By Mark Proctor
Pastor, Highland Park Baptist Church, Columbia
Focal Passage: Joshua 22:1-8
An experienced backpacker will tell you in chilling detail of the dangers of reaching the summit after a long ascent up a mountain. With muscles weakened by fatigue and clothes soaked with sweat, the high country winds above the tree line can bring on hypothermia quickly. The top is no place to forget the rules.
In the 22nd chapter Joshua is dealing with the same human tendency among the children of Israel. The battles have been fought and it’s time to rest. “Go to your tents,” he says, “but don’t forget the rules.”
He’s talking to two and one-half of the twelve tribes, about 20 percent of them. As leaders in the church we likely expend most of our energy with 20 percent of our people as well. Joshua’s address to them is a good model for our own leadership in the church: we are to encourage, admonish, and reinforce.
In the first three verses, Joshua tells them, “You have done …” and “you have obeyed …” and “you have not forsaken … .” Joshua does what leaders do. He encourages his followers. He reminds them of what they’ve done right and how faithful they’ve been. Oh, that the pulpits across America would ring out with this same praise, “Children, blessed are you for your faithfulness!” But too often we do the opposite. We chastise the flock of God in an attempt to push back against evil. Begin with praise for faithfulness, leaders. Look for the good in your churches and the obedience of the saints and tell them. Then admonish them to continue it. Happy ears hear better.
With encouragement ringing in their ears, Joshua admonishes them to continue. “God has done what He promised. He’s given you land, victory, and now rest. Go to your tents and love Him and obey His Word. And do it with all your heart” (vv. 4-5). What a great challenge — to love God and obey His word because He’s been faithful to do what He promised. As I get older, I become more convinced that most people can’t love God with their whole hearts because they have no idea what God has promised. We must challenge our students to get into the Word and dig out those promises! It’s impossible to find hope in a promise we don’t know exists.
Finally, Joshua the leader reinforces. You’ll see the blessing in verses 6-8. He reminds them that He has been faithful, they have been faithful, and this blessing is to remind them how God blesses His faithful children.
We live in a world that gets this out of order. “Just let me return to my home with great wealth (v. 8) and I’ll not worry about whether or not God is faithful or whether I’m faithful to Him.” Friends, the blessings of God are like the views from the mountaintop, though they can only be truly enjoyed by those who are faithful to the climb and obey the rules at the top!