In Joshua 22, Joshua stood before thousands of soldiers. He was reflecting over the past six and a half years and the army that was now standing before him. Twelve tribes of one family, sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
After fifty nine years of life walking this earth, Joshua was familiar with the effects of disobedience in the life of a nation. He lived through the painful results of lives ruined by careless obedience and flagrant disobedience to God.
Now he was overlooking thousands of soldiers who fought as a band of brothers for God’s Promise Land.
Three tribes stood out from among the other, the army of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh. These two and a half tribes completed their service to their nation of families and now were returning to a land outside of the Promise Land’s borders — but were still family, they were still brothers in arms.
Standing before them all, with no microphone or speaker, he reminds them of the things God desired for them to live out. As they detach from the rest of the tribes and return to their families outside of the Promise Land he gave them words to always remember.
“You have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you.
You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God.
And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers, as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan.
Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Joshua wanted to let them know that there was still something to obey once they left and it was the Ten Commandments and the law. They had to obey God if they were to maintain the blessing that He gave to them.
God’s promises to them were not unconditional, they were very conditional and very clear as to what would happen if they disobeyed.
Joshua is saying to them that God has given us a way to live, but it requires carefulness, to make sure that in our daily living we don’t break our lives or break the lives of those we love.
He gave us the words in this book, but just following the rules isn’t enough. He wants us to put great care into how we follow Him.
I believe that if we are careful to do what Joshua is telling these tribes to do, which God is telling us all to do, then we can live a life that is pleasing to God.
In this verse, the Word of God gives us a clear list of things we need to be careful to do in our lives, if we are to live for Jesus:
Careful Clinging, and
Why do we need to Carefully Obey?
I don’t know about you but my entire life, from probably the day I was born up until now, I am being taught how to obey.
Growing up I was told, don’t touch this, or don’t touch that. Don’t pull your sisters hair, give back her toy. Actually I think it was the opposite, she was the one terrorizing me!
It doesn’t matter who you are or what religion you believe in, you are always being told to obey something. Driving in the street, the lines on the floor tell you to do something and then the police help you to remember to obey or else you’ll get a one-hundred and forty-seven dollar ticket.
Your boss tells you to be on time for work, especially if you want to stay employed.
Obedience is built into every part of our lives and in every moment of our lives. Our biggest problem is not having enough rules to obey, it’s obeying the rules.
If in our world we are being told to obey all the time, would it then be so strange that the creator of this world also has some rules to obey?
No, it wouldn’t.
It’s true that God has given us rules to live by, but even though we don’t want to obey them, we have to admit that they are still there.
In Joshua 22:5, Joshua is referring to God’s Ten Commandments and the Law that God gave to Moses governing social, business and religious concerns. In Hebrew it’s called the Torah, in church we call it the first five books of Moses.
Joshua is reminding them that there is still a need to obey God and what He has communicated to them through Moses.
In Christianity, today, we don’t think about the law the same way as Joshua was thinking and trying to get them to think. In our culture, the law is more like a suggestion.
And although our laws in the United States are based on Biblical laws, we have become good at explaining away some of God’s laws and some, we’ve totally changed.
One particular law that we’ve changed is:
Do not commit adultery.
Although there are still laws governing adultery in our state of Florida, no one is being charged. Florida has a No-Fault Divorce policy and Adultery is not considered in divorce proceedings.1
Our judges have taken away the need for obedience when it comes to God’s word and the impact of adultery on a marriage. By the way, Living in Open Adultery is still a misdemeanor in Florida according to statute 798.1
God has given us his commands so that we can have life and life more abundantly. But you may say, “I am already obeying his commands. I am already focusing on Christ and what His do’s and don’ts are.”
Joshua is warning these two and a half tribes that they need to keep their eyes on God, not just before when they fought together, but today, for tomorrow.
How do we Obey Carefully?
Jesus, in Luke 9 was doing what he always did: speaking publicly about the Kingdom of God to those that surrounded him.
People flocked to him and if you looked at his attendance record, some days he had thousands, other days he had at a minimum of twelve.
Can you imagine having a church like Jesus had, it was a mobile church with fluctuating attendance and church was more attended when He was giving away stuff, then when He was teaching people the hard truths of the Kingdom of God.
People would come up to him and say, “I will follow you” and here in Luke is one such time.
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
— Luke 9:61-62
Jesus was telling him that to follow Him required complete dedication. If you were going to following Jesus it would mean that you had to keep your eyes on Him without looking at what you were leaving behind.
Proverbs tells us the same thing about commitment…
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.
— Proverbs 25:25-27
The Word of God is telling us that careful obedience requires you to keep your eyes fixed to Jesus’s life and purpose. Being careful requires an examination of His life and yours.
Careful Obedience Starts with Self Examination
Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!
— Lamentations 3:40
We must look into our heart and ask God:
“Am I doing this carefully enough? Is there a trap hidden in my good works? Sin, I can easily identify, but what about what is hiding in my obedience?
Did you notice that the verse says, let US test and examine OUR ways?
The Word isn’t leaving it all up to you. You need to check yourself first, but you also need to have someone you trust check your life as well.
This is at the heart of in Ephesians 5:21, when Paul tells us to…
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Our reverence for Christ makes room for others to speak into our lives, believing and trusting that the same Spirit that lives in you, lives in them.
I’m not saying just go to anyone but start to build a relationship with someone who you can trust to see your blind spots when it comes to how you are obeying God in your life.
If you don’t have anyone, I encourage you to take on the responsibility to find someone.
It may take time and you might have to start with a few people just to see if they are the kind of people that can examine your life correctly, but until then, examine yourself, try to look at all the details of how you live and see if it measures up to God’s standards.
Our God has given us the tools to carefully obey Him and that excites me. We are not left to figure it out all alone, those of us who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ have been given the Holy Spirit to work this all out in our lives.
God has also given us other people, who also have the desire to please God in how they live their lives.
This family isn’t limited by a building or state boundaries. Family may be separated, like these two and a half tribes, but they remain connected by their faith and we can also to carefully obey God.
1 Adultery may be considered in factoring financial divisions, especially if it can be proven that the adulterous individual spent money on their extra marital partner. However, a No-Fault Divorce does not require someone to be at fault (yeah, it’s in the name).
This article is part of a series called Careful based on Joshua 22: