Joshua said to them: You have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you and you have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you. You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God. And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan. Joshua 22:2-4
We are nearing the end of the book of Joshua but still have a few important lessons to absorb.
At the beginning of his leadership, Joshua had reminded the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh of their promise to fight with their brothers to conquer the Promised Land. In Joshua 1: 12 – 18, they had promised not only to do so but to even go beyond their original commitment.
Now the war is over and the land is divided among the tribes so Joshua summoned the two and a half tribes to thank and applaud them for their unselfish allegiance to their brothers and for keeping their promise. He gave them permission to return to their families which awaited them on the opposite side of the Jordan and added this exhortation:
Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the Torah 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
There are two principles in this chapter of importance in every generation.
Integrity – Among other definitions, Webster describes integrity as “soundness of moral character.” Integrity from a biblical viewpoint has to do with being morally sound. What does that mean? A person with integrity knows what is important to God and consistently lives in light of that knowledge. It involves more than living our values; it involves subscribing to God’s values and with His help learning to conform our conduct to those values. Integrity is like the foundation of a house, if it is unstable, the entire house may come apart when it comes under pressure.
Integrity is not determined by circumstances or based on credentials. It is not to be confused with reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are; your character is who you really are! A good reputation is as good as gold but a person with integrity owns the gold mine. If you take care of your character and become a person of integrity, your reputation will take care of itself.
Integrity has to do with a sense of consistency between a person’s inner values and attitudes and his outward words and actions. It keeps you from being a double-minded person, unstable in all your ways.
A person with integrity can’t be bought, but he/she can be trusted.
The two and a half tribes demonstrated integrity by keeping their promise at personal cost to themselves and their families. For that, Joshua blessed them and thanked them.
Community – The second part of Joshua’s message to them was a well-placed exhortation. They were about to leave the constant fellowship of the other tribes to settle on the other side of the Jordan. They would be separated from the larger community of Israel and Joshua wisely foresaw the possibility that separation could bring alienation and assimilation into foreign ways. He cautioned them to keep their faith alive by staying true to God’s commandments, to hold fast to the God Who had brought them thus far and remain loyal to Him. Notice he said nothing directly about community – or did he?
Joshua knew that if they would stay true to the God of Israel, they would of necessity remain in good relationship with each other. They had fought alongside their brothers, they had seen miracles and divine protection, they knew well all that God had done for their forefathers during the forty years in the desert. If they would just maintain and strengthen their relationship with God and their relationships with each other, Joshua was confident that all would be well with them.
It goes without saying that a person is known by the company he keeps. Our human relationships – the friends we choose – have a distinct impact on each of our lives. Do not our parents urge us to stay away from “bad companions”? So does the scripture!
Living a successful spiritual life depends on two important things: your personal relationship with God Himself AND your relationships with those around you, particularly your closest associates – family and friends. Both of these are governed by the two great commandments: you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and resources; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
This is essentially what Joshua was saying to the men of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh. Love God and take good care of your relationships.
And what he is saying to us, these many centuries later. Integrity and Community – two pillars of a successful spiritual life.