lord’s faithfulness in how He has fought on their behalf. This would encourage those who have yet to possess their allotted inheritance. We also need to be reminded that the possessing of their inheritance is a picture of what the 2nd coming of Christ will be like. The Lord will come forth conquering and He will conquer. We know that the Lord will be accompanied by a group of overcomers who will possess territory in the Millennium and will be able to retain it. The primary difference between this war of possession and that of the 2nd coming is that those who accompany Christ will be overcomers. They will be those who fulfil the exhortations of both Moses and Joshua when they emphasized the keeping the laws and commandments of God. This was something that Israel could not do in the Old Testament.
Jos 23:6 Be ye therefore 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;
The overcomers of the 2nd coming of Christ will fulfil the above criteria. They are those who have allowed the law to be established within their hearts (Jer 31:33). Joshua continues to make clear that the Lord will fight for them and that no man will be able to stand against them as they love and adhere to the Lord’s ways. One man who stands with the Lord shall chase 1000 of their enemies. The warning is clear if they were to turn to other nations and gods or to take on their ways. They have already had enough experiences to know this is true.
The treachery of Balaam’s prophetic ministry made allowance for the very thing Joshua is warning them about. It is wonderful in having the Lord fight our battles but do we ever come into a position of taking God for granted? It is sad to note that Israel will later fall into the traps and snares that Joshua speaks of (vs 13). Israel was without excuse due to the example and leadership that they served under. Moses was a man faithful in his entire house (Heb 3:5). Joshua fulfilled all that God gave Him to do (vs 14) yet their final instructions would not be heeded by the generations to come. Joshua, like Moses spoke of a day when they would violate God’s commandments; where they will begin serving other gods and eventually perish out of the land. This happened due to their inability to keep the law. There would be a lawgiver who would one day come to fulfil and raise the standards of the laws they could not keep. He will be the messenger and fulfilment of the New Covenant. The name of Joshua is synonymous with Jesus. Joshua is also a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. We, as New Testament believers have the testimony and example of Moses and Joshua. We have the testimony and example of Israel, knowing what happens when there is failure in keeping God’s commandments and ways. We as New Testament believers have the example of Jesus and the same empowerment (Holy Spirit) that enabled Christ to hit the mark (Heb 9:14). We are without excuse. The opportunity to be overcomers and part of the bride of Christ is presented to all but who will heed? Who will pay the price in ascending God’s holy hill (Psa 15, 24)? The words of exhortation from both Moses and Joshua are for us today and they can be appropriated. The Lord of hosts that was with Joshua and Israel is going to come as a conquering king in these last days. Let us rehearse the experience that Joshua had with the Lord in Joshua 5:13-15. The Lord of hosts presented Himself before Joshua being girded with a sword. This served as a key in unlocking the truth concerning circumcision. It served as a key in understanding how Joshua would be able to go forth conquering in the name of the Lord on behalf of Israel. It is the message of the New Covenant. The key is in yielding to the sword (The Word) before going forth wielding the sword in the land. This approach will help ensure that we adhere to the exhortation and warnings that Moses and Joshua present to both to Israel and to us.
In verses 1-13 the Lord prompts Joshua to give a brief review of the history of God’s dealings with man from Genesis to their present day. There are many such occasions in scripture where an overview or rehearsing is done so as to give perspective and encouragement to God’s people. This is why reflection and journaling is so important. It allows a person to reflect and see how God worked through difficult times. If God was able to meet a crucial need in the past He then is well able to meet the challenges and needs of today. We are creatures who forget quickly. This could apply to forgetting the good things God has done or quickly forgetting the warnings and consequences of disobedience. The psalmist gives a good history lesson in Psa 78. The Lord rehearses the good things of God to the two men on the Emmaus road (Luke 24). One of the best Old Testament surveys can be found in Stephen’s declaration to the crowds in Acts 7. His 53 verse summation was concise, powerful and to the point. The Apostle Paul, one of the greatest enemies of the early church was about to have a conversion. There is great power in reflection both in being warned and or to be encouraged. Joshua, himself had experienced many triumphs through his years with Moses as well as in his own leadership role. He also witnessed the failure in entering into the land, the fallout from Balaam’s ministry and personal pain of the loss at Ai. His life coupled with the earlier history from the time of Noah would make a remarkable testimony. There is something about the final words of a great leader before they pass on. It is the next set of words that perhaps Joshua is best known for and it is for good reason.
Jos 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
One of the characteristics that distinguishes us as believers are the choices we make in life. When we stand before God we will account for the choices we have made. What is it that determines the choices we make in life? Ultimately, our choices reflect what is in our heart. Is that a surprise after the constant referrals to the Law and the New Covenant? We are a product of what is in our heart. Our choices will reflect what is in the heart. This is why an uncircumcised heart is vulnerable and dangerous in the evil days coming upon the earth.
God is after a pure stream and that stream will emerge from a people whose heart is after God. Our hearts will polarize to the message that is coming forth, whether it is an Absalom or a son of Zadok. Joshua made a determined declaration that he and his household will follow after the Lord. He makes no room for middle ground; it is either serving God or the gods of which they dispossessed. It is a defining moment. It resembles a statement that Moses made as he neared the end of his life (Deu 30:19). He too makes clear that there is to be no middle ground. There is a choice between death and life. “Choose Life”. Now that sounds simple to do but it is the little choices we make daily that ultimately determines whether we choose life or death; whether we and our household serve the Lord or the gods of the world. We have seen this already in the journey of Israel.
Israel failed the big tests due to failing in the day to day issues of life. May we not be deceived into thinking that the same cannot happen to us. There is another defining moment that we are familiar with that involves Elijah. He came to the point where he said “How long will ye halt between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21)? If God be God then serve Him, If Baal be your god then serve him.” It is one or the other with no middle ground.
Finally, the Lord Himself makes clear that we have to choose when He addressed the church of Laodicea. We are to be either hot and on fire for the Lord or cold and indifferent against Him. There is no middle ground; the Lord will not allow it (Rev 3:16). Finally, we see the two streams that flow at the very end of Revelation. Which stream will we be flowing in (Rev 22:11)? It is a wonderful testimony to be able to come to the end of one’s life and make such a strong and firm declaration. Joshua was saying that he had led them to the best of his ability. He taught them well and finished that which God had given him to do. The decision now rests with his audience and with the generations to come. It is a declaration that resonates loudly to us today. Will we be willing and able to stand strong in these days of great apostasy and pressure? Will we be able to also say that no matter what may come, I will serve the Lord?
The people responded that they would not forsake the Lord. They give a brief history of their experiences with God and declare that they too will serve the Lord faithfully (vs 16-18). Joshua reiterated that God would not forgive their sins if they choose to forsake Him to which the people replied that they would never do so. Joshua then made a covenant with the people and recorded their words in the Book of the Law as a memorial. The people then departed into their respective inheritances. It had to be an emotional experience as they were on one hand entering into their inheritances and knowing that this will be the last time they would see Joshua, the man who had been their leader and guide for so many years. The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders that outlived him. A leader who was respected was Eleazar, the priest. You see Eleazar, the son of Aaron buried in the same hill that would one day pertain to Phineas, his son. Phineas being the one who executed God’s judgment regarding the sin of Balaam. Phineas was the priest who had the promise of the everlasting priesthood. Though Phineas was a priest from the Levitical order he yet serves as a type of Melchizedek, who is of the greater order.
Jesus is entering into Capernaum and is met by some elders of the Jews who make a request on behalf of a Gentile centurion. This centurion was a friend of the Jews; one who Jewish leaders were willing to make a direct appeal unto the Lord for. This centurion had a servant, whom he loved and was near to death. The centurion must have been someone who had a love for the Jews and for the teachings of what they believed. It is an amazing appeal that they make on his behalf to the Lord. It also signifies the Gospel message that would soon go forth to the Gentiles after His resurrection.
Jesus went with the Jewish elders towards the house of this centurion. Amazingly, when the centurion heard that Jesus was drawing near, he sent friends to Jesus to tell Him to stop, to not come further for he was not worthy to receive someone like Him into his home (vs 6). This response was most unusual seeing that he was not a Jew. Yet, he seemed to be one who was much better versed than the Jews as to who Christ really was. He is displaying great humility and reverence towards the Lord. There is no presumption or asserting of his authority to receive such a one as Christ into his home. This counters the entitlement mentality that is often seen in today’s Christianity. We also see the great concern and love that the centurion had for his servant which further speaks towards his character. This centurion also had an understanding of kingdom principles in speaking on the subject of authority by reason of his position (vs 7-8).
The centurion’s description of authority replicates the scene that Ezekiel sees in how the kingdom of heaven is administered (Eze 1). This man had an understanding of several kingdom principles. He demonstrated humility in seeing himself as unworthy in the Lord coming to his house. He expressed great belief in who Jesus was by saying that all He needed to do was to say a Word, and his servant could be healed. He also understood the functioning of authority and was able to relate to the authority structure of heaven. This man also loved his servant and was willing to go to great lengths to see him be healed. One can understand in how the Lord would be so moved to not only send forth that Word of healing but to cite this man’s faith publicly. You get a sense that Jesus was making the point, Look, this is exactly what I am looking for from Israel, my people.
There are treasures and keys for all of us in this interaction between Jesus and the centurion. This account is interesting due to the fact that Jesus never actually met this centurion. In Mathew’s rendering (Math 8:5-10) one would get the impression that Jesus and the centurion actually met each other. Luke’s version elaborates on the fact that it was messenger’s that met the Lord on the centurion’s behalf. We may not have the privilege of meeting Jesus face to face in this life but that does not limit the Lord’s ability to hear and minister. The Holy Spirit is our comforter who makes the person of Jesus so very real to us. Jesus is our advocate before the Father, interceding on our behalf. The beautiful flow of the Trinity is an expression of how true authority operates. This centurion was most extraordinary in so many ways.
The Lord entered a city called Nain and was greatly moved when he saw a widow mourning the loss of her only son. This was a case that must have been well known in this city for many people were mourning alongside her. This son was a man and not a child so it probably represented a financial loss to this mother as well. What is noteworthy here is that Jesus had great compassion upon her and wanted to help. Scripture does not indicate that His help was sought for; He sought to do this out of sheer compassion for this woman.
Rom 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
We often mention on how the Lord is moved by expressions of faith by those in need; how virtue comes forth from Him when touched by those who are desperate. Here we see Jesus so moved with compassion that He chooses to act on His own. Mercy and compassion are prerogatives of God. When one is gripped with compassion they are immersed in meeting the need in the life of another person. This is why Jesus flowed in miracles. He was invested in meeting the need of others, being totally divested of self. Can you imagine this scene? Jesus arrives at the city at the very time of this man’s funeral where everyone is in mourning. He goes to this woman and tells her to weep not (vs 13). Jesus, with authority over death, then tells the dead man to arise. He arose and began to speak. What a scene this must have been? What a reunion that must have taken place between mother and son. The crowds that were gathered had to be astonished, in fear and filled with great joy. This quality of compassion is one we need to seek to have woven into our lives. Jesus surely made a difference in the life of this mother, her son and the residents of Nain on this day.
Jud 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
The Lord then speaks at length concerning the greatness of John the Baptist after a few of his disciples came seeking after Him. The Lord validates the ministry of John as well as His own ministry. What was it about John that you went into the wilderness to see? A man in the latest apparel likened to those who feast in king’s palaces? To see a man feasting on sumptuous food, living an appealing and high society type life? No, they sought after a prophet, and not just any prophet. This man was the forerunner who preceded the Lord. He is the prophet who was alluded to in Malachi and Isaiah. He is also a very strong type of the ministry of Elijah that will be seen upon the earth in the last days. John the Baptist had a message of preparing the way of the Lord as well as the message of Restoration and Repentance. His message was able to cut through the veneer and get to the root. These are some of the reasons why the Lord highly esteemed John before this audience. This affirmation of John helped to encourage those who had been baptized by him (vs 29). It also polarized those who rejected John prompting further rage against Jesus. In both the ministries of John and Jesus you have no middle ground. Their messages were straight-forward which resulted in people being on one side of the fence or the other. A similar scenario will play out in these last days.
The Lord is following up on his previous discourse involving the Pharisees and lawyers. This seems to be a tense affair after the Lord makes a line of demarcation amongst his followers based on their acceptance or non-acceptance of the ministry of John the Baptist. The Lord laid down a marker by speaking of John in such glowing terms. Those who received him were delighted to hear the Words of the Lord. Those who rejected John would have been indicted by His Words. Jesus goes on to speak as to what the men of this generation are like. He was referring to the detractors of John and Himself as being like children (not in a good sense) making a mockery of their respective ministries (vs 31-34). Is this not the world’s view towards Christianity today? Christians are mocked in entertainment and in many other forms of media. It is now to the point where one who holds a Christian view can be charged with hate crimes against humanity. This powerful overwhelming force can be intimidating to believers. Today’s culture warriors are able to creep into all strata’s of society to inject its poison and contempt for Christianity. Jesus did not hold back; He stood firm and resolute. He was not foolishly attacking His accusers but responded in wisdom at appropriate times. The Lord was able to expose the hypocrisy of His accusers at unique moments like when the woman was caught in the act of adultery (John 8:7).
The sword of the Lord is not be randomly wielded in the air but needs to be utilized in wisdom. It first must be appropriated in our own life before we can effectively use the sword (The Word) to deal in the lives of others (Math 7:1-5). Let us never forget in how the Lord (as the Living Word) responded with the Word, whenever He was challenged by Satan as well as His enemies. The attacks against Christians are only going to intensify in the days before us. The Word of God helps to give perspective, enabling us to see the bigger picture. There is a dangerous movement in much of today’s Christendom where the Word is becoming de-emphasized. Teaching of the Word is being substituted for more appealing programs or doctrines that tend to diminish the message of the cross. We must never lose sight of the need for Sound Biblical teaching that strikes the proper balance.
Jesus continued to confound his audience by accepting an invitation to dine in the house of a Pharisee. This Pharisee, named Simon more than likely had intentions of trying to trap Jesus in some way. He feigned interest and was courteous but as we shall see had certain misgivings about Christ. While dining with this Pharisee a woman entered the room with an alabaster box. She ministered to Christ recognizing Him for who He was. She was weeping, wiping His feet with her tears. She also kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment. Simon, thought in his heart that if Jesus was really a prophet, he would know that this woman is a prostitute. The Lord discerned Simon’s heart and then used this opportunity to share on the subject of forgiveness. He relates a story of two men who had been forgiven different sums and then asks Simon to answer as to whom would love the creditor the most? Simon rightly answered that the one who was forgiven the most. Jesus then went on to show the contrast between the woman and Simon as to the fruits of those whom have been forgiven. The woman ministered unto Jesus in much greater fashion than Simon due to her being forgiven much. If one comes to know that they have been forgiven much they will love much, speaking of one’s love for the Lord. If one does not recognize their need for forgiveness they will then love little, speaking of one’s measure of love for God (vs 44-47). Jesus then goes on to say to the woman that “Thy sins are forgiven” This perhaps can serve as an example of what John the Baptist meant when he made the following statement:
Mat 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
This woman ministered to the Lord in a way that demonstrated her sorrow for her sin while recognizing the Lord for who He was. This is why He can say to her, “thy sins are forgiven”. This further stunned those who were gathered at the table when Jesus spoke on forgiving sins. Who can do such a thing? Once again the Lord is establishing before the people who He is, the only begotten Son of the Father. Sinners who needed the great physician were those who heard Him gladly, they responded in acts of contrition and repentance. The Pharisees and other learned men looked at Jesus with greater scorn and contempt.