JOSHUA 22, 23 and 24
From heroes to apparent ‘zeros’ in a short space of time: the Transjordan tribes had fought bravely and unselfishly to secure the territory for their brothers west of the Jordan, leaving behind their wives and children for a total period of at least seven years. Individuals were probably permitted periods of ‘leave’ when they could visit their families across the Jordan, but the fact remains that these Transjordan tribes paid a very high price for their wish to settle outside the original boundaries of Canaan. Joshua finally dismissed them, with a message of sincere congratulations and thanks, promising them rest and blessing as they went on their way, and warning them to keep close to the Law of the God, even as they were distant geographically. They took with them great wealth and large number of livestock, as their share of the plunder from their victories.
Having reached a suitable river crossing, someone had the bright idea of building a memorial altar at the crossing point to act as a symbolic reminder that Israel was united, and that the Transjordan tribes were a full part of the whole nation of Israel – just in case someone forgot that fact a hundred years hence! The West of Jordan tribes got to hear of this and wrongly assumed that their brothers had instantly fallen into idolatry and had in mind to sacrifice to some local false gods. First, they panicked and called out the army, and then they arranged for a deputation of tribal representatives to make enquiries to establish the true facts. This was a wise move, in fact, since the true nature of the project was completely innocent and done in good faith. The passionate explanation by the Transjordan tribal leaders satisfied everyone and they rejoiced in the Lord’s blessing as they parted.
Joshua, by now a very old man, realized that his death was near and summoned all the tribal representatives and leader to give them his final orders. He stressed that God has done all the hard work by fighting for Israel, and that they themselves had really done very little to achieve victory. The key for the future was to be faithful in listening to the Lord God and to obey him in everything found in his Law. The worst thing they could do would be to associate with the remaining Canaanites in the land, intermarrying and showing an interest in their idols. If Israel did do such things, they would perish from the land even quicker than the people that they themselves had displaced!
Joshua recounted the entire story of Israel’s history, beginning with Abraham’s father and ending where they stood that very day. A wise people would learn lessons from their past mistakes and make the right choices in the future. Joshua again got them to declare that they would certainly follow the Lord and would throw away their foreign gods and idols. They reaffirmed the covenant with the Lord at Shechem. Everything was going so well for Israel.
Three dead men were then buried in the Promised Land: Joshua himself, Eleazar the High Priest, and the mummified bones of Joseph that had been brought out of Egypt. Each body was buried in the part of the Promised Land that was now owned by the tribe it belonged to.
When you do things God’s way, they turn out well. He rewards those who serve him faithfully.