One of the blessing of home is it is a place for relaxing. Put on your best comfortable clothes, don’t worry about your hair, and just chill. Home is your personal space, a place where you can sit back in tranquility and just be yourself…or at least it ought to be. The world is blocked out of our homes; and even in real glass houses one need only pull the shades or close the blinds and no one can see in.
It might have been this reality that moved God to tell His people that they were to write His law “on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9). This is a reminder that though others may not be able to look in God does and what we do inside those four walls is to be influenced by His law.
In this study from the Old Testament book of Joshua, we have made our way to an event that brought a major change in the life of the Israelites. The battle for the Promise Land was over and the tribes were going home. It was now time for them to settle down, each in their own part of the land. For most this meant taking a short trip. However for the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh it meant they were crossing back to the east side of the Jordan. They requested that land several years earlier and with God’s permission Moses granted their request.
In Joshua 23, the two and a half tribes are heading home. As they prepare to go Joshua has a final challenge for them. He knew what they were crossing was geographical barrier that could well turn into a spiritual one. So before the tribes headed east Joshua said to them, “You have done everything Moses the Lord’s servant commanded you and have obeyed me in everything I commanded you. You have not deserted your brothers even once this whole time but have carried out the requirement of the command of the Lord your God. Now that He has given your brothers rest, just as He promised them, return to your homes in your own land that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you across the Jordan. Only carefully obey the command and instruction that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you: to love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commands, remain faithful to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (vv.2-5)
In his farewell address to the eastern tribes, Joshua commended them for their faithful obedience to Moses and the Lord, and their loyalty to the other tribes. He then, with a single challenge made up of four distinct parts, released them to go. The challenge was to carefully obey all that God had commanded them. They were not to carelessly follow the Lord. Instead they were to pay close attention to do all that He commanded them. This suggests that the tribes were to not only remember the Law of God but allow His law to shape their lives.
That’s the general challenge. Here’s how that challenge was to take shape in them. First they were “to love the Lord.” If they did not do this they could not do the rest. To love God was so much more than just saying they did. Their actions were to match their words and sentiment. Joshua reminded them that to love the Lord meant they would “walk in all His ways.” Literally they were to walk God’s path, to go with Him.
They were to also “keep His commands.” Note Joshua did not say which commands which implies they were to keep all of them. As well they were to remain “faithful to Him” which was to give not only their lives but loyalty to the Lord. Joshua closed the challenge reminding them that they were to serve God with all that was in them, “all your heart and all your soul.”
What might have motivated Joshua to give this challenge to the two and a half tribes? No doubt the Holy Spirit, but why? Could it be that this aging leader knew that in just a couple of days’ travel these warriors would be far away from his influence and inspiration that came from being close to Tabernacle? They would be back on the east side of the Jordan River. After crossing some would travel even farther from Joshua and the altar. The distance might serve as a barrier to faithfulness, so the wise commander gave his troops one last order as they left for home, “Only carefully obey the command and instruction that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you.”
Home is a safe place, or at least a secret place. Who really knows what goes on behind that closed front door? Perhaps no one can. It can be a place where the influence of the Lord is ignored. Joshua didn’t know what would come of the eastern tribes but he knew what they needed and what those tribes needed in their homes is what people today need in theirs. All must “carefully obey the command and instruction that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you: to love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commands, remain faithful to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.”
Do this and home will be the safe and quiet place you long for. It will be a place the children love to come back to and model their homes after. Invite God in, give Jesus the central place in your life both inside and outside your house, and find the difference He can make when you serve Him with all you are, heart and soul. Ignore God and well, have you heard much about the eastern tribes? When they got home the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh eventually forgot the challenge.