Summary: 3rd in long series on Joshua. This is about the temptation to settle in, to give up when it gets hard, to accept less than the best.
Joshua 1:12-18 – Settling
In an old Peanuts cartoon, Lucy demanded that her brother Linus change TV channels and then threatened him with her fist if he didn’t.
"What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asked Linus.
"These five fingers," said Lucy. "Individually they are nothing, but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."
"What channel do you want?" sighed Linus.
Turning away, he looked at his fingers and said, "Why can’t you guys get organized like that?"
That’s the power of teamwork. Today we are going to continue through the book of Joshua, describing the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. Today we will see them tackle this issue of teamwork, as some of them are faced with the idea of backing out. Joshua 1:12-18.
Now, to understand what’s going on, I need to refer you to Numbers 32. The Israelites have been on the eastern side of the Jordan River for some time. They have already been told that they would not enter the Promised Land for 40 years, because of their unbelief. Now, they were just camped there, passing time I suppose. Then, some groups decide that they like the land so much they want to stay there. At first it was the tribes of Reuben and Gad, but the feeling spread to the half-tribe of Manasseh as well. I say “half-tribe” because they were not a full tribe. They were from the son of Joseph, who was a son of Israel. Joseph’s 2 sons Ephraim and Manasseh each got a full share of land division.
Anyway, this is what they said: Numbers 32:3-5. Now, you can see why they wanted to live there. First, they were already living there, as much as they had lived anywhere. Second, the land was already theirs. Third, it was just plain easier to stay there than moving on.
And I think this is the hinge of the argument. They wanted to stay there because it was just easier to stay than to go. It was easier on their families to stay put. It was easier on their livestock and herds to stay put. It was just easier not to leave and to stay right where they were at.
I like the word “settle”. I think it carries enough meanings for us to look at. Those 2-1/2 tribes just wanted to settle. Yes, it means that they wanted to pitch their tents and live on the eastern side forever. But, it also means that they were willing to accept less than the best. They were going to try to be content with their little share. They were going to be happy just making themselves happy.
And I don’t think that people are much different today. Even in the church. After all, look at what God has done for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He took the punishment we deserved. He carried our sins, our foibles, our mistakes to the cross. Every time we cursed, Christ carried it. Every time we lied, Christ carried it. Every time we rebelled, or we disobeyed our parents, or we harbored bitterness, or we showed selfishness, or we lusted, or we did the opposite of what we knew God wanted, Christ carried it. He took our sins and He took our punishment. He took our place.
He took the punishment for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. Our death He died. But the grave was not the end, neither for Jesus nor for us. As we looked at last week, there was a resurrection on the 3rd day. He didn’t continue to carry our sins. He shook them off like an old rag. But the next part of the story is the part most miss. Folks, just as Christ got rid of our sins, so should we. The fact that Christ took our sins is no excuse for you to remain in them. Forgiveness is not a good enough reason for you to remain in sin.
Yet some see it that way. Once they are forgiven, they assume that nothing can ever separate them from God. They assume that they are now out of the water. After all, isn’t that what “saved” means?
So then, we are left with a group of people, born-again, forgiven saints who still act like sinners. I heard a quote one time from one pastor who spoke up and said, “Brother Brown, would you please stand and lead us in a word of criticism?” Why is that funny? It’s funny, because we have all seen it. We’ve all seen people with the worst critical spirits, people that are never pleased with what someone else does, and a lot of them are right here within a church’s walls. I’m not saying that a person should always blindly accept what goes on. But as another pastor said, “Critics don’t build churches; they inspect them.”