The 9-1/2 tribes, led by Phinehas the priest, confronted the 2-1/2 tribes on the east side of the Jordan after hearing about the altar they built. The “word on the street” was the 2 -1/2 tribes were going rogue, and it was time for civil war.
But the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh explained what they did. They weren’t in rebellion, they knew that the LORD was God, and the LORD knew their hearts. The altar was actually built as a witness between them, so that future generations on both sides of the river would know, that west and east are one, that those on the east side of the Jordan were also part of the covenant people of the LORD God of Israel.
Joshua 22:27–28 (NKJV) “…but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the LORD before Him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your descendants may not say to our descendants in time to come, “You have no part in the LORD.” ’ 28 Therefore we said that it will be, when they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say, ‘Here is the replica of the altar of the LORD which our fathers made, though not for burnt offerings nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between you and us.’
The explanation appeased the representatives and they returned home with a good report.
Joshua 22:33–34 (NKJV) “So the thing pleased the children of Israel, and the children of Israel blessed God; they spoke no more of going against them in battle, to destroy the land where the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt. 34 The children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar, Witness, “For it is a witness between us that the LORD is God.”
We’re not sure exactly how long it’s been, Bible commentators say somewhere around 14 years have passed since the conquest of the land and Joshua is well aware of the fact that his time is running out. In Joshua 23 he addresses the leaders. In Joshua 24 he addresses the nation.
The land has been divided and Joshua reminds the leaders of the certain victory ahead of them – if only they would walk in obedience to the LORD. Joshua issued a stern warning that Israel was not to serve the gods of Canaan, they were not to even mention their names.
Joshua summarizes his sermon with the greatest commandment of all:
Joshua 23:11 (NKJV) “Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God.
And this is what it’s all about – in simplicity and sincerity. The elder Joshua knows what he’s talking about, he’s served the Lord faithfully all his life, he’s fought for God, in many wars and battle campaigns. He’s the one who way back “then” was part of the new and true “religion,” he’s seen it all, victory, defeat, even wandering in the wilderness for forty years -please, listen to Him. All we have to do is be careful, be sure to love the LORD our God…and all will go well.
The flip side – a life of lovelessness and disobedience, will only lead to unnecessary heartache and tragedy.
Joshua offers encouragement, but he doesn’t mince words either – he tells it like it is. Please read the following words very carefully.
Joshua 23:14–15 (NKJV) “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed. 15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the LORD your God promised you, so the LORD will bring upon you all harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the LORD your God has given you.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, or angels, or spirits, they were materialists (Acts 23:8). So they came to Jesus with what they thought was a slam-dunk situation about a woman who had seven different husbands in obedience to the Law of the levirate marriage, but they all died, so if there IS a resurrection, whose wife will she be in heaven? Jesus responded by saying they didn’t know the Scriptures of the power of God (Matthew 22:29) that in heaven there is no marriage.
There are some religions out there who teach that there is such a thing as celestial marriage; the Mormons teach that a man can become a god and father children on a new planet. The Muslims teach that a man who dies as a jihadist will go to seventh heaven and have 70 virgins to have sex with in the after-life. But the Bible says that there will be no sexual intimacy in heaven, no repopulation will be taking place. That doesn’t mean that my wife Shelly and I can’t be “best-friends” in heaven, it’s just not marriage.
The reasoning of the Sadducees to reject the resurrection was meritless.
Jesus then stumps them with a question out of Psalm 110 – clearly a Messianic Psalm. If David calls the Messiah “Lord,” how can the Messiah merely be his descendant? They had no answer. The truth is, King David had prophesied that the coming King was not just his fruit, but his root, the coming King was God Himself!
Jesus then issued a warning to His disciples in the hearing of all the people: Beware of the Scribes’ heart and mentality, who have their special religious garb in order to look “special”, who like honorable greetings and seatings, who have no problem fleecing the flock – even devouring the homes of widows; when they pray publicly they do so extensively in order to appear to be holy before men. The truth is, these types of so-called religious leaders will receive greater condemnation.
The Psalmist knows well the Davidic Covenant, how David was a gift from God to Israel, anointed and appointed to lead His people to victory.
In 1 Chronicles 17 we have recorded an important conversation that takes place, when David told Nathan that he wanted to build a house for God (a Temple). The prophet Nathan gave him a green light and told him to do all that was in his heart…but then we have a different conversation chronicled, between Nathan and the LORD. The LORD informed Nathan that David was not to be the one who would build Him a house (his son Solomon would), on the contrary, God would build David a “house.” And herein lies the promise of kings as his descendants, and the Messiah through his lineage.
Ethan the Ezrahite, the writer of this Psalm, was reminding God of his covenant with David, to beat down Israel’s foes, to be merciful, to keep this covenant, to discipline – yes, but not forsake the people.
We’ll see as we finish this Psalm next time that Israel is in a period of punishment; Ethan is asking God to remember His promise. Ethan (and Israel) also needs to know that ultimately, this Davidic Covenant finds it’s fulfillment, not in earthly kings, but in the King of kings, Jesus Christ.
V. 17 – God’s messengers are called to be distributors, not manufacturers. We’re waiters not cooks. We simply give to the people, what God has given to us, we share God’s Word, the Word He has shared with us. (1 Corinthians 11:23a)
V. 18 – One of the most important lessons in all of life is the lesson of learning to receive correction. When we’re corrected our fallen nature takes offense and immediately wants to retaliate or resist. God help us to listen and see if there’s any truth to the correction or criticism, and grow in the process.
V. 19 – This contrasting proverb seems to say that a desire to do good (to depart from evil) when it’s accomplished is sweet to the soul. Wise and blessed are those who overcome areas of evil in their lives.
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.