The answer lies in the first book of Joshua: "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.'" (Josh 1:12-15 NIV)
Basically we have here a quarter of the Children of Israel who were given their inheritance in Canaan on the east side of the Jordan River, a land they have already subdued after defeating Og, King of Bashan, and Sihon, King of the Amorites. But they are not being allowed to enjoy their inheritance because of a promise made to Moses that they go forward with their brothers and fight the Canaanites until their brothers have received their inheritance as well!
In other words, "You can only have what you want, as long as you help your brothers get what they want!"
Sounds like a nice story of brother love, doesn't it? So what does some verses about taking possession of Canaan have to do with Jesus' return?
It's interesting that the receiving of the inheritance is referred to in this passage as "giving you rest". The book of Revelation also speaks of "rest": "There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." (Rev 14:11-12 NIV); and three verses later, "Then I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'" (Rev 14:13 NIV)
Just like the "rest" for the Children of Israel referred to their taking possession of the land God had promised them, we are also promised "rest". Ours is ensured when we accept Jesus into our hearts, but we will not possess it until either we die, or until Jesus returns!
Just like the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh were given their "rest" before the other tribes, we don't all accept Jesus' ultimate "rest" at the same time. And just like these tribes weren't allowed to enjoy their rest until the other tribes found theirs, Jesus will not return until everyone has had the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus and respond to it: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matt 24:14 NIV).
Through this story recorded in Joshua 1, we, too, are commissioned to go forth and help our "brothers" until they, too, have received their "rest". Friends, this is the Great Commission, recorded right here in the book of Joshua! We will not be able to take possession of our rest in the New Earth until everyone in the unsaved world has been given the chance to hear the gospel!
So what are we waiting for?
Just like the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh went forward to help their brothers, let's go forward and help our brothers find their rest as well! Only when they have, "… then the end will come." (Matt 24:14 NIV)!
Join us next week for LESSONS FROM JOSHUA, Part 3: When you see the Ark of the Covenant …
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org.