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old man on rocking chair March 31 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Joshua 22, 23, 24

Last Words

Have you ever had the privilege of sitting on a porch while your grandfather or grandmother shared with you what they learned in life? If you were wise you listened and did not scoff at their wisdom. What instructions would you leave to your family if you knew you only had a few months to live? Or, suppose you had children who were going to move out on their own; what instructions would you give them? What things would you want them to do, what commitments would you like for them to keep, and what destructive paths would you want them to avoid? Like Moses, Joshua also left Israel with last words of encouragement and admonition. What he said to his people is also instructive for us.

First, Joshua met with the two and one-half Israelite tribes east of the Jordan River. He commended Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh for their faithfulness. If we want people to succeed, recognizing them for their positive achievements is a good place to start. For five years the eastern tribes led the rest of the tribes into battle, leaving their families behind to take care of their houses, flocks, herds, and land. Now they could return. Joshua praised them and then admonished them to be faithful to the LORD.

These tribes took Joshua's words very seriously. They were very grateful for their rich share of the plunder taken from war against Israel's enemies, but they did not want to be forgotten or alienated from Israel because of the boundary of the Jordan River. They did not want Israel to one day claim that their tribes have no part in Israel; that would cause the people in Reuben, Gad and Manasseh to turn away from following God. Therefore, they made an imposing altar on Canaan's side of the Jordan so that the Israelites would remember that the tribes of Reuben, Gad and one-half tribe of Manasseh were one with them in covenant and relationship. Their efforts, however, were misinterpreted as a quick return to idolatry. All of Israel's military gathered at Shiloh to wage war against the eastern tribes, but calmer heads prevailed. A delegation of ten tribal leaders met with the two and one-half “rebel” tribes to find out why they had built the altar and turned away from God. But things were not as they seemed. Once the purpose of the altar was understood, they were exonerated. Here is a lesson for us: sometimes people commit apparent violations of trust. Control your emotions and reserve judgments; things are not always as they appear. Check out the facts before jumping to conclusions, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes the answers will surprise us.

Second, Joshua met with the leadership of Israel's ten western tribes. He told them to be strong in obeying the LORD and be totally loyal to Him. Under stress it seems easier to give in to pressure than to stand true to your convictions. The easy way, however, is not always the best way. He reminded them that it was the LORD who gave them the victories and the inheritance in the Promised Land, and that he had been faithful all the way. He exhorted the leaders not to turn away from the LORD and lose their inheritance. Leadership is key to the obedience of people and the success of organizations.

Third, Joshua spoke to all the Israelites at Shechem. The place where he spoke was historically significant. This was the place where Abraham was first given the covenant promising them the very land that they now occupied. This was the place where Jacob returned with his family from Paddan Aram. It was also a central gathering place of worship in Israel. Joshua used Shechem to trace the history of God's faithfulness to Israel. The place a person gives his last words of encouragement and admonition can be very significant. If there is some significant connection between the place and the occasion, a last speech will more likely be remembered.

From Shechem Joshua admonished the Israelites against turning away from the LORD. He rehearsed God's faithfulness in Israel's history in the same way as the Suzerain Treaty of the peoples around them in that day (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.369). Among other things, the covenant included a review of their history with the suzerain [God] and stipulations for obedience and consequences for disobedience, and a commitment to keep the treaty. Joshua's last words exhorted the people to continue in their relationship to the LORD and be faithful. The Israelites then recommitted themselves to the LORD and the covenant. A generation ago they had made this commitment with Moses, however, each generation must make their own commitments to the LORD. They could not rely upon the faith and commitment of their fathers; they needed their own.

What about us? We, too, need our own relationship with the LORD. Jesus Christ delivered us from the slavery of our sins; he died for our sins and rose again. If we believe this, we are forgiven and have a renewed relationship with God (more...). We have a new covenant of faith given by Jesus Christ so we need to be faithful to obey his Word, the Bible. We have responsibilities to keep our commitment to God so that our favor with him will continue.

Christians, how has the LORD led us? It would be a good exercise to write down the ways in which the LORD has worked in our lives from the very beginning until now. Remembering these times of God's activity and special intervention will build our faith, cause us to want to give him praise, and make us want to be faithful to our covenant.

Lessons to live by (concerning Last Words):

  • If we want people to succeed, recognizing them for their positive achievements is a good place to start.
  • Sometimes there are apparent violations of trust. Control your emotions and reserve judgments; things are not always as they appear.
  • The place a person gives his last words of encouragement and admonition can be very significant. If there is some significant connection between the place and the occasion, a last speech will more likely be remembered.
  • It is important to leave people with a review of how God has worked in their lives because it gives them a context for their experiences. Remembering these times of God's activity and special intervention will build our faith, cause us to want to give God praise, and make us want to be faithful to our covenant.
  • Exhort people to continue in the right paths that made them successful.
  • Leadership is key to the obedience of people and the success of organizations.
  • We can't rely on the faith of the last generation. Each generation must make their own commitments to the LORD. Do you know him personally? He can give you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...)

Today's Bible memory verses:

Hebrews 13:20-21

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

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