Joshua 22:31-34 (NIV) 31 And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the LORD is with us, because you have not acted unfaithfully toward the LORD in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the LORD’s hand.” 32 Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. 33 They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived. 34 And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God.
On verses 31-34: Phinehas and the rest of the delegation return and report to the western tribes of Israel what the eastern tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh (collectively, “Team RGM”) said. The western tribes are pleased with Team RGM’s response and decide not to go to war against them (v31-33). The Reubenites and the Gadites call the altar that they had built “A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God” (v34).
What can we learn from this? The phrase “a witness between us” appears three times in Joshua 22 to describe the altar built by Team RGM. Just as the altar was a witness between Team RGM and the rest of the Israelites “that the Lord is God” (v34), so I am reminded that the cross is a witness between heaven and earth, between God and mankind, that the Lord is God, that God loves every person in this world so much that He gave His one and only Son Jesus Christ for us.
Other faiths will point to ideas and philosophical concepts. But in Christianity, what we point to is an actual moment in history when God used a cross as a witness between us and Him to speak of His tremendous love, grace and mercy toward us. The cross where Jesus died is the greatest witness between us and God of God’s heart for this world.
Joshua 23:1-5 (NIV) 1 After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years, 2 summoned all Israel–their elders, leaders, judges and officials–and said to them: “I am old and well advanced in years. 3 You yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you. 4 Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain–the nations I conquered–between the Jordan and the Great Sea in the west. 5 The LORD your God himself will drive them out of your way. He will push them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the LORD your God promised you.
On verses 1-5: Joshua had led the Israelites in entering the promised land, conquering it, and allotting the various parts of it to the tribes of Israel. God had used Joshua in tremendous ways to help the Israelites step into their God-given destiny. Now that Joshua is “old and well advanced in years” (v1) and knows that his days are numbered, Joshua acknowledges the fact that the Israelites have still not taken full possession of the promised land, and that there are still some other nations living in the promised land that need to be driven out. In verse 5 Joshua says that “The LORD your God himself will drive them out of your way. He will push them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the LORD your God promised you.”
What can we learn from this? The entire work that God is doing and the entire story that God is writing will not accomplished by any one person or any one leader. Your leaders, even the greatest ones, will come and eventually go, but God will never leave you or forsake you and is faithful to complete the work He is doing in your life (see Philippians 1:6). He Himself will do it, through means or another.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the cross, the greatest witness between us and You of Your great love for us. Thank You that even when leaders come and go You will never leave and You will be faithful to complete the good work You started in us. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!