Well, somehow we’ve managed to plow through the first six books of the Bible now. Today’s reading is the final three chapters in the book of Joshua, and the theme of the three boils down to a call for faithfulness.
The two and a half tribes of the east of Jordan, who had volunteered to take the eastern land (because it was so good for raising livestock), had crossed the Jordan to help the rest of Israel subdue the land of Canaan. And now that the land was subdued, Joshua was ready to give them leave to return to their east-bank lands. But before they actually crossed the river, they decided to build an altar — a look-alike to the Lord’s altar at Shiloh. Their intent was merely to leave behind a “witness” of their claim to be a legitimate part of Israel and the right to worship with their brothers at the Tabernacle (later the Temple). Their “witness”, however, was taken the wrong way by the rest of Israel, who thought that they were building a rival altar to the altar at Shiloh — something that was forbidden (Deut. 12:5,6,13,14). Why should they care?
Such a rival altar to the altar at Shiloh didn’t just threaten to bring down punishment upon the eastern tribes, but upon all of Israel; God had often caused all of Israel to suffer punishment for the sin of some (e.g., the sin of Peor and the sin of Achan). And the western tribes were determined to avoid trouble with their God, so they sent a delegation led by Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest to “call them on the carpet” about this perceived sin. However, when the eastern tribes explained themselves, that they altar was only an attempt to make ties between the eastern and western tribes more permanent, the western tribes were satisfied.
Now, although God has made it plain that the one who sins will be punished for sin, unfaithfulness should still be a cause for concern to all of God’s people. Unfaithfulness in the life of one, often becomes unfaithfulness in the lives of two or three, and the snowball continues to gain momentum and size until the whole church is effected. That’s the point of withdrawal of fellowship and other disciplinary action in the church.
In the last two chapters, Joshua makes an appeal and throws out a challenge — sort of draws a line in the sand for Israel.
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15, NAS95.
“As for me and my house,” he said. That’s where faithfulness starts, that’s where the initial responsibility lies — the home. Parents can’t guarantee faithfulness in their children – everyone has their own free will — but they can oftentimes try harder than they sometimes do: talking of the Lord, patterning the Christian life in the eyes of their children, taking their children along with them in godly works, encouraging them, providing them evidences and teachings, and giving them the needed corrections and incentives to do right. Other things can help — Bible school, VBS, Christian camping, youth ministers, mentors and more — but the main responsibility of religious faithfulness is with parents.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.