SOAP Journal – 13 July 2017 (Joshua 22:5)

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Joshua 22:5

After the Promised Land was parceled out, Joshua summoned the 2½ tribes that settled in the land of Gilead on the opposite side of the Jordan from the rest of the Israelites and releases them from service. They had promised to go to war alongside their brethren and the land was now solidly in the control of the Israelites. There was still conquering to do, but the war was over for a time. Joshua tells the 2½ tribes that they have served faithfully and discharges them with a blessing and a warning. This morning’s verse is the substance of that warning.

In the New Testament (NT), believers are warned not to forsake the gathering together of the brethren (Hebrews 10:25). The 2½ tribes looked to be doing exactly that. And Joshua’s exhortation to the 2½ tribes contains, I think, part of the reason why fellowship is strongly encouraged.

Joshua warns the 2½ tribes to be very careful to observe the commandment and the law … to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When Paul writes similar exhortations to the NT believers, it is usually phrased without the very included. He might emphasize a point, but I cannot recall an instance in which Paul added an emphasis word. The reason for the emphasis is, I think, in the verses preceding Hebrews 10:25. Hebrews 10:23-24 says Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds …. The idea there is that fellowship; being in the company of others who believe as you do and follow the same God you do gives all involved the opportunity to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.

If the 2½ tribes had remained with their fellow Israelites and not had a river dividing them, then the near civil war that follows hard on the heels of the 2½ tribes heading home would never have happened. Moreover, the river between them leads later to slow division as deep as language. All of the Israelites should speak the same language, but those in Gilead began to develop a dialect that divided them from their brethren.

Where all of this leads, for me, is to the place where I am reminded that I need regular fellowship with brothers in Christ. I may not live next door to them (although I might) and it may require planning (I do not like to plan), but I need regular time spent with those who have my Savior in common so we can stimulate one another to love and good deeds and so that we help ease the burden and ratchet the intensity of effort down from being very careful to simply being careful. Maybe I will still need to be very careful, but it is still a simpler thing than trying to go it alone.

Thank You, Father, that You have placed us in Your family and that we can support one another and bear one another’s burdens and make walking with You even less laborious. Please give me a willingness and a desire to work at fellowship.

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