Farewell to Arms - Part One
THEME: The Importance of the Closing Chapters
This week’s lessons remind us of the need to live for God in all the circumstances of life.
Most commentaries on the book of Joshua tend to get rather skimpy towards the second half, beginning with those long chapters in the middle that have to do with the partition of the land city by city among the 12 tribes. I suppose that’s understandable. It's hard to preach at any great length about the division of the land among the tribes. What then happens is that the momentum of the study of those chapters whisks the commentators on to the end of the book in at best one or two more chapters. That’s unfortunate because these last chapters have great lessons, some of the greatest in the book. And it’s particularly unfortunate if that kind of rapid treatment carries over into chapter 22. In this chapter, Joshua gives specific commands and a challenge to the 2½ eastern tribes who were going to dwell on the far side of the Jordan River. And the chapter contains an emotional parting and also an incident that grows out of that which is one of the most instructive incidents in the entire book.
Now we need to see that the theme of these last chapters, 22 through 24, is the necessity to live for God and to serve God in peace as well as in war. You have to remember that the tribes had done rather well, spiritually, during seven long years of military campaign. It's true that early in the invasion, they had made some mistakes. There had been disobedience at Jericho through Achan’s taking of some of the things that had been dedicated to God. And as a result of that, the armies suffered and lost the battle against Ai. In connection with that, Joshua also probably had a failing because he seems to have failed to stop and ask God for the plans of the battle, which if he had done, God would certainly have revealed the problem that existed in the camp. We also know that they were deceived later, not only Joshua but also the leaders of Israel, when the Gibeonites came and pretended to have come from a far country.
But as bad as these things were, at least they didn't involve all the people, and they did occur early in the campaign. Now, so far as we can tell, for the great bulk of these years of fighting the people really had been exemplary in their faithfulness to God and in their desire to serve Him. Now the time had come for peace, and the question in Joshua’s mind was, "Will they be as faithful to God in peace as they were in the times of war?" Oh, when the battle was on and when danger was great, it’s easy to see how that would force them to stay close to God in their devotional life. But in times of peace, it’s different. In times of peace, you relax and begin to let go. And some of the things that had been so important in the times of warfare just fade away.
So what you find again and again in these chapters—in Joshua’s word to the eastern tribes, in his farewell to the leaders, and then in the final chapter in his last challenge to the nation as a whole—is the great concern he had that they might remain faithful to God and serve no other God but Him only. When Joshua speaks to these eastern tribes, he has several things that he reminds them of. It's the sort of thing we need to be reminded of as well.
First of all, he reminds them of their past successes, that is, their obedience. He acknowledges that they had done everything that Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded. And they had obeyed him in everything he commanded. Thus he begins with a great commendation. He acknowledges what had happened in the past. The second thing he reminds them of is God’s blessing. They had obeyed God, and God had been faithful to them. God had fulfilled all His promises, and had given them rest in their land. There’s a connection between the two because it is as we are faithful to God and what He gives us to do that the promises of the Lord, those promises which are conditional upon our obedience, meet with their fulfillment. And this was the case here. They had obeyed, and God had been faithful.
- What reason does Dr. Boice give for why studies on the second half of Joshua do not get treated as thoroughly as the first half? Why is that a particular problem for chapter 22?
- What are the first two things Joshua wants to remind the eastern tribes of? What is the connection between them?
Can you think of any recent occasions where you have experienced God’s faithfulness toward you in response to your obedience?