Jos_22:4-5. Now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side Jordan. But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to lore the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
THE duties of soldiers and of their commanders are well illustrated in this passage. The soldier’s chief excellence is a prompt, steady, persevering, uniform obedience to the commands of his superiors, without regarding any difficulties, any dangers, any sacrifices: and amongst the chief excellencies of a commander is an attention to the spiritual and eternal interests of those who are under his authority.
The Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassites, had received their portion on the other side of Jordan on the express condition, that a just proportion of their tribes should pass over Jordan to fight in concert with the other tribes, and not return unto their inheritance till the whole land should be subdued. This they had done; and now that they were about to be disbanded, Joshua acknowledges to their honour, that “they had kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded them, and had obeyed his voice also in all that he had commanded them.” But whilst he commends them for their fidelity to him, he endeavours to impress upon their minds a sense of duty and allegiance to God; and enjoins them to “take diligent heed to serve the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul.”
From this parting exhortation we are led to remark,
That a progress in holiness is above all things to be desired—
[Had Joshua merely judged it proper to insert an admonition relative to their religious duties, one or two expressions would have sufficed: but from the multitude of expressions used in the text, we see of what unspeakable importance he considered religion to be to every child of man. He not only mentions the subject first in general terms, that “they should do the commandment and the law,” but enters particularly into it: they must have, as the principle of their obedience, the love of God: the extent of it must be to all God’s ways: and, as to the manner of it, they must cleave to him with an unalterable determination of their wills, and the most ardent exercise of their affections — — — This is holiness; but nothing short of it will suffice. We do not say that the Christian must be perfect: for where should we then find a Christian? but he must aim at perfection, and be continually pressing forwards for the attainment of it. This was the great object of Joshua’s solicitude both for himself and his soldiers: this was the great end for which our Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross, even “to purify to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works:” and this must be the one object for which we should desire to live.]
That, whatever progress any person may have made, he still needs to hear words of counsel and exhortation—
[The soldiers whom Joshua was disbanding had continued with unshaken fidelity to fulfil their engagements: and though they had been detained from their families and possessions for seven years, they never once murmured or repined at the delay: yet Joshua did not on that account think that his religious counsels to them were superfluous. Nor should the most established Christian imagine himself to be beyond the reach of danger, or to have attained such eminence as not to need every possible help for his furtherance in the divine life. St. Peter, writing to those to whom “the divine power had already given all things that pertained to life and godliness,” says, “I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” And indeed the counsel in our text intimates, that, in order to do the commandments, we must “take heed,” yea, “take diligent heed” to them; so many are our temptations to violate them, and so averse are we by nature to observe them — — — In a general way, the truth of these observations will be thought so obvious, as that they scarcely deserved a mention: but experience proves, that they need to be insisted on with all possible earnestness: for, whilst the professors of religion depart from open iniquity, there is in every one of them some besetting sin, which they are prone to cherish and indulge. Moreover, their blindness with respect to that sin is most astonishing: for, not only are they unconscious of its domination, but they are even ignorant of its existence in them; and not unfrequently do they give themselves credit for that as a virtue, which others see to be their greatest defect. How blind are men to their pride, their vanity, their worldliness! How often does an angry and bitter spirit habitually prevail in men, who never mourn over their unchristian tempers, or appear even to be aware of them! — — — We call upon all then to “be jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy;” and to hear the exhortations of the Gospel with an especial reference to themselves, searching out their own spirit, and striving to attain the full “mind that was in Christ Jesus.”]
That a state of peace and prosperity is a season of peculiar danger—
[Now the disbanded soldiers were returning to the bosom of their families, and the peaceful prosecution of their worldly business: and, as Moses had long since warned them, they were in danger, whilst enjoying “houses which they built not, wells which they digged not, and vineyards which they planted not; they were in danger, I say, of forgetting the Lord their God.” And who does not feel how apt the mind is to yield to the pleasures of sense, and to relax its ardour in the pursuit of heavenly things, when it has no trials or troubles to stimulate its exertions? Visit the chambers of sickness, and of health; and see how different the same persons are under the two different states! View persons under painful bereavements, and see them afterwards in the full enjoyment of all earthly comforts! Truly, if we regarded heavenly things only, we might rather congratulate men on troubles than on the absence of them, and account prosperity their greatest snare. To all then who are looking forward to any worldly acquisitions or comforts, or who are now living in the possession of them, we would urge with peculiar earnestness the necessity of vigilance, lest having “begun in the Spirit, they end in the flesh.” Hear the exhortation of an inspired Apostle: “Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord; looking diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled [Note: Heb_12:14-15.]:” there you may see the hidden nature, the growing tendency, the baneful effects of sin; its effects in the heart, the Church, the World — — — O that we may be ever on our guard against its secret workings; and most of all on our guard, when ease and prosperity are administering opiates to our souls!]
“Suffer ye then, Brethren, a word of exhortation [Note: Heb_13:22. If this were on the occasion of disbanding troops, the commendation given by Joshua, as well as his exhortation, should, as far as was applicable, be insisted on.]”—
[When ye are released from your present warfare, and are dismissed to your eternal inheritance, ye will be beyond the reach of sin: in the bosom of your God your holiness and felicity will be complete. But, as long as you are in this world, you will need to have every word of Joshua’s injunctions repeatedly enforced. See then to it that you “love the Lord your God,” who has redeemed you from sin and Satan, death and hell — — — See that, from a sense of love to him, and his love to you, your obedience be carried to its utmost possible extent; and strive to “be perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” — — — And, since it is certain that you will find many things to draw you away from him, mind that you “cleave to him with full purpose of heart,” “abhorring that which is evil, and cleaving to that which is good” — — — Lastly, let all your affections centre in Him, and in his ways: let “your whole heart and your whole soul” be engaged in his service; and let the delight which you experience in fulfilling his will, be manifested, “not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth;” so that your bitterest enemy, or most watchful observer, may have no room to doubt either the excellence of your principles, or the reality of your attainments.]