Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God has given you rest…
The latter part of this chapter recounts the preparations made for the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan. Joshua was already showing himself "the right man in the right place." Having given orders with respect to the food necessary for the next march, he now addresses the tribes who had been permitted to choose an inheritance on the east of the Jordan. He reminds them of their promise to send their armed men as a van-guard to the people. Though under the sheltering wings of the Almighty no prudent precautions must be neglected, no vigilance relaxed, the honour of God demands that reasonable care should be exercised to prevent surprise and the consequent disgrace that would attach to His holy name. God helps us not only outwardly but inwardly, teaching us how to live a sober, righteous, and godly life, and so to vanquish the machinations of the enemy.
I. A COVENANT REMEMBERED. If the Reubenites and Gadites had forgotten it, not so Joshua. Nor does God fail to recollect the vows we have made. As He recalled Jacob to a sense of his ingratitude and remissness (Genesis 35:1), so He will not have us treat our promises lightly. It is part of the functions of a faithful leader to bring to light forgotten duties. A minister reminds his people of their engagements. What declarations of devoted adherence to Christ were uttered at conversion! how they bound themselves henceforth to live to the glory of God! The people's promises to God must be insisted on, as won as the cheering promises which God has made to them. Let us not be angry nor revile such admonitions as the preaching of the law instead of the gospel. An appeal was made to authority. The agreement had been a commandment on the part of Moses. Joshua enforced compliance therewith. On the same grounds we draw attention to the precepts of prophets and apostles, as well as to the direct dictates of the Lord. These holy men were inspired, and to dispute their utterances is to call in question the authority of the Master whose servants they were. Joshua thus sanctioned Moses as Peter afterwards bore witness to Paul (2 Peter 3:15).
II. PRINCIPLES RECOGNISED IN THE COVENANT.
1. Favours merit some grateful return. The land of Gilead and Bashan was desired by these two and a half tribes on account of its fruitful pasturage. It was adapted for flocks and herds, and the sight of such fertile territory caused the owners of much sheep and cattle to be willing to settle down at once, rather than to occupy soft in the "land of promise" itself. Their request was not pleasing to Moses, as it seemed to put a slight upon Canaan, and to threaten a relapse into idolatry, beside the imminent danger of discouraging the rest of the Israelites, and so effecting by the wrath of God the utter extinction of the nation. Yet on the condition to which reference has been made the petition was ultimately granted. As they had achieved their desire it was rightly expected that they would render some proportionate recompense. And in similar method our heavenly Father deals with us today. We must be ready to cry with the Psalmist, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" If more than others we have received, of us will more be required. Health and strength, wealth and position, learning and influence - not one of these gifts but entails a corresponding responsibility. If the conditions have not been stated in so many words, yet they are easily discoverable.
2. The priority of duty to pleasure. Before these armed men could lawfully enjoy their inheritance they must fulfil their engagement. We do not oppose duty to pleasure, strictly speaking, for it is obvious that only when mindful of the former can the latter be truly known. But the two may be distinguished, and it is clear that there are cases in which selfish inclination would lead one way and obligation calls us another. The rule to be adopted is plain. Listen to "I ought," and follow whither it directs; there will be a satisfaction gendered which will go far to repay us for any sacrifice; and then when the period of relaxation has really arrived our delight will be embittered by no stings of reproachful conscience, but enhanced by the remembrance of duty discharged. Let this be noted and acted upon by the young, and there will be fewer wasted lives. Let Church members consult their obligations before their convenience and there will be fewer vacancies crying out for occupants.
3. The obligations of fraternal love. The dislike of Moses to the request of these tribes was akin to the grief of a father who witnesses the separation of some members of the family from the rest. The river Jordan was in itself but a small dividing line, but it might be significant of a wide and deep estrangement. Evidently perceiving the fear of Moses, the Reubenites, etc., offered to prove by their conduct that they were still at one with their brethren and intended so to remain. The offer was approved of and established as a covenant between the whole nation and these special tribes. It affirmed a participation in the common hopes and risks. The New Testament speaks not less clearly of the relationship between all the children of God. The members of the body. of Christ axe bound to feel with and for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25, 26). "Let brotherly love continue." So forcible was the impulse of the first preaching of the gospel that it led the Christians of Jerusalem to a commonalty of goods. It is required of the rich to help the poor, the strong must assist in bearing the burdens of the weak, the settled in position and faith must stretch out the hand to those who axe still searching for a place of rest, and those who have leisure must devote a portion at least to the succour of the busily employed. The Jewish Paul having obtained the privileges of Christianity could wish himself to be "accursed for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh." We are selfish indeed if we pray not and labour not for the salvation of our friends till they become possessed likewise of an eternal inheritance. Briefly note -
III. THE RATIFICATION OF THE COVENANT. The covenanters assented immediately to the command of Joshua. They were ready to keep their word. No excuses urged, no pleas of misunderstanding, no subtle equivocations, no attempts to secure a remission of their engagement, but downright honest confirmation of their pledged promise. They did not desire their sin to find them out (Numbers 32:23). The covenant had been really made with the Lord, and He would be certain to punish its violation. God give us grace to imitate their example! Like Jephthah, we have "opened our mouth to the Lord and cannot go back." We have declared that our bodies shall be living sacrifices, that our mouths shall show forth the Redeemer's praise, that as for us we will serve the Lord. Very shame should bind us to our word; we must not, dare not, "keep back part of the price." And love to God and man draws us onward to our "reasouable service." - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land.