(Joshua 13:1) It had been a long and arduous five years. The men were separated from their wives and children, parents and friends. They experienced the horror of war and savored the sweetness of victory. It had been a long and arduous five years but now the war was over; it was time to go home.
The war was over but their work was not. The boundaries of the land were secured; ahead was the task of clearing out the middle. The land belonged to the Israelites but not all the previous residents were ready to move.
God gave His people a gift and task. The land was theirs; that was the gift. They, with God’s help, now had to remove the inhabitants; that was their task. To this God spoke: “Joshua was now old, getting on in years, and the Lord said to him, ‘You have become old, getting on in years, but a great deal of the land remains to be possessed.’” (13:1) God was not simply stating the obvious. He was reminding them that they had a call to complete, a task He had given them.
I wonder if it was tempting to just go back to their new homes, take up farming, and raise a family. I wonder because there are times when after a long season of conflict I’ve wanted to take a break and go back to when life was easier, less complex, less grueling and demanding. These men had been fighting a long time and the major threats were removed. Why not worry about the minor threats later? Or maybe hope that those threats would not be threats at all; maybe they would go away on their own. Then the words echoed back, “but a great deal of the land remains to be possessed.” In other words, the task was not complete.
When God assigns a job to a person He expects the work to be done. And you can bet when God calls one to a task it is critical that it be completed. God called Moses to lead His people to the Promise Land. At one point Moses refused to do the work he had just been assigned. He had not even left the burning bush yet. However, God told him he was going and he would lead the people.
Jesus called four fishermen to the task of fishing for men. Then He told them and all others who would follow Him to “go into all the world and make disciples.” Jesus reminded His people why they must complete the mission: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
Just before going to Gethsemane Jesus said to His Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:5) And how can any believer forget Jesus’ final words spoken from Calvary’s cross, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)? Time and again Jesus reminded His followers that His calling and task was to seek and save the lost and to give His life a ransom of many. What if He had not completed His task?
Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi that he was “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” How could the apostle be certain that the Christians in Philippi would complete their work? He knew their love for the Savior and their commitment to Him. Paul knew they understood their calling and the to complete the mission Christ had for them just as Christ would complete the one He started in them.
The Apostle Peter wrote, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 15-16). The call for God’s people to be Holy as He was dates back into the days of Moses and Joshua. It is the major theme Leviticus. So the call is to be holy; the task that helps complete the call is to “flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
The call and the task are part of every life on the journey of the narrow road. But one might ask, “What happens to I do not heed the call or complete the task?” Only God can truly answer that, but found in book which follows Joshua, the book of Judges, is an indication of a probable end result. God told the people that they had much work to do (Joshua 13:1). One need only read the stories found in Judges to discover that the Israelites did not drive out all of the people still living in the land. Those people became a snare to them resulting in years of spiritual darkness and national chaos. God would punish His people for their disobedience. He would also send twelve different judges to rescue His people from a series of oppressive enemies. All this started when God’s people did not complete the task the Lord called them to.
In our day should God’s people expect any less? It is said that the sign of insanity is doing the same task the same way over and over and expecting different results. If such is true than God’s people would be crazy to think that disobedience in completing their God-given task would end in any way other than experiencing His punishment. Some may doubt that to be true but does we really want to test it? Instead, why not strive to say, as our Lord did, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do.”