Hello everyone. My name is Josh Pollard. I am the adult ministries Pastor here at Renovation Church.
The year is 1999. I am twelve years old and about to attempt a synchronized flying sidekick to break a wooden board while jumping over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes minor league baseball team’s mascot on the grass in front of the home team dugout and I am scared. I’m not scared for what I’m about to do. I’ve broken dozens of boards with this kick. I knew to focus – to breath – to aim dead center – and to follow through the board with the kick and that everyone in the whole stadium would for sure erupt with chants of go josh go josh go josh! No, I’m not scared for me. I’m scared because my partner had not been doing well with this kick in practice. She wasn’t focused. She wasn’t aiming well and, most importantly, she wasn’t following through the board with the kick. You have to follow through. No follow through, no broken board! As we line up side be side, ready to sprint down the first base line in our matching martial arts uniforms towards what I was sure was going to be the most embarrassing moment of my short life, I look at her and say, “just follow through. You have to follow through!” We take off down the line and leap over “Tremor the Rallysaurus” and I watch her heel plow right through that board with perfect focus and follow through. We land and I am so relieved! Until I look at my unbroken board and realize I have to give it a second try in front of the whole stadium. As I run my second time I hear her yell, “follow through!”
Well, church, we have been studying the Book of Joshua all summer and today we get chapter 22, when the Israelites began to settle into the promised land and they faced a spiritual crossroads that we all face from time to time. Now that they have taken the promised land, will they follow through on lifelong commitment to being his people, or will they become unfocused?
Setting the scene
For Time’s sake, we are jumping over a large portion of the middle of the book where they split up the promised land to all the tribes and list out the exact boundries. I suggest you give it a read on your own, but for today’s purposes, take a look at this map to help set the scene for chapter 22.
[show the map]
The land the God had promised to give to the Israelites was on the west side on the Jordan River and you can see that it has been split up into different areas for the different tribes. But then you’ll also notice that there are some tribes on the east side of the Jordan river as well. And that’s because before the 12 tribes of Israelites first entered the promised land, the leaders of the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, came up to Moses and said, “we know that the promised land is over on the west side of the Jordan, but we actually really like it here on the East side. Would it be ok if we just settled here in this land?” At first, Moses thought they were just trying to get out of helping take the promised land in battle. But they promised they would be the first to cross over into the promised land, ready to fight with the rest of the tribes and wouldn’t come back to their wives and kids on the East side of the river until the Promised land had been conquered.
We saw starting in Joshua, ch4, that these 2 and a half tribes kept their promise and repeatedly went to battle with their fellow Israelites to help them conquer the promised land. Here in chapter 22, They finally get to go home.
[Take map down]
You can follow along in Joshua 22. If you need a Bible you can grab one from under the seat in front of you. We’ll be on Page 161. As you are finding that, did you know that one of the best ways to study a book like Joshua is to make time to sit down and read the whole thing in one day – the book of Joshua takes an hour and 45 minutes to read so maybe skip movie night tonight and instead read through Joshua. It would be really good for you. Starting at verse 1:
[Reference Joshua 22:1-6]
Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh 2 and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. 3 For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. 4 Now that the Lord your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
6 Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes.
So we start with Joshua commending the 2.5 tribes for following through on their commitment to “the mission the Lord [their] God gave [them].” Follow through on our commitments to God’s work is a very good thing. And telling each other “good job” is a good thing to do from time to time, not in an effort to build pride or something, but in an effort to encourage and strengthen one another to continue onward. So to all of you that have been diligent in serving Christ, good job!
Of course, that’s only the first half of what Joshua says to the 2.5 tribes. After he commends them, he tells them to be very carful to keep it up. They’ve been serving amazingly for years but now He tells them in v. 5 to “Love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and serve him with all your heart and with your soul.”
I find it quite interesting that Joshua feels like this is something that needs to be said. They just left their families behind for scholars think somewhere between 7-14 years, to fight in many battles and take the promised land for the other tribes because of their commitment to God, and Joshua is telling them now make sure you are committed to God. It’s like telling a dentist to remember to brush their teeth – Of course they are committed to God, look at what they’ve just done. Why does Joshua feel it’s necessary to tell them once again to be careful to following through on their commitment to God?
And I think the answer must be that past obedience is not always a guarantee for future obedience. The longer we go on living as Christ followers, fully committed to Christ, the more and more we see our sin and hate it, but we are always able to totally mess things up, no matter how good we’ve done in the past. Commitment to the Lord must be a daily thing, not just a one-time thing, but a moment by moment thing.
There is an old saying when breaking boards for martial arts demonstrations: “Follow through and you break the board. Don’t follow through and the board breaks you.” And that is a very literal saying because you could easily injure or even break a small hand or foot bone if done wrong. And I think the analogy works when it comes to following through on our commitment to God. The crossroads of following through or not often comes at a very hard point. For the 2.5 tribes it was them facing years of warfare and leaving their families behind and they followed through well.
But now, with them going back home, they face another hardpoint: a major life change. Major life changes are one of the most difficult times to follow through on your faith. Weather it’s moving out of your parent’s house, becoming an empty nester, losing a job, or moving for a new job, a major breakup. The men of the 2.5 tribes are about to go from full time warriors to full time back home bodies. The wives and kids of the 2.5 tribes are about to have warrior man home after 7 years and things are going to be different. Sometimes a change in family life is a huge challenge to following through with your faith. Joshua knew this would be coming and he didn’t want them to lose their commitment. He didn’t want them to hit this hard place and be broken. He wanted them to continue to follow through.
I have great example from our church of following through a major life change that I want to commend. The last two summers I taught a class about how to study the Bible for yourself in Renovation U and both years I had couples that just had babies go out of their way to still take the class and learn how to study scripture. Last summer, one couple, as soon as they got home from the hospital, they zoomed into the class and learned a lot about how to study the bible that will benefit their family for generations hopefully. And this Summer, I had another couple who would just bring their baby to class with them! One would rock the stroller and the other would take notes and then they’d switch off. It was awesome! They had put God first in their family, they were faced with a major life change, but they followed through in a very commendable way, it was really encouraging to me.
Let me ask you, where is it in your life that you are not following through on your commitment to follow Christ whole heartedly like those young families?
Let’s continue reading and see what happens. The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, are heading home, and we’ll start reading in verse 10:
[Reference Joshua 22:10-12]
When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. 11 And when the Israelites (That’s the other 9.5 tribes) heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, 12 the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.
Woah that escalated quickly! You see the 9.5 tribes assumed that since no one had authorized this new alter that it must be the biggening of them slipping away into idolatry. They assumed that it was an alter to whatever pagan false god was worshiped over on that side of the river! In Deuteronomy 13 God told the people to destroy any towns that were leading the people astray and the 9.5 were ready to follow God’s command. They have learned through very difficult experience the wisdom of taking God seriously.
But instead of all rushing to war they send some of the leaders to talk it out first. Let’s continue reading in V.13
[Reference Joshua 22:13-20]
13 So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 14 With him they sent ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans. “The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? 17 Was not the sin of Peor (another time when Israel started to worship idols and it resulted in a plague breaking out killing thousands of people.) enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! 18 And are you now turning away from the Lord?
“‘If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. 19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”
So here we have a second example - Achan. Pastor David spoke on Achen just a few weeks back when a man named Achan stole some of plunder from a city that God told him not to and as a result, they lost their next battle and several people died because of that sin.
What the leaders are doing here is point out the communal aspect of sin. They understand the communal nature of Sin, the damage that one person’s sin has on others. It might be surprising to see that they are ready to go to war against their own people because of this – shouldn’t they be unified because they share a common history? But they knew that the only thing worth being unified around is God’s truth.
It not enough just to say well we’re related so let’s just keep the peace, instead they say if you are not putting God first in all things then we are already separated. This is true today in two ways.:
The first and more broad application is when it comes to churches that call themselves Christian but do not believe in the truth and authority of the Bible – they don’t believe that the Bible is God’s perfect and authoritative word for His people. Instead, they preach whatever it is that is popular in the culture. When it comes to interacting with our culture, here at Renovation we will do whatever it takes to get an audience so that we can preach the clear and complete gospel of Jesus Christ. We will put on the biggest Egg Hunt at Easter, or we will do a Family Fun Day with bounce houses, we will make great coffee and have a great building, whatever it takes to get an audience so that we can tell them the truth. Then if they reject the truth of Christ and leave, then so be it. But we must all be aware that there are churches out there that call themselves Christians, that will do whatever it takes to gather a crowd, but then they bend and warp and change the Gospel in whatever way in necessary in order to keep that crowd. And when they do that, there are only two things for us to do. 1) recognize that they have removed themselves from the people of God and have begun worshipping the culture. 2) Lovingly call them back to the truth. The apostle Paul does this multiple times in the New Testament where he says things like “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal 1:8). There have always been people that say they are Christians, but have twisted the words of Christ so we should of course expect some people would be doing it today. We should identify false teaching, and call it a false Gospel. We should do that for the purity of the Church, for the love of those who have been led astray, and for the glory of God. Our churches need to not be unfocused by what keeps audiences, and instead follow through on our mission to preach the clear and complete gospel, come what may.
The second and more personal application is when we as individual Christians start going astray we need people in our lives to sit us down and say “hey, be careful, you are hitting a hard spot, be sure to follow through!” This is where fellowship becomes so important. In just a few weeks we’ll start getting ready for House Groups, where we have small groups and we commit to helping each other, in grace and love, to live out our faith. This is such an important part of Christian life because we know that our faith thrives in community but struggles without it. We all need people in our lives to help us to follow through because no matter how we have done in the past, we always have the potential to go astray. That’s why all of the pastors and staff member and other church leaders are all in house groups. That why we encourage everyone from brand new Christians, to life long Christians with theology degrees and professional ministries to be in house groups. Because we all need each other to call us back to the gospel when we start to go astray.
One amazing way we see this in our passage today is in verse 19 where the 9.5 say: “If the land you possess is defiled (meaning that there is idol worship going on there), come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord.” They are so committed with helping the 2.5 stay faithful to God that they are ready and willing to sacrifice their own lands in order see the 2.5 free from sin. Too many of us lack this willingness; we tell people to stop sinning, but are not willing to help them if it costs us something – time, effort, resources, reputation. But following Christ is a team effort. It says in 1 Corinthians 12 “…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor 12:25-26) If next year may bring unexpected life change that I will hit up against like a wooden board my fellow Christians, my small group guys, to encourage me and to challenge me and to sacrifice for me to follow through with my commitment to following Christ even through the hardest of times. I am not above totally messing this all up still, so I need help to keep me focused. And you need that as well. So make sure you and all your friends join a house group when sign-ups start in 3 weeks!
Now let’s continue reading and see what the 2.5 say as a response. We’ll start in verse 22:
[Reference Joshua 22:22-31]
“The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account.
24 “No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.
26 “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ 27 On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’ “And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the Lord’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’
29 “Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle.”
30 When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. 31 And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is with us, because you have not been unfaithful to the Lord in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s hand.”
So they worked out the confrontation all the way to unity. The goal of all Christian confrontation must not be to shame them or to guilt trip them. It must be to reestablish unity, to come back together.
And if you are here today and you’ve had confrontation with another Christian that has not come around reached the goal of unity, then that is something you need keep working toward. Not that you sacrifice God’s truth for that unity but you keep working toward it as best you can.
Or if you are a Christian and you have been banging your head on a hard spot and need to recommit to following through, then during this last song and after the service, I want you to go talk with our prayer team at the tables in the back corners of the room, and pray with them about what God’s doing in your heart.
Or, if you are at a point where you need ot dedicate your life to Christ for the first time. And begin to believe that Even though you are a sinner, that Christ came to die on the cross for your sins because he loved you so much, then after the service, I’ll be over here in the corner, just come on over and talk to me.
Copyright: Josh Pollard
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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