Crossing the Jordan

Table of Contents

8. Crossing the Jordan

  • Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:2–3)

Second Peter 1:4 tells us that through His promises we will be able to live the Christian life. There are three aspects to the Christian walk. The first one is the parting of the Red Sea, when we come out of Egypt. The second is our baptism when we are washed from sins and delivered from the world and then immediately after the delivery from Egypt, we go into the desert to be tempted as Jesus did. This is a time for sin to be dealt with. It’s a time of testing. The third aspect of the Christian walk comes over a period of time. For some, it takes a whole lifetime. Some never quite go into the Promised Land, but only see it from a distance. Some never get in at all and they have to go back out to the desert to perish. This third aspect is the crossing of the Jordan River—living in the land of promise. It is a land full of promises, but it’s also a land of warfare. You can only gain the Promise Land by fighting. The desert time was a time of refining and dealing with the flesh so that you could do some warfare by the Spirit and the promises of God.

  • Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises… (2 Peter 1:4)

By the promises of God, we overcome sin. By His promises we lay hold of the things God wants us to do and fight the battles He calls us to fight.

  • …so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4)

By the promises of God, we really have a victorious, resurrected life. The problem is that most people do not persevere long enough to get to the Promise Land. They fall away in the desert. We will look at the Israelites as they went into the Promised Land and laid hold of the promises of God. Let’s remember that even though we live in the Promised Land, we are still in enemy territory. We still have to deny ourselves—the land of Canaan is not heaven. There we really learn to do battle and do it well. God gave the Israelites over 300,000 square miles of land to conquer by His promises. They managed to take barely 10 percent of that. They took about 30,000 square miles. In the same way, we have a rich storehouse of promises before us, but how little we have laid hold of those promises. Indeed, some of us may not be walking in those promises at all.

  • The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” (Numbers 32:1–4)

This land laid on the other side of the Promise Land. The Jordan River was before them. The promises awaited them. All that God promised in the land of Canaan was there. They were right up to that point. They were getting close to the resurrected life, but they didn’t want to cross over to lay hold of it. Something of this world held them back. They didn’t want to go and press in. They had a lot of livestock. They kept a toehold to the world. There was something they did not want to give up. It may have been family, a boat, a car, or some aspect of self. They didn’t want to go in and possess the Promise Land unless they got something out of the deal.

  • So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said… (Numbers 32:2)

We will discover one thing about these people, they were loaded with a lot of words. They talked about God and spoke His name. They had well-refined arguments. Their arguments were well refined because they realized that the last time they came to this stage, the people rebelled by refusing to go in and they didn’t have the faith to fight. So, God said, “Okay, then go out to the desert and perish.” They knew better than to do that again. They didn’t want to lose the blessing or some aspect of grace. They wanted to get close to the resurrected life and the message of the cross, but not really pick up the cross.

  • …the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. (Numbers 32:4)

They had a lot of livestock—a big investment in the world. They had a lot of things. (Sounds like America a little bit.) “Let’s get up to the Promise Land. Let’s get up to denying self and carrying our cross, but let us not give up everything and go over into the land of Canaan.”

Again, verse four says; “the land that the Lord subdued.” They said to the people, “Now look, God has given us this victory—this land. This is all from the Lord, so why shouldn’t we possess this land here on this side of the Jordan?” So, they couldn’t argue the point. You can’t say, “Well, no God didn’t give me the victory” or “He didn’t answer the prayer.” God indeed answered the prayer and He did give the victory. You have to acknowledge that His Spirit moved and worked in that, but that was not where God wanted them to dwell and live. He wanted them to go into the land of Canaan, but they did not want to move in that direction. They didn’t want to go that far. They had a little spot in the world they didn’t want to lose—a home, family, or whatever it might be. Look at verse five.

  • They continued, “If we have found favor in your eyes…” (Numbers 32:5)

That is like saying, “If we are in fellowship with you; if we are brothers and sisters with you; if we seem to be spiritual to you; if we are of some value to you; if you love us a little bit, do this one thing for us.”

  • …let this land be given to your servants as our possession. (Numbers 32:5)

Let this land on the other side of the promises of God be given to us. Don’t make us go into the Promised Land and lay hold of that.

  • …do not make us cross the Jordan. (Numbers 32:5)

Crossing the Jordan leads to the resurrected life. At the Jordan you take the promises of God and put them into practice and do honest spiritual warfare. There, self is lost and you win glory and resurrection for Jesus Christ. Certain people who march all the way through the desert will be your brothers and sisters and be of value to you. They will find favor in your eyes and you will bring them all the way to the point of crossing the Jordan, but they will say to you, “Don’t make us go that far. We’ve already surrendered this much. We’ve already marched for forty years. Don’t make us go on over into the Promise Land. We want to stay comfortable here.” They have some reason or aspect of the flesh they don’t want to give up, so they say, “Let us just camp right here. Let us keep one foot in the world and camp on the edge of God’s promises. We can look at the Promised Land. We can admire it. We can enjoy it, but we don’t have to go in and really labor and live there.”

  • Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, “Shall your countrymen go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from going over into the land the Lord has given them? This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to look over the land. After they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and viewed the land, they discouraged the Israelites from entering the land the Lord had given them. The Lord’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath: ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—’” (Numbers 32:6–11)

They failed to go in because they did not completely abandon their lives to God’s will. The camp of Gad and Reuben said, “We will follow God all the way up to this point, but we will stop here. We’ve reached our limit for which we will serve, give, and follow God.” Though they got close to the Promise Land and were about ready to go in, they drew the line and refused to move. They came with eloquence, speaking of God. We will see here in a little bit they used God’s name a whole lot to get what they wanted.

  • …not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly. (Numbers 32:12)

Moses tried to show them what was in their heart. He could see that they had a toehold on the world and a concern about livestock. He considered them brothers and sisters and loved them. He could see they were not in complete rebellion. They didn’t say they didn’t have any faith and they wouldn’t march in. People like this create so much frustration because they will agree with you about the message of the cross, denying self, and hating your own life. They will agree about the promises of God and they’ll even have answered prayers in their life. Everything is in place, but something is not quite right. You may not be able to put your finger on it. They hold onto something and though you may not be able to see it, you know it is there.

  • The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone. (Numbers 32:13)

The first generation was unwilling to have faith and fight. This generation of these two and a half tribes had the faith to fight, but didn’t want full fellowship. They willingly fought. They had faith. They would labor, if self was pleased in the end.

  • And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers… (Numbers 32:14)

Moses saw what lingered in their heart, even though they didn’t fall under true, complete judgment at that point in time. He saw what was there and he tried to show them their hearts. He tried to speak to them in a very direct way, hoping they would fall in love with God and want to fellowship with those who belonged to God.

  • And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel. If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the desert, and you will be the cause of their destruction. (Numbers 32:14–15)

Moses laid out clearly their intentions. Next, they will speak and act like Moses was wrong.

Then they came up to him… (Numbers 32:16)

Instead of seeing the sin in their heart and saying, “You’re right. We’re laying hold of the world. We’re more concerned about these sheep than the land of Canaan and all the promises of God,” they pressed their case and refined their argument. They tried to figure out how they could keep the world and the promises of God at the same time.

  • Then they came up to him and said, “We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children.” (Numbers 32:16)

They began to “focus on the family.” They came to Moses concerned about taking care of their families and protecting their sheep. Who were they pleasing first? They would fight and make sure no one else was destroyed; they would make sure God didn’t bring that kind of judgment on them, but who did they take care of first and foremost? Themselves. If you look long and hard at people who get up all the way to the Promise Land, even though they talk about the denying self, hating their own life, and carrying the cross—if they refuse to go in they are pleasing self no matter how close they get.

  • But we are ready to arm ourselves and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land. (Numbers 32:17)

So, they would willingly fight if they could get something out of the deal. So, let us look at our service and labor for God even now. When we go into the prayer closet and claim the promises of God and ask for answered prayer, what is the ultimate motive of our heart? Do we hope that God will please our flesh? Do we serve God because we hope to get something out of the deal? Do we take care of God’s needs hoping we can go back home and take care of our livestock and children? They willingly denied self, if self was pleased in the end. It is a very subtle temptation to fall into, because all the words seem right: You’re with the camp, you march, and are willing to do battle; you’re willing to pray and do all of the work, but in the end, self is still pleased. You will go to the cross if the cross will give you what you want. You will fellowship with those who preach of the cross as long as you get something out of it.

  • We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has received his inheritance. (Numbers 32:18)

It looked like a selfless love. It looked like concern for the things of God, but it was not. They served and followed God, but did things for God only if they could go back and live where they wanted to live, do what they wanted to do; keep their sheep and their life in its well-placed order, living next to the promises of God. Certain magazines like Guide- posts talk about the promises of God—a tasting, a flirting, an examination, a claiming of the promises, but never stepping over to do battle in Canaan long enough to want to live there. It’s like grabbing something of heaven and then coming back to the world to indulge the flesh. You don’t want to live in heaven. You don’t want to be there with God or fellowship with others who are there. You just want to reach in and grab a few of the good grapes, and then come back and live with your livestock and family.

  • We will not receive any inheritance with them… (Numbers 32:19)

These words haunt them forever. Their own words condemn them. They said, “We see the promises of God, the resurrection, and the power, but we will not have an inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan.” They didn’t want to fully fellowship with those who wanted to go in and die for the sake of God. They failed the test of fellowship.

  • We will not receive any inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan, because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan. (Numbers 32:19)

That was a lie. The inheritance did not fall to them, they requested it. God did not say, “Here are all the promises of God over on this side of the Jordan, the west side, but you get the east side.” Even if God had said that, what would He be looking for? He would want them to rise up and say, “We don’t want to live on the east side. Better to rebel and die in this land of promise than to lay here in sin.” So, they altered the Lord’s words and His purposes. God didn’t bring them out of Egypt and lead them through the desert for them to fall on the east side of His promises. He wanted them to go in to Canaan and win the victory and battle for Him, losing all of self by His grace.

  • …because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan. (Numbers 32:19)

Not true.

  • Then Moses said to them, “If you will do this—if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for battle.” (Numbers 32:20)

Moses hoped that they would do warfare in Canaan, and that the participation in the things of God would bring about a change of heart. He hoped they would cross the Jordan and do battle, and while they fellowshipped with the people of God in the land of Jordan, they would realize what a mistake they made and go back and get their children—maybe even leave the sheep behind—and partake of the promises of God. He hoped if they did warfare, or moved into some of these things, they would have a change of heart and fall in love with God.

  • …and if all of you will go armed over the Jordan before the Lord until he has driven his enemies out before him—then when the land is subdued before the Lord, you may return… (Numbers 32:21–22)

Now look at what he said. These are terrible words and they knew it not.

  • …you may return and be free from your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. (Numbers 32:22)

Who wants to be free of obligation to the Lord? May I always be indebted to the Lord! May His promises always flow so that I am indebted to surrender more of self all the time. May He answer prayer, deliver me from sin and self, may He purify, and cleanse so that I am obligated to the Lord. I want to be obligated.

  • …you may return and be free from your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. (Numbers 32:22)

Moses said, “You shall not owe them any fellowship any longer. You get to have the east side of the Jordan and lose the Lord’s Promised Land and your fellowship with us. That’s all, that’s your trade.”

  • And this land will be your possession before the Lord. (Numbers 32:22)

It’s close to the Lord and His presence. It’s on the border of His promises, but it’s not Canaan. It is not the land He had in mind.

  • But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)

Moses dug deep, over and over again. He told them the truth of who they were without telling them exactly. Many times, people just will not repent. You bring it to them, but you don’t want to force love or force them to repent. But you do everything within your power to arrange it and box them into a corner so they will wake up and say, “This is who I am,” so they might discover it for themselves. This is exactly what Moses did. He laid it out and put the scenario clearly before them. He explained about God and offered fellowship. They clearly understood what it meant to live on the west side of the Jordan. Instead of saying, “We have sinned,” they continued on their own path.

  • Build cities for your women and children… (Numbers 32:24)

Moses tried to point out the flesh and sin in their life without actually saying, “You’re in sin.” Perhaps something in them maybe loved God and he hoped they would wake up and come to their senses. He didn’t want to command love and fall under judgment. He wanted them to be blessed and fellowship in Canaan, so he didn’t pronounce all kinds of heavy judgments. He tried to woo them with the love of God. He had enough enemies to destroy both in Canaan and through the desert, let alone to make more enemies of brothers and sisters for whom there might be a chance to repent.

Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised. (Numbers 32:24)
Do at least that much. Though it won’t be in the land of promise, get close enough. Maybe there might be one or two people who decide to march over some day. Maybe some of those children will grow up and say, “I will march on over there and live on that side. I will go to the west of the Jordan.”

  • The Gadites and Reubenites said to Moses, “We your servants will do as our lord commands.” (Numbers 32:25)

They were humble and obedient in appearance. They weren’t rebellious. People who don’t go into the Promise Land will agree readily when you show them the scriptures. They will say, “Yes, I see what you’re saying. I’ll do exactly what it says”—if they can have self at the end of the day, then they will serve God from eight to five, they will pray and answer Him as long as they can go home at the end of the day, rest, and take a little bit of comfort for themselves.

  • Our children and wives, our flocks and herds will remain here in the cities of Gilead… (Numbers 32:26)

Their demands increased a little bit, didn’t they? When they first talked to Moses, didn’t they just want a few sheep and their children? Now the list increased from children and sheep to wives, livestock, and all the cattle. What happened? We hold onto a little bit of self while the Jordan is right there before us, but we hold onto something that everyone can see. Moses didn’t take the time to sit down and point all these things out to them. Besides, by this time, they wandered in the desert for forty years, been delivered from Egypt, and were right there on the verge of victory—all the promises were there. Why should he repeat the lessons and sermons all over again? So as God has blessed, worked, and brought you up to that place where He says, “Okay, now you can go in. Now you come out of the desert.” Are you saying, “No, I’d rather just sit here on this side of it”? Or do we want to work and do warfare? Are we excited about the possibilities? One of the things I experienced in my own life was an excitement for warfare. In the beginning, it was a testing and trying of faith, (and I’m not saying I won’t be tested and tried in that way again), but I’ve seen the promises of God, I have seen Him glorified, I’ve seen Him be faithful, and now is the time to cross the Jordan.

  • But your servants, every man armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the Lord, just as our lord says. (Numbers 32:27)

Again, people like this are obedient. They are flowery, wordy, and religious. They agree with everything. They talk about the message of the cross and hating their own life—they will be excited about it—but there will be a line that they will not cross; they will not give it up. They will hold onto something they don’t want to let go of. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but they won’t cross over. You can sense it deep within your spirit. You see, they won’t risk it all, without the security of being blessed. They don’t leave behind their children, their livestock. They won’t risk those things. If this thing doesn’t quite work, they’ve got something to fall back on. The kind of Christian disciples Jesus looks for are people who put their hand to the plow with no way to go back. Once you have stated, once you have crossed, once you have engaged the battle, you cannot stop.

  • Then Moses gave orders about them to Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun and to the family heads of the Israelite tribes. He said to them, “If the Gadites and Reubenites, every man armed for battle, cross over the Jordan with you before the Lord, then when the land is subdued before you, give them the land of Gilead as their possession.” (Numbers 32:28–29)

They must at least put up a fight. They must at least put forth some effort. How many people will fight, pray, and labor, but at the end of the day, they come back home to self? In our own giving, serving, loving of others, does it come back to us somewhere? A sense of well-being, our lives are secure, a blessing?

  • But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must accept their possession with you in Canaan. (Numbers 32:30)

What’s wrong with that? Look at how he worded this and their reaction. Read it again.

  • But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must accept their possession with you in Canaan. (Numbers 32:30)

Is it wrong to live in the land of Canaan, the land of promises? Would they somehow get the better blessing and all the rest of the tribes receive the worst? Joshua would go in there and fight, but they would get the best of the land. They didn’t pick up on the subtlety of the hints Moses laid before them. You see, we are a stubborn people, we like everything laid out exactly as to who we are and what we need to repent of. We don’t pick up on the subtle things God whispers to us. It may not be exactly clear, but if we stop and sat down for a minute to analyze and ask, “What am I doing? How am I conducting myself and what motives are really deep within my heart?” We might pick up on the subtlety of what God tries to warn us about. They don’t want the Promised Land; they just want to live close to it. For them, the Promise Land is less shiny than this east side of the Jordan. It’s an amazing thing. Again, they wanted to help conquer the Promised Land, but they have no desire to live there. They were willing to go to war, give, and worship, as long as it didn’t cost them everything. As long as their livestock remained intact. As long as their children were in place. Aren’t there many people in churches today whose lives remain intact? They willingly deny some things, sacrifice, and even go to war. They may pray and fast, they might do all those things, but they keep their home life and themselves in place.

  • Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. (2 Corinthians 2:12–13)

This is the one thing the tribes of Gad and Reuben totally missed—fellowship. If God said you can have the east side and even if it was a better land, all your brothers and sisters are on the west side. They are over there in the land of promise. Gad and Reuben should have responded, “I don’t want the blessings of this world. I don’t want these things. I want to be with my brothers and sisters.” Paul said he had an open door in Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel. His ministry had opened. He could baptize more people. He could pass out more sermon tapes. All these things were there, but he had no peace, he had no rest.

  • I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. (2 Corinthians 3:13)

He was restless in his spirit because he could not find one brother. His brother was on the west side and he was on the east side. He could not rest on the east side until he went to the west side to fellowship. It comes down to whether we love to fellowship or whether we only love the things of God—His comforts, His rest, and His peace. “Let everybody else go there, I’m happy over here.”

The Gadites and Reubenites answered, “Your servants will do what the Lord has said.” (Numbers 32:31)

We keep hearing this over and over again. This acknowledgement, this reasoning that says, “We will do what God commands.” You can show them scripture and say, “This is what scripture says.” They’ll say, “Oh, I agree with that. I’ll live that too. That’s good. I’ll do everything. We’re in fellowship.” But they’re trying to cover up that they’re not in the kind of fellowship that God has in mind.

  • We will cross over before the Lord into Canaan armed, but the property we inherit will be on this side of the Jordan. (Numbers 32:32)

Again, they talked about the presence of the Lord and being with God. They seemed to be spiritual. They seemed to get answered prayer. They marched in God’s battles.

  • We will cross over before the Lord into Canaan armed, but the property we inherit will be on this side of the Jordan. (Numbers 32:32)

Look at their words. “We’ll march out with the Lord. We’ll march out with God’s people, but our inheritance will be separate from everybody else.” Unlike Paul, they would have marched into the city of Troas and stayed there saying, “Titus has his land over there and we have ours over here.” At the end of the day, they wanted something for themselves. Yes, their inheritance will be a cross on the east side, but not within the promises of God. A man can fall into this subtle temptation because when he looks at his life, he sees the promises of God. He can turn and say, “I see them right there. I see victory over here. I helped fight and win this battle. I sacrificed and did this work.” When he looks at his life, the promises are right there. But he is still on the wrong side.

  • So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: Go through the camp and tell the people, “Get your supplies ready. Three days from now…” (Joshua 1:10–11)

Of course, it’s three days. Three days were the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Three days, then you cross this Jordan. This Jordan! Not any other Jordan, not any other message. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one life, one cross—everything is in Jesus Christ. Crossing over holds the victory. They marched through the desert, denied themselves, and endured the testing for this. And within three days they will experience the resurrected life. Yet, they will cross the Jordan and then go back and live in the world.

  • Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own. (Joshua 1:11)

Not visit it. Not enjoy it from a distance. Not to just bask in the fact you went through the battle victoriously and then pat yourself on the back and call your children, your sheep, and your cattle to you and say, “This is grand!” You are to possess the promises of God, losing all of self. What is required in order for a man to possess and maintain the promises of God? A continual crucifixion of his flesh. A continual denying of self and hating of his own life. They want to claim the promises of God, look at, and enjoy them, but not to pick up the cross.

  • But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land.’ Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.” (Joshua 1:12–15)

Go and do the battle. Go march out and then you can go home. A lot of people will be like that. They will come in and lay hold of the message of the cross. They will appreciate it, and be in love with it. They will be awed by it and agree to it, but by the end of the day, they’ll go home. Notice what he said in verse fifteen.

  • …Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise. (Joshua 1:15)

Why is this significant? In Deuteronomy 11:26. What did Joshua try desperately to tell them? They were way past the solid rebukes at this point. They were way past Joshua saying, “You guys, get with the program, pick up your cross, and live on this side with us. We want you to fellowship with us. We love you, why don’t you join us?” There will be certain people for whom you have laid it all out and they will just never fully participate. But you don’t want to beg or plead. You don’t want to bribe. You don’t want to say, “You need to do it.” No one wants to command love.

  • See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. (Deuteronomy 11:26–28)

Scripture is not only about commandments, but also of walking in the way of the Lord. Living on the proper side of Canaan. Living your life in accordance with the way and the movement of God, not just the commandments of God. Most people talk about the commandments of God, but not the ways of God. That’s a different sermon.

  • When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, west of the road, toward the setting sun, (Deuteronomy 12:29–30)

The way the sun comes up and the way it goes down is the way of the Lord. It is the way that He conducts who He is. No more than a man can change the way the sun rises or sets, can he alter the way of the blessing of God. He cannot live on the east side of the Jordan expecting to be fully blessed for all eternity. It just will not happen.

As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, west of the road, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal. You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today. (Deuteronomy 12:30–32)

  • You must not sacrifice the Passover… (Deuteronomy 16:5)

You are not allowed to sacrifice to Jesus Christ in any other way, other than the way God has set down. There is no other way, but the message of the cross.

  • …in any town the Lord your God gives you except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name. There you must sacrifice the Passover in the evening, when the sun goes down. (Deuteronomy 16:5–6)

Why at sunset? It is because in this world our life is passing away. Those who are rich and love themselves look forward to a new day to please themselves. Those who love the living God long for these days to come to an end. We long for the sunset. We could care less about our sheep, our cattle, and our little lives. May the sunset come quickly. They want to live in the sunshine, the rising tide of the world. They want the brightness of the new day. They want the sunrise to shine upon them to begin their commerce, their life, their enjoyments in the things they want to do, and all the fun that the world has to give. But God calls us to live in the sunset of this world, knowing that all things are passing away.

  • There you must sacrifice the Passover in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt. (Deuteronomy 16:6)

They want to live in the morning star of the worldliness in which they had participated in Egypt. They want the sunrise and the worship of the sun.

  • Roast it and eat it at the place the Lord your God will choose. Then in the morning return to your tents. (Deuteronomy 16:7)

Everybody wants to live on the east side of the Jordan as close as possible to the things of God, but not loving God.

Let’s go back to Joshua 1:16. Again their answer was one of obedience. They talked of prayer and life.
Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” (Joshua 1:16)

They are great church workers. “Wherever you command us, wherever you show us to go, wherever the battle is, hey, we’re right there with you. Just don’t touch this part of our lives back here and let us put this over in a secure pen on the east side. Let us build a wall and a rampart around this and make sure you can’t invade this part of it. Let us make sure that after the work and battle is done, we still have something we can hold on to. Make sure we can have our life away from the rest of the community and still claim the blessings of God.”

  • Just as we fully obeyed Moses… (Joshua 1:17)

“We are obedient. We’re right there with you.” They didn’t obey Moses in all things. What did Moses tell them to do? To possess the land that God had given them. The sunsets, not the sunrise. God tried to woo their hearts to love Him, not to lay down some law.

  • …so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. (Joshua 1:17)

You bet! You think they spoke from faith? Do you think they were all fired up about the warfare of God and God glorifying His name? The words will sound the same. Wouldn’t I turn to somebody and say, “May the Lord be with you and may He glorify His name”? Wouldn’t we say that to one another? People will agree with everything because they’ve marched, they know the words, they know everything, and they’ll say, “May God be with you as He was when He was with Moses.” But for what? What is the bottom-line motive? What will happen when it’s all said and done? They will be the blessed people. They will get what they want. They will hold onto a reserve for self and a comfort they can rest in. Of course, they want God to be victorious. They’ve got children, sheep, and cattle. They need His blessing. If they fail, then they also lose. If they can’t go on and possess the land, if they can’t subdue Canaan, the people of Canaan will come marching across to them. Self is at the root. God and the cross-strike self at its root. He zeroes in on it to crucify sin and either we rebel or rejoice. We either marshal with all kinds of spiritual sounding words and talk of prayer and obedience or we say, “Yes Lord, crucify it. I want to be on the side of promises, on the side of Canaan. I want to go where all of self is burned and taken. I want to worship where you call and in the way that you call, living where you call me to live.”

  • Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous! (Joshua 1:18)

They are so spiritual, so on fire for God! You will meet people like this—even whole congregations like this. You’ll hear them preach yet there’s something missing that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s a wrestling process because they say all the right things, but you still sense something missing. They keep some aspect of self they will not let go of. They speak of faith and seem to have the right message. It’s all in place. They don’t want to fight to lose self. They will deny self to get self. They will hate their own lives to gain something for their life. They will carry a cross in order to get something from God. They will live on the east side, where the sun will shine, and they can have their little blessed lives. They want comfort. They will fight now and then, as long as you plead for them to fight. Look at the end of the story. They kept their promise. They marched out. You can get a lot of people to build a church building if you please their flesh. You can get people to do all kinds of things if you please their flesh. These guys serve, march, and labor because they will get something out of it. Flesh will get something; flesh will be pleased. It’s not hard to do.

  • Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given your brothers rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan.” (Joshua 22:1–4)

As he said these things they were reassured in their spirit. “Yes, God gave us the things we asked for and Moses gave us permission to live there. It’s Moses’ fault if it fails. It’s Moses’ fault if it wasn’t of God. It’s Moses who allowed us to do that. Moses gave us what we wanted; therefore, it must be of God.” It is a very powerful delusion. You will meet men and women for whom God will have you speak and give them what they want because God can’t get their hearts.

Joshua says only be very careful to observe.

  • But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul. (Joshua 22:5)

What did Joshua say? “Yes. I know Moses gave you this and I know God said these things. I know you marched out, but keep His commandments, which is to love Him. Can’t you change your mind? Don’t you want to live and fellowship with us and be united with us?” I know men and women who appreciate the message of the cross, but we are at an arm’s distance. There’s a wall. There’s a river between us, and they will not cross over because it would cost them everything.

  • Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. (Joshua 22:6)

Of course, he blessed. Of course, he longed, pleaded, and hoped they would come to their senses and take the blessings and fellowship that God gave them. Jesus said a battered reed He will not break off and a smoldering wick He will not put out until He leads justice to victory. Jesus Christ will not put out the least amount of hope, but do not be deceived about the battle they have to face.

  • (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan with their brothers.) (Joshua 22:7)

Half of the tribe went to the east and the other went to the west. Who is commended and held up among their brothers? Do you see the fellowship in verse seven?

  • …and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan with their brothers. (Joshua 22:7)

Have your little petty sheep pen and your nice little life. Where are your brothers? Where is life? Heaven is on the west side of the Jordan.

  • When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide with your brothers the plunder from your enemies.” (Joshua 22:7–8)

Take all the blessings of God and when you go home divide it all up, but wake up and love. This is where your brothers are.

  • So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites… (Joshua 22:9)

The fellowship was broken, and it would continue to be broken. They would feel the chasm that slowly grows. It wouldn’t be warfare to start with. They returned home and departed from the sons of Israel at Shiloh, the place of peace and blessing. That’s where they decided to turn their backs. They said, “There’s the peace of God. There’s the Messiah. There’s the peace and tranquility. We turn our backs on God’s grace and go to the east side of the Jordan with all of our plunder from the battles of God. We would rather have these things than to fellowship with the living God, with Him who is peace at Shiloh.” Fine, then take it and go. May the Lord open your eyes, may you be blessed and come to your senses, but go.

  • When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. (Joshua 22:10)

These guys are listed in Scripture over and over again. God is trying to tell us something. What did they do? They built an altar by the Jordan.

  • …built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. (Joshua 22:10)

Such flowery people. They work and labor. These people talk about the Lord and build a large altar, a symbol of saying, “We’re in unity with you.” Did the people on the west side build anything to demonstrate their love? No. That is why 1 John says let us not love with words, but with action and deeds. Just do it. Deep inside they knew something wasn’t quite right. They began to separate from that fellowship and inside it gnawed at them. This sense of guilt was just starting. It might have been in a very small form, but it was there. They said, “You know, I just don’t feel the unity I should feel. Something is missing.” So, they do this work to prove it to themselves. They built an altar, a sign for everybody to see, to ease their conscience.

  • And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side. (Joshua 22:11)

They invaded the territory, so to speak, and built this altar trying to demonstrate they were one with them, brothers with them. Why the necessity for the reminder? Already the peace of Jesus Christ left their hearts. Already a separation starts.

  • …the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them. (Joshua 22:12)

The place that was supposed to be peace is now an expedition for warfare. Already the divisions of misunderstanding begin because the people on the west side knew something was not quite right. They constantly kept an eye out knowing this would break out somewhere in sin and they would have to deal with it. It will cause them problems. There will be people in the body you know please self secretly somewhere in their hearts and you always have to watch out because somewhere along the line sin will spring up within the body. It will have to be dealt with and so you keep a watchful eye. It shouldn’t be necessary to always be on guard.

  • So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. With him they sent ten of the chief men, one for each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans. (Joshua 22:13–14)

This is a serious matter they will deal with.

  • When they went to Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh—they said to them: The whole assembly of the Lord says: “How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now?” (Joshua 22:15–16)

They were still paying for some sins of idolatry from the past.

  • Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! (Joshua 22:17)

When a man lives on the east side of the Jordan, you must keep a watchful eye because you know his flesh is involved somewhere. You may not be able to put your finger on it. You may not be able to show it to him. God may not permit you to tell him about it. There may be nothing you can do about it, but you know it exists. At the right place and at the right time, it will rise up and cause trouble.

  • If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land… (Joshua 22:19)

Look at what they said without saying it. “If where you live is unclean Canaan is right here. Over here are all the promises of God.”

  • …where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us… (Joshua 22:19)

Again, they invited fellowship. There was a misunderstanding at this point. But the reason for the misunderstanding was their own fault because they were on the wrong side of the Jordan.

  • “…But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.” Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel… (Joshua 22:19–22)

Next, you’ll see their little speech. They knew better than to openly rebel because that meant losing their blessing. They were more intelligent than that. They were very fine religious people who thought that if they wanted to keep God’s blessings, His peace, and protection, they must buy Him off. They have to do a few things. So, they didn’t fully sin in this matter, they covered all of their bases, but they do it by talking about the Lord.

  • The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! (Joshua 22:22)
    People like this talk so much about God and the Lord. They are always so boisterous about how much they follow God.
    He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. (Joshua 22:22)

“If we are in open rebellion, rebelling against you, then kill us.” Again, how humble and meek in saying, “If we have acted wrong then deal with us. We’re righteous and holy, and obey Moses and all his commands.” So, they do not openly rebel like the world or those who practice heresy. They subtly please the flesh and self.

  • If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account. No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, “What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?” (Joshua 22:23–24)

In other words, they built a huge altar, but they didn’t offer any sacrifices on it. That was their Christianity. It just stood there on the horizon like a huge monument to themselves. The monument said to everybody, “We love the Lord and we are united with you.” It was a big testimony. They denied themselves, but there was no sacrifice on it. Get it? They built the altar, but it contained no grain offering, burnt offering, or sacrifice. They did not give all. It was just a taste, just to look at and admire. Yes, they acknowledged they needed to offer themselves as living sacrifices, but nothing was done on the altar. It wasn’t paid for with blood. It was all for show. People like this say, “But truly we have done this out of concern.” They’re religious people who have thought a lot about this. They did this to increase unity.

  • No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, “What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you…” (Joshua 22:24–25)

That’s a lie. The Lord did not make it a border; they made it a border. They chose to please enough of self so that there was a division between them and their brothers. Do you see how we get so twisted up when we get into our flesh and sin? We sling the most eloquent words. We go back into the prayer closet, pray about it, and say, “God told us to do this.”

  • “…you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.” So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord. (Joshua 22:25)

Oh my goodness! You want to gag at this point. It’s like saying, “You guys are the source of trouble for all of us. You’ll cause our sons to stop worshipping the Lord and giving everything to God. That’s why we have this monument. I know there are no sacrifices or peace offerings on it. I know we don’t do anything with it, but it sure looks nice, doesn’t it?” They testified against themselves. They will stand before the Lord and say, “Lord, we built the altar. We have the message of the cross down. We talked about denying self. We had everything in place. We had the prayer meetings. We fellowshipped with your people. We understood what it was to hate and despise money in our life.” God will say, “Well, where is it? Where’s the fruit? Where’s the offering?” Of course, we always blame everybody else. “It’s your sons who stopped us from fearing God. We wanted to do it, but it was their fault.” They didn’t blame themselves for where they chose to live.

  • That is why we said, “Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.” (Joshua 22:26)

We become so blind that we think our words are so noble. “Hey guys, we’re not in rebellion. We built this altar, but it wasn’t for sacrifice or for rebellion, it was a good thing.” Unless somebody just slaps us across the face or God brings a two-by-four to us, we believe this great delusion, this flowery religious thing we do. We really think that it is of Him.

  • On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, “You have no share in the Lord.” (Joshua 22:27)

We want our portion. We picked up on that very early in the game. But notice the evil suspicions that they planted. The fault was laid with somebody else. They don’t want to sacrifice all, therefore they shift focus from themselves to the sons of the Israelites. They claim in the future something could happen, but they can’t see their own sin now. They don’t look at the sheep pens, the children, or anything else. Instead they look at what others could do wrong. Don’t be taken in by these kinds of hearts.

  • And we said, “If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer…” (Joshua 22:28)

It’s as if they are saying, “We have an answer. Everything is in place. We know they will come to us and say, ‘You don’t belong to us. You don’t carry the cross like you need to.’ We have an argument. We’re all set. Bring us your best shot because we’re ready. We’ve got our altar right here. We’ve got our argument all set up, just ask us the question. We can’t wait till you ask.” How many of us have sat at home when we know we’re in sin, knowing somebody will come to us about it? God will send someone. We don’t spend our time confessing our sin before God, but refining the argument so when they show up, we can say, “There’s the altar.”

  • Look at the replica of the Lord’s altar, which our fathers built… (Joshua 22:28)

“It looks just like yours. There’s no difference. I’m doing what you’re doing. We’re all one in the same. Our fathers came up out of Egypt, went through the desert, and spent forty years there. Talk to Moses, we got this from Moses. He said we could live here. This is all of God. God gave us this victory and gave us this land. Here’s the altar. It’s not for burnt offerings; we won’t do anything with it. It’s not for sacrificing to the Lord. We’re not really giving anything to the Lord. We’re talking about and live around the Promised Land. We can see the promises.”

  • …not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you. (Joshua 22:28)

“We are a righteous and holy people who are doing it all right. That’s why we built the altar. It is a witness, a testimony. It’s in your land, on your property, but it’s a witness for you to leave us alone.”

  • Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord… (Joshua 22:29)

They are holy!

  • …and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, (Joshua 22:29)

Now I want you to see the subtlety and nobility in this. They think it’s holy for us not to sacrifice to God. “God doesn’t want us to give all this up.” Better that they sacrifice and burned in rebellion than to build an altar and not sacrifice anything on it. In the same way people think God doesn’t want them to sacrifice or give up certain aspects of self. “We’ll just wear this little cross around our necks as a testimony.”

  • “…other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle.” When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. (Joshua 22:29–30)

It does not say their words pleased God or that they inquired of the Lord. Scripture does say these things were written down so we might not do what they did. It does not say God gave His approval. Indeed, one can make a case in regards to the law. These altars were not supposed to be built. This is exactly what God feared.

  • 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.” 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. They were glad to hear the report… (Joshua 22:31–33)

It doesn’t say that it pleased the Lord. Sometimes you believe people’s lies, don’t expose their arguments, or demolish their strongholds because you hope and pray they will fall in love and cross the Jordan. You don’t want to put out a smoldering wick or break a reed. You don’t squash or put out anything that has the ray of hope of repentance. So it probably pleased them that there wasn’t open warfare or they weren’t in heresy. They hadn’t become their absolute enemies, but they were by no means their brothers. There will be people you don’t march in and totally expose, but they’re not your brothers and sisters, either. You just hope they’ll cross over some day. You hope they will march on over and leave behind the children, flocks, and cattle on the east side of the Jordan. Perhaps they will walk over and put their arms around you and say, “I’m here to stay. I want to fellowship with the living God rather than have a foothold in the sunrise of this world.”

  • 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. (Joshua 22:33)

You know the potential is always there that they would falter too much. If they became enemies, they would march out. I’m sure those tribes took that message to heart. But you can’t contain sin for very long. These tribes fell under judgment.

  • And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: (Joshua 22:34)

This was all for show. It was a testimony of who they were and an insult to who they might be in the future.

  • “A Witness Between Us that the Lord is God.” (Joshua 22:34)

It will be a witness one day and they will stand before the Lord and the Lord will say, “Call forth your witness.” They will drag out the altar with all the fanfare and flowery words they can muster. It will be large and impressive. It will show grace, righteousness, holiness, faith, and victories in God. They will bring it out before the Lord, and He’ll let them come before Him with all their arguments and wisdom. Then He will ask, “Where are the sacrifices? Where are the offerings? Where’s the death to self?” It was just for show.

I want to show you the fruit of all this. The book of Mark tells a story about the tribe of Gad and this is where they lived when Jesus shows up on the scene.

  • They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission… (Mark 5:1–13)

The town of Gad raised pigs—something forbidden all through the old law. They’re in the pig business. Probably not even eating it themselves, just selling it. They have sunk to the point of selling that which is unclean.
Jesus gave permission for demons to enter into their herds, their livelihood.

  • …and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (Mark 5:13–15)

Do you see what happens when we don’t live on the right side of the Jordan? We sink to do the lowest things we would not think possible for us to do. We sell the swine of this world in order to make a living. We indulge ourselves in things we would have never thought we would indulge in, and then God comes to bless us, and work a miracle, and we are terrified. They lived in the land of promise, yet they had absolutely no faith.

  • Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. (Mark 5:16–17)

They would rather have a demon-possessed man running around through the tombs, breaking chains and cutting himself with rocks, than to have Jesus of Nazareth enter their town. If we sit on the east side, eventually there will come a time when Jesus comes to bless, and you’ll plead with Him to leave the region. For one thing, He’s a threat to your whole life.

Let’s pray:

Father, not only do we want to live on the west side of the Jordan, we want to march deep into the land of Canaan, the land of promises. Into the promises, Father, for which there are too many for us to claim and even lay hold of. We pray, Father, that You grant us grace and give us the cross that will enable us to do this. We pray for many who are on the wrong side of the Jordan right now. Will You wake them up, Father, with the love song You sing to them? We pray they would humble themselves and leave it all behind. We praise You for the land of promises You have given us. Thank You, Father, for a rich storehouse and treasure. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Chapter Links

  1. Glorify God at Work
  2. Holy Spirit and His Voice
  3. God is Good
  4. The Most Important Sermon
  5. Do You Want to Be Made Well?
  6. Let Your Lifeboat Go
  7. Missed Chances
  8. Crossing the Jordan
  9. Obedience from Faith
  10. Mercy


The Consider Podcast attempts to express opinions through God’s holiness. Nothing concerning justice or injustice should be taken as legal advice or a call to action. There is no political agenda. There is no individual moral life advice. Indeed, each person is solely responsible before God and man for their actions or inactions. The Consider Podcast is narrowly focused on one thing, and only one thing – the need for all to surrender to a life of repentance according to the whole gospel.

The Consider Podcast
Examining today’s wisdom, folly and madness with the whole gospel.

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