Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Does your decision-making promote peace? Nancy Leigh DeMoss looks at the example of Joshua.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Be careful that you don’t respond to hearsay, that you don’t decide to go to war before you’ve even found out what’s happening. Be careful not to take sides, or you will lose the ability to influence.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, November 5, 2014.

Everybody experiences conflict. Only a few learn to become peacemakers. We’ll learn to promote peace by looking at the example of Joshua. Nancy's in the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy."

Nancy: How many of you have been at the stage where you have had kids who have left home or gone off to college already? Lots and lots of hands here. Do you remember what it was like and how you were perhaps thinking, I hope they know everything they need to know

I had a mother say to me today—she’s got a grown young adult son—and she said, “My son is just not organizational at all, and he’s getting ready to move to another state.” And she said, “I’m just having to help him with some of these basic things to remember this.” As you sends these kids off, you think, I hope they know how to do their laundry. I hope they know how to balance their checkbook.

Mostly don’t you really hope that they’ve got it spiritually? Because you know that you can keep influencing but not the way that you were able to when they were younger. As you send those kids off to college for the first time, take them maybe to the dorm, as you’re giving parting words, you’re thinking about all the things you want them to remember—“Don’t forget this, don’t forget that, remember this.”

I think of a verse in the New Testament that probably every parent in that situation could use is found in Philippians chapter 2, verse 12, where the apostle Paul says,

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

That’s really what you’re having to say to your kids. “Look, we’re going to be separated, and I can’t be there. I won’t be there to tell you to get up for class and to bring you your books when you leave them at home and forget to take them to school and help you remember your lunch money, and more important things than that. I’m not going to be there. So the things you’ve learned, the things I’ve taught you, I hope you will take those with you into this next season of life.”

Well, in the last three chapters of the book of Joshua, chapters 22, 23, and 24, Joshua, who is now an old man, he’s in the evening of his life, gives three sermons to different groups of the Children of Israel. The beginning of each of those chapters you read this phrase or one like it. “Joshua summoned the people and said to them.”

He’s an old man. He realizes he’s not going to have much longer to speak to the Children of Israel as he has all these years. He wants to make sure that when he’s gone, they’ll have it. He’s giving them parting words. So he gathered them to himself and said, “Here’s some things I want to share with you.”

Now, I want us today to look at the message that Joshua gave in chapter 22, Joshua, chapter 22. Just to set the context here, as you remember, there were twelve tribes total. Two and a half of the tribes had been given land east of the Jordan. Before they crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land, they had been given land east.

Moses had said to them, “You can settle here east of the Jordan, but first leave your wives and kids there and then you soldiers come over, cross Jordan with us, and help your brothers and the other nine and a half tribes. Help them conquer the enemies in the Promised Land, and then you can go back to your own families.”

For seven years, these soldiers from the two and a half tribes east of the Jordan had fought with their brothers to take over in the conquest of the Promised Land. So now it’s time for those soldiers to go back home, to go back to their families who have been waiting for them east of the Jordan for these seven years.

They’ve been soldiers away from home, and Joshua gives a charge to these departing soldiers who are returning to the other side of the Jordan. Joshua 22, verse 1:

At that time Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you. You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the LORD your God.

I think this is a great way to start this message. He’s going to give them a charge, but before he does, he gives them a commendation. He commends them for their faithfulness and their obedience up to the present point. Now I can imagine at this point he may have been wanting to hasten to the charge. “Don’t forget this. Remember that. Do this. Don’t do this.” But first he starts by encouraging them.

Make sure you do that with your kids when they’re leaving home. Commend them for the aspects of Christ’s life that you have seen in them, for the ways that you have seen them develop character and responsibility. Lay that as a foundation.

Joshua says to these soldiers, “You have fulfilled your responsibility to your brothers in the other nine and a half tribes. You have fought well. You have obeyed the Lord.” But Joshua also realizes that past obedience and faithfulness is no guarantee of future obedience and faithfulness. "Yes, you have obeyed. Yes, you have been faithful, and that’s a good thing. But I want to make sure that you’re obedient and faithful in the days ahead." So he talks to them about the transition to the future, about what lies ahead for them as they go back across the Jordan to be reunited with their families.

And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them. Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan (v. 4).

Now he gives them a charge. He exhorts them about the future. He knows that they are going to be geographically separated—separated by the Jordan River—from their brothers and sisters on the west side, the ones in the main part of the Holy Land, the Promised Land.

When they are geographically separated from the rest of the community of faith, he doesn’t want that to be an occasion for them to drift spiritually. He wants their hearts to stay hot and tender and responsive to the Lord, and he knows it’s going to be a challenge because they’re not going to be with the rest of their brothers in the Promised Land anymore. They’re going to be separated.

So he says in verse 5, “Only be very careful.” Be very careful. Watch out. Be on your guard. Don’t just drift spiritually. You need to be intentional. You need to be conscientious about your spiritual life when you get to the other side of the Jordan.

Now what do they need to be careful to do? Well, “be very careful” is followed by six verbs. I want you to see what those are. Be very careful first,

  1. to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you
  2. to love the LORD your God
  3. to walk in all his ways
  4. to keep his commandments
  5. to cling to him
  6. to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul (Joshua 22:5).

"So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents" (v. 6).

I can just imagine Joshua. He’s an old man, and he knows this is probably his last chance to speak to these soldiers, to these warriors as they go back home. They’re going to be heads of their families and of their tribes. For generations to come he knows that there’s a lot at stake about how they do spiritually when they leave and cross the Jordan.

He wants these words to reverberate in their hearts and in their heads once they get to the other side of the Jordan and they settle into their homes. He wants them to remember, “Don’t forget the Lord. Don’t forget the Lord.” He wants that concept to haunt them. He wants it to go with them.

At the moment they’re very earnest and eager and who would think that they might fall away from the Lord? It’s kind of like when you go to a wedding and this couple is so in love with each other. The pastor who’s officiating is telling this couple all these things that they’re not even paying any attention to at the moment anyway because they’re so deliriously happy.

He’s talking to them about how to preserve the oneness of their marriage, how to love each other, and how to honor and respect and submit and all these things. The couple’s thinking, We don’t need all that. I don’t even know if they’re listening to it.

But that pastor, who’s done a lot of marriage counseling and has picked up a lot of pieces of those who are further down the road, he’s thinking, You don’t know how much you need this because, yes, you’re deliriously happy right now, but six weeks or six months or six years from now when you can’t stand each other, you’re going to need to remember what I said.

And Joshua’s thinking that way. Yes, everything looks fine now. You love the Lord. You’re serving Him. You’re committed to Him. But I want you to remember, you need to remember this down the road when you’re on the other side of the Jordan.

Joshua was so wise to point these people to the Lord and not to himself. Every verb in this charge is tied to a reference to the Lord. It’s the Lord they are to love. It’s the Lord they are to serve. It’s the Lord that they are to obey. It’s the Lord they are to cling to with all their hearts.

Joshua knew that their long-term hope was not in their having fond memories of their leader, Joshua. It was in their having an intimate, personal ongoing relationship with God. Am I right when I say that that’s your hope for your children when they leave home? You know that if they don’t have a relationship with the Lord—they may be good kids, they may have lots of talents, they may be smart—but you know if they don’t have a relationship with the Lord, they aren’t going to make it.

They’re going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that,” because they’ve been hearing you say that this all these years.” Say it again. They need to hear you say it. They need the commendation, but they need to hear you say, “Don’t forget the Lord. Keep walking with the Lord.”

Joshua pleads with these people to cling to God, to hold fast to Him, not to let Him go. He urges them to be earnest and wholehearted in their faith. I don’t think Joshua got tired of saying this or felt like it was unnecessary. I don’t think the people listening to him probably realized how necessary it was. But I don’t think Joshua got tired of saying it because he knew they needed to hear these words.

Be very careful. Be earnest. Serve the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. As Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance.” Be vigilant. Be watchful. “For from it [your heart] flow the springs of life.”

When Joshua sent them away to their homes and blessed them, he said to them, “Go back to your tents with much wealth and with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and with much clothing. Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers” (v. 7).

These men from the eastern side of the Jordan had fought along with their brothers on the western side of the Jordan. They were all entitled to share in the reward.

In verses 3 through 8, which we’ve just read, there are four references at least to brothers—your brothers. Yes, you’re going to be east and they’re going to be west, but you’re brothers. You’re part of the same community of faith. You’re a family.

Joshua wanted them to remember that even though they were geographically separated, they were still related. They belong to each other. That becomes very important as the story unfolds.

So the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home, parting from the people of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, their own land of which they had possessed themselves by command of the LORD through Moses (v. 9).

Now it wasn’t long, and we see this unfold in the rest of the chapter, before that wonderful spirit of unity between all these brothers who had fought shoulder to shoulder in the foxhole with each other over all these years. They had been a team, the east and the west. They had been together, but it was a matter of a very short period of time before that unity was threatened and all of a sudden these brothers were at each other’s throats.

Starting in verse 10 of chapter 22 through the rest of the chapter we see a situation that develops. In the time we have remaining together I want us to look at this situation. Then in the next session we’ll see how that situation was resolved.

And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size (v. 10).

So these are the two-and-a-half eastern tribes. They’re going to go back across the Jordan to their homes, but when they get to the Jordan before they cross over it, still on the west side, they built an altar. Before they crossed over to their homes on the east side, they built it in plain sight. There’s no suggestion that they were trying to hide this, and word traveled fast among the other tribes as to what had happened.

And the people of Israel heard it said, “Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel” (v. 11).

Now where did these people get their information? They heard it said. Hearsay. Hearsay. Most of the people did not see it with their own eyes. They had never talked to these men who had built this altar. They heard it said, and as a result of hearsay there resulted this huge misunderstanding that almost threatened to have a civil war between the east and the west.

And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them (v. 12).

Now keep in mind for seven years the Children of Israel, east and west, have been fighting together against the Canaanites. That’s the real enemy. The enemies of God. Now just a matter of a short time after the conquest they’re getting ready to make war against each other.

The people in the west of the Jordan heard the initial facts:

  • They heard there’s been an altar built.
  • The two-and-a-half tribes built an altar on the west side of Jordan.
  • They immediately jumped to conclusions.
  • They became suspicious.
  • They assumed the worst as to what this altar was and why the two-and-a-half tribes had done it. 
  • They decided to take action based on their assumptions.

Proverbs 18, verse 13—an important verse to remember and a great one to teach your children—“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” If you give an answer, a response, if you react before you’ve heard all the facts in the situation, before you’ve taken time to hear the other side’s story, you’re going to end up in folly and shame.

Things are not always as they appear. Two people can see the same set of facts and come to totally different conclusions. Isn’t that what’s often at the root of a conflict? People say, “But you did this.” “I know I did this, but I didn’t mean that.” “But you meant this.” We assume on motives. We assume on why people do things. We assume that we know all the facts before we even check out the facts. That’s how we end up with conflicts.

The eastern tribes, as the story unfolds, and we’ll look more at this in the next session, they were thinking one thing when they built the altar. But the other Israelites saw that altar and they assumed something totally different. So one moment these are brothers who have fought and risked their lives together against the enemy. The next they’re at each other’s throats, threatened by civil war.

Now in defense of the western tribes, the appearance did not look good. They already had a place to worship God. They had a tabernacle. It was at Shiloh at this point. That’s where they were to come. That’s where the altars were to be erected. This was a situation, as we’ll see in the next session, that needed to be dealt with. It was not one that should have been ignored. But as is usually the case when there are conflicts in families, in relationships, in the body of Christ, the issues were not quite as clear-cut as what they seemed initially.

In fact, if you read commentators on the book of Joshua, you’ll find that commentators differ as to who was right and who was wrong in this situation. And often in situations, and I think it’s probably the case in this one, there is some right and some wrong on both sides. So we’re going to see how they resolved this. I want you to remember that as soon as you take sides in a conflict, you lose the ability to be a peacemaker.

I was talking on the phone the other day with a friend. He and his wife are good friends and they have a grown son who has made some unwise choices. Married probably out of the will of God and certainly against his parents’ better judgment. Now that young adult son is having huge marriage issues and came to my friends’ house the other day. He said his wife had thrown him out. My friend is telling me this, asking me to pray for this young couple, and saying, “We just don’t know what to do.”

My friend started telling me some of the ways that this daughter-in-law had really contributed, in this dad’s opinion, to the break-up of this marriage. Now my friend knows that it takes two to tango. In fact, he said that in the course of the conversation. But I noticed that most of the things he was listing were the fault and wrongdoing of the daughter-in-law.

I cautioned him. We’re good friends and I have the kind of relationship where I could say this to this couple. I said, “Let me just encourage you in this situation.” I had just been studying this passage, and I saw the conflict coming. I said, “When you get in the middle of a conflict and you’re wanting to be the peacemaker, remember that you will lose your opportunity, your ability to be a peacemaker as soon as you take sides. You cannot afford to take sides.

"Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t wrong. It doesn’t mean your daughter-in-law isn’t guilty of all the things you just told me and maybe a whole lot more. But if you take sides with your son against this daughter-in-law who is his wife, you’re going to forfeit the opportunity to really help bring this situation together." And that’s what this dad wants. That’s what these parents want. They want to see the situation reconciled.

Be careful that you don’t respond to hearsay, that you don’t decide to go to war before you’ve even found out what’s happening. Deal with the situation. We’ll see that as we get back into this in the next session. But be careful not to take sides, or you will lose the ability to influence.

I said, “Your son as you’re speaking to him, what he needs to hear you say is, ‘Son, I know that there are struggles and challenges in this marriage, but what is it that God is saying to you in this situation? What does God want you to do as a man in this situation? What is the responsible step of action you need to take? And how is God trying to sanctify and change your life?’”

Now that doesn’t mean you’re saying, “I think you’re all wrong.” You’re just not passing judgment on that because you don’t know. You don’t live with that couple. You don’t know what all the issues are. You don’t know so don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t for sure respond to hearsay and get all up in arms before you find out what’s really going on.

Now we’re going to come back to this conflict. I hate to leave it there, but I want us to look in the next session at how they resolved this conflict in a way that was peaceful and productive because I think it will give us some insights in conflicts that we deal with. But let’s just stop and pray as we close this session.

Lord, how I thank You for the wisdom and the heart of Joshua as he deals with these men going off to their own territory east of the Jordan and for the courage and the boldness he had to charge them to walk with God. Lord, I pray that we would hear that same charge in our lives today. That we would be encouraged and exhorted to cling to the Lord, to serve Him with all our hearts.

I pray for moms as they disciple their sons and daughters that they would have the courage to say to their children, “I want you to follow Christ and live for Him.” That they wouldn’t be afraid to say those things or be afraid that their children would roll their eyes and say, “We’ve heard that.” Lord, help them to know when and how to give their children those challenges.

Lord, as we see this conflict that arises between the two sides, I pray that You’d give us wisdom as conflicts arise to know how to deal righteously and wisely and justly in those situations, to be peacemakers, to be reconcilers, to help bring warring factions together that brothers may dwell together in unity because we know that pleases You and that’s when You command the blessing. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us what real peace looks like. It’s not easy but it’s worth pursuing. That message on becoming more of a peacemaker is from the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy."  

We want to help you maintain a peaceful heart this Christmas season. So we’d like to send you a brand new CD of Christmas songs with Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the piano. Nancy’s new collection is called Come Adore. It will point you to Jesus—the Prince of Peace—as you go through the crazy swirl of a holiday season.

We’ll send you the CD, Come Adore, when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. We’re able to bring you the program only because listeners support the ministry financially. When you make a gift of any size here in November, we’ll send you a copy—one per household.

Ask for Come Adore when you call with your gift. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or make your donation by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

We learned some important things about peacemaking today but never heard the end of the biblical story. We’ll find out how that conflict was resolved and learn a lot more about peacemaking in the process. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.