"And to the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God gives you rest, and will give you this land.’ “Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.” (Joshua 1:12-15)
Leadership is not easy. The easiest kind of leader to be is when there is no one to follow! The most difficult part of leadership is to get along with others. Actually it is a balance. If the leader had nothing to require of the people, then it would be easy to get along with them. But leaders have a responsibility to shape the people’s thoughts and activities. Never will every one agree. Joshua did not have an easy case here. The Israelite’s past record, self-indulgence, selfishness and fear all fought against his faithfulness..
Joshua boldly spoke out what he requested of the two and a half tribes. They already had their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan where they were at the present moment. They were now going to cross over the Jordan and physically separate themselves from them. They would go from the east to the west. The Jordan River was not a huge river but it was not easy to cross in a hurry. It was even more difficult to take your possessions across.
The Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh were a formidable group. It was not easy to confront them about some pass decision. If you are a leader like a parent, you know what I mean. The parent asks himself whether he should ask his child to do something. If he asks him to do something, then the child might say no. If the child says, “No!” then he will not being able to control him. So the father submits to using candy or bribes to win the child to do what he wants. Although we see the holes in this kind of parenting, it is done over and over. This provides horrible training for the child. It is not realistic in this world. People just tell you to do things. You are expected to do it. Few are the people that will bribe you to get something (unless it is illegal)! This training provides a horrible idea of leadership. If you don’t want something, you fuss until you get it. This is totally opposite to how God wants you to respond to His leadership.
If Joshua used this to communicate with the tribes, he would have thought of some great bribe to get God’s people to do what they should do. But we should not be motivated by lusts but simple obedience. This was the problems with the Israelites in the wilderness. The lived for what they got. They had no heart for God. Now Joshua is facing them. He chose the right way to lead God’s people and they amazingly followed. Could you not imagine many other responses?
“What! Leave my family on the other side of the river unprotected?”
“That was then, now is now. We made our promise to Moses not to you. No one is stopping you from going on over!”
“Why not just stay over here and join us? We have enough land.”
“We might get hurt!”
“Do you really believe in God can help us?”
Let’s make a few observations.
(1) Joshua addressed the issue ahead of time. He knew people were thinking of the issue, “Why should we have to cross over if our inheritance is on this side of the Jordan?” If he waited for them to murmur and complain, it would lead to a sad rebellion. This is another advantage of quick obedience. We likewise need to anticipate possible problems. As we sense their presence, we pray, seek God’s grace and confront the situation.
(2) Joshua reminded them of their promise. Again we sense this could have gone wrong but this did not stop Joshua. He held them to their word. “Remember” is the key word here.
“We will not return to our homes until every one of the sons of Israel has possessed his inheritance. “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.” So Moses said to them, “If you will do this, if you will arm yourselves before the LORD for the war, and all of you armed men cross over the Jordan before the LORD until He has driven His enemies out from before Him, and the land is subdued before the LORD, then afterward you shall return and be free of obligation toward the LORD and toward Israel, and this land shall be yours for a possession before the LORD. (Numbers 32:18-22).
(3) Joshua specified the exact things that needed to be done. He mentioned the difficult aspect of leaving their family behind. He told them who would need to fight in battle. The valiant warriors were to fight and not stay home and protect their sheep and families. They too needed to walk in faith.
(4) Perhaps most important, Joshua led them to know of God’s reward upon their faithful service. He painted before them the scene of obedience. He showed them that their reward would be that land for their inheritance.