Friday, May 30, 2008

Walking the Line - Joshua 22:19

“But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the Lord’s land where the Lord’s tabernacle stands and take for yourselves a possession among us. Only do not rebel against the Lord or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the Lord our God.”

- Joshua 22:19

Israel had finally taken over the Promised Land through the power of the Lord. We see it written that there was peace on all sides; along every border. And so now the peoples of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe Manasseh, which came to fight alongside their people, were returning over the Jordan to the land which was given to them by God through Moses before Israel entered the land to fight for it’s purity.

They left with Joshua and the peoples’ blessing and started their journey. As they neared the Jordan where they would then cross out of the borders of the land that God had promised. There they built an altar to be “a witness between” them and the rest of God’s people, that the Lord is God. They put it there so that the generations to come will always remember the God that they worship and so that the people across the Jordan will not think that they have abandoned God. They had the best of intentions.

But Israel has had a long history of being entangled into other cultures and allowing foreign influences to sway them away from the one true God.

And so the people of Israel, upon hearing about this altar, sent Phinehas and 10 tribal chiefs to check on what was happening and to get them back on track with the Lord. Even though they had fought side by side to purify the land they were not going to take the chance and thus bring down God’s wrath again. And rightly so.

Praise God that the altar was made with good intentions and the right heart. But if it had not, then the entire people of Israel would have paid the price.

They even offered them the chance to return to the land and take a possession amongst the people that they might not fall into this sin.

The peoples of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe Manasseh were walking the line. God had set clear physical boundaries for his people. Within those boundaries were God’s people that were dedicated to staying close to Him and following his ways. But all of the filth that was there previously had now either been eliminated or forced out. Outside of the boundary lines were people who worshipped idols, performed immoral acts and everything else that went against what God had taught His people. And so it was natural to think, because of their past, that as the people neared it’s borders and mixed with other people that they would have strayed.

God has also set boundaries with our actions, our thoughts and our words. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians about a few of the most important boundary lines. The lines that are clearly marked to make sure that we are within where God wants us to be and that is that we need to make sure that within our freedom in Christ, everything we do is to the Glory of God and that what we do does not cause others to stumble. Another boundary line that we read a lot of is love.

As Christians we need to stay well within the boundary lines that God has set for us, his people. If we play along that line, if we are on the fence, then we are more apt to be influenced by things that do not glorify Him.

Another thing that the bible talks about is the reputation of his people. As leaders, that call to guard our reputation is even higher. And if we play that fence than we should expect others to come and check on us. We should not be defensive and offended when others question our integrity.

We need to be above reproach. And that means that we need to stay as far from the fence as possible and not try to see how close we can get to the line. We now have freedom in Christ which means that through our regenerated hearts and the work of the Holy Spirit we now are free to choose to stay as far inside the boundaries as we can. We are free to choose the right as the Mormons say.

Forgive for my sins when I played with your boundary lines. In the name of freedom I stained your name and so I’m sorry and I repent. Help me to stay well within your boundaries that I might misrepresent you to others and that I might not fall into temptation. I love you Lord.

In Jesus Name, Amen.