Faithlife Sermons

Don't Be A Hokey Pokey Believer

Joshua: Faith & Fear  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:43
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →


You know the Hokey Pokey don’t you? Does that even translate into Spanish?
You put your right foot in
You put your right foot out
You put your right foot in
And you shake it all about… (I’d better stop right there before I get myself into trouble)
We’re going to see today a group of tribes that do just that. They play the hokey pokey with God’s plan.
Now the Hokey Pokey might be a fun song, but when it comes to God’s plan we cannot straddle the fence… or the border like this group of Hebrews did.
If you will remember our text in the book of Joshua, the Israelites have taken the land and Joshua divided it up so that each tribe might claim their portion.
But there is one group that was left out of the land assignments...
In our text today Joshua seems to be commending this group, but he gave their inheritance to the other tribes and he sends them away.

I. An Inheritance Rejected - Numbers 32

In Numbers 31 the Israelites went to battle against the Midianites in order to execute the Lord’s vengeance on the nation of Midian for sending their daughters to interfere with the sons of Israel.
After this battle with Midian, the tribes of Reuben and Gad asked Moses if they could occupy the land because they saw the land was good for their cattle.
Moses warned them that they were dangerously close to committing the same sin that Israel committed in Kadesh-barnea when they rejected God’s plan to enter Canaan.
These tribes answered Moses’ warning...
Numbers 32:16–19 NASB95
16 Then they came near to him and said, “We will build here sheepfolds for our livestock and cities for our little ones; 17 but we ourselves will be armed ready to go before the sons of Israel, until we have brought them to their place, while our little ones live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. 18 “We will not return to our homes until every one of the sons of Israel has possessed his inheritance. 19 “For we will not have an inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this side of the Jordan toward the east.”
This was An Inheritance Rejected.
What actually happened here is that the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh made a choice to reject their inheritance in Canaan so that they could stay in Gilead and Bashan.
This decision and transaction is so mundane, that it boggles my mind! There is a warning by Moses and later by Joshua that they are making a decision contrary to God’s plan. But they are simply allowed to make this choice.
We see no record of Moses consulting with God about this (nor Joshua for that matter), but after hearing their promise to help with the coming battles, he accepted their proposal without any apparent hesitation.
This land to the east of the Jordan is called Transjordan by biblical scholars. And we’ll use that term only because it is easier to say than the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The land includes Gilead and Bashan as well as the land that was formerly Ammon and Moab.
The tribes that took their inheritance west of the Jordan are called the Cisjordanic tribes.
The text here does not really indicate whether or not God had any issue with this plan of the Transjordanic tribes to remain east of the Jordan. But it would surprise me greatly if He agreed with this plan.

II. Rejecting God’s Best - Rejecting God’s Rest - Deuteronomy 12:10

On the surface this all seems very innocent. These were God’s people. They were just asking if they could take their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan. The real problem here was that they were choosing something other than God’s plan.
We see this clearly in Deuteronomy 12:10...
Deuteronomy 12:10 NASB95
10 “When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security,
The rest of the Promised Land is what God had planned for ALL the Sons of Israel. But this group of tribes refused His plan and they refused His rest, which would be evident in His hand of protection.
In fact throughout Numbers 32 and even Joshua 22 there is an underlying tension. Both Moses and Joshua give warnings about rejecting God and bringing God’s judgment upon Israel.
My understanding of this passage is that the Transjordanic tribes were basically choosing to live outside of God’s best plan for them. The choice to make their home across might have been good for their cattle, but it created several problems over the years.
It put them out of God’s protection
It put them in close proximity with their enemies
It exposed them to the influence of their enemies
We Do This Today
Don’t we often do this? We make choices based on what we think is best for our lives:
We marry and divorce
We take jobs and leave jobs
We buy houses and cars
We take trips
We choose our careers or change our careers
We move across the country
In reality many of us follow our own whims rather than seek God’s will about anything.
As a Pastor
As a pastor, I see this on occasion. Somebody will come to me seeking wise counsel about this or that life situation, but they completely refute or outright ignore my counsel. Even when I point them directly at their error, they will sometimes become defensive and continue down their path.
These people are best left to their own mistakes. They will rarely accept any outside advice, because they are seeking approval for what they have already decided to do.
How many of you have ever lived life knowing that you were actively choosing to live outside of God’s will?
Isn’t there a discord or a lack of harmony in life when we make that choice?
How different is life when we move back into harmony with God’s will?
The difference is huge.
However, we act on a whim without a thought of what God would say or desire for our lives.
PRINCIPLE Refuse to desire anything outside of God’s plan.
This guiding principle will force you to always seek an understanding of God’s plan and work as well as how He would wish to use you according to His plan.
Let’s jump into Joshua 22...
The battles are won, the land has been divided among the tribes. But Joshua needs to deal with this group of Transjordanic tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh).

III. After the Battle - Joshua 22:1-9

Joshua 22:1–4 NASB95
1 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2 and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you. 3 “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. 4 “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.
These brother tribes of Israel did everything that was asked of them. They pulled their load. They helped in battle. They gave up their portion of the inheritance. And then they asked Joshua to release them so that they could return to their chosen land across the Jordan.
Joshua gave them a warning and a blessing and made sure that they had their portion of the spoils of war.
Joshua 22:5 NASB95
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.”
And then he sent them on their way...
Joshua 22:8–9 NASB95
8 and said to them, “Return to your tents with great riches and with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, iron, and with very many clothes; divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers.” 9 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home and departed from the sons of Israel at Shiloh which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession which they had possessed, according to the command of the Lord through Moses.
These Transjordanic tribes left with every full intention of remaining good Hebrews and maintaining their relationship with their brother tribes and with God. But they failed to heed the warnings of others and failed to consult God or seek His desire for their best.
I truly believe that these people believed what they were saying. They DID intend to keep their relationship with Israel and with God. But they were putting themselves in a direct line of attack from their enemy and believed that they were above any influence and immune to any attack from the enemy. This put them in a position of weakness rather than rest and protection.
PRINCIPLE Sometimes God allows us to step out of His blessing.
Often when this happens, it happens with no protest from God.
I think these Transjordanic tribes felt a certain disconnect as their decision became reality. As they neared the Jordan river, they stopped to build a large altar...

III. The Offensive Altar - Joshua 22:10-34

A. Second Thoughts?

The text is silent as to why they felt the need to build an altar. Perhaps they were having second thoughts about their departure.
Joshua 22:10 NASB95
10 When they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, a large altar in appearance.
Just as the Transjordanic tribes were thinking about their departure, so were their brothers in the Cisjordanic tribes. Apparently they had concerns for the breaking of their fellowship and were keeping an eye on the Transjordanic tribes.

B. To the Brink of War

Soon enough, news came back to them that brought the tribes to the brink of civil war...
Joshua 22:11–12 NASB95
11 And the sons of Israel heard it said, “Behold, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel.” 12 When the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh to go up against them in war.
Note here that the Cisjordanic tribes (those who remained in Shiloh) are called “the whole congregation of Israel.” Just days before that phrase would have included the Transjordanic tribes. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh might have considered this offensive language that excluded them from the congregation of Israel.
It is not wholly clear in the text whether it was the departure of the tribes or the building of the altar that excluded them from the congregation. However, the building of this altar definitely gave the Cisjordanians cause for immediate action.
The Cisjordanians came to the Jordan ready for war and they addressed the Transjordanians with force...
Joshua 22:15 NASB95
15 They came to the sons of Reuben and to the sons of Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, to the land of Gilead, and they spoke with them saying,
But the real rub is in vs 18b...
Joshua 22:18 NASB95
18 that you must turn away this day from following the Lord? If you rebel against the Lord today, He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow.
Ah hah! This is getting personal!
The Cisjordanic tribes are truly afraid of the anger of the Lord at this point. It is this fear that is fueling their hypervigilance. They don’t want to get caught up in anything that might be considered sin by God’s standards.
Being good self-preservationists the Transjordanians are going to take a stand on principle just in case lightning bolts start flying out of the heavens. They just don’t want to be caught up in the crossfire.

C. No Offense Intended

The Transjordanic tribes are quick to respond. I can almost hear how quick they are to answer the allegation...
Joshua 22:22–25 NASB95
22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, the Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion, or if in an unfaithful act against the Lord do not save us this day! 23 “If we have built us an altar to turn away from following the Lord, or if to offer a burnt offering or grain offering on it, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, may the Lord Himself require it. 24 “But truly we have done this out of concern, for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your sons may say to our sons, “What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 “For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you sons of Reuben and sons of Gad; you have no portion in the Lord.” So your sons may make our sons stop fearing the Lord.’
I’m thinking that God is listening in on this conversation and thinking to himself, “I may have made the Jordan, but I didn’t make it a border between you. That’s on you!”
So the Transjordanic built this altar, clearly a questionable act, given the response by the Cisjordanic tribes.
Joshua 22:26–29 NASB95
26 “Therefore we said, ‘Let us build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; 27 rather it shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, so that your sons will not say to our sons in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord.” ’ 28 “Therefore we said, ‘It shall also come about if they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, “See the copy of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you.” ’ 29 “Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from following the Lord this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.”
I don’t believe a word of this response. It’s an altar, but not one for burnt offerings or for sacrifice. It resides not in Shiloh (where the presence of the Lord is) but on the border of the Jordan.
Here’s a word of warning for you… Whenever anybody begins a statement with “Far be it from me...” use it as a sign post to wait and see what they will actually do. Oftentimes vehement rebuttals are fueled by accusations that strike too close to the truth.
People who are in the process of making wrong decisions about the trajectory of their lives, will make bold proclamations that sound good on the surface, but are actually hollow and empty when examined carefully.
So again, the Transjordanian tribes are allowed to continue to cross the Jordan. But what becomes of them? Do they keep their promises?

IV. What Happens in Transjordan, Stays in Transjordan - 1 Chronicles 5:25-26

For all the brave boasts on the western bank of the Jordan, the Transjordanic tribes fell into exactly the kind of thing that they claimed would never happen.
1 Chronicles 5:25 NASB95
25 But they acted treacherously against the God of their fathers and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.
The text actually says here that they “played the harlot with their gods.”
The King James says they “went a whoring after the gods.”
The Christian Standard says they “prostituted themselves with the gods.”
Those are all very good translations.
The Transjordanic tribes fell to the very thing that God was trying to protect them from. We can see God’s warning in Exodus 34...
Exodus 34:14–16 NASB95
14 —for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— 15 otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods.
In spite of all their proclamations and promises to the contrary, the Transjordanians became some of the first tribes to fall under the influence of their enemy nations.
To use modern language, they cheated on the God of Israel. They acted unfaithfully by mixing and mingling with ...
the nations that followed false gods
the daughters of those nations
the false gods themselves
So what happened to them? They were conquered and assimilated.
We can see this recorded in 1 Chronicles 5...
1 Chronicles 5:26 NASB95
26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away into exile, namely the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara and to the river of Gozan, to this day.
The Transjordanic tribes lost everything for their gamble on the luscious land of Gilead.
What’s the lesson for us in this?
PRINCIPLE - Don’t Be a Borderline Believer
I mean by that “Don’t be a believer living at the edge of God’s will and purpose.”
Sometimes we think our plan is better than the plan that God has for us. We reject our inheritance in Christ and flirt with the enemy. This removes us from God’s blessing and puts us at risk for a fall. Blessed saints, never choose to reject God’s inheritance for what looks good in your own eyes.
How can we avoid this in our lives today?
1. Seek to Understand God’s Will
2. Seek Wise Counsel and LISTEN
3. Pray Fervently for EVERY Decision
4. Allow Jesus to Influence EVERY Decision
We always want to submit ourselves to Jesus Christ and seek His best. Sometimes this means that we have to give up what we want for a time.
During the time this text describes, proximity to God was the best that any Israelite could hope for. That could only be achieved in Shiloh, but never from across the Jordan.
Today the son of God, Jesus Christ is with us wherever we are. We have the Spirit of God to guide us and lead us through life according to God’s will.
But we have to do our part to understand God’s will and apply it to our lives.
We can experience God only through Jesus Christ.
We can have that...
by believing the Jesus died on the cross in order to take away our sins
by simply accepting that Jesus is our Lord
by submitting to His leadership and guidance
by turning away from our sin that separates us from Him
Related Media
Related Sermons