As the Hebrew people, having spent 40 years in the wilderness, were poised to take over their new home, Joshua gave instructions to the 2-1/2 tribes who had agreed to settle on the west side of the Jordan River, starting with the following:
“Remember what Moses, the servant of the LORD, commanded you: ‘The LORD your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.’ Your wives, children, and livestock may remain here in the land Moses assigned to you on the east side of the Jordan River. But your strong warriors, fully armed, must lead the other tribes across the Jordan to help them conquer their territory. Stay with them
Joshua 1:13-14 NLT
To their credit, these tribes stepped up and agreed to help their relatives (the remaining tribes) take over the land of Canaan. However, they were in an interesting situation: After wandering in the wilderness, these tribes had found a place to settle. If they had gone back on their promise to help (see Numbers 32:16-33), they could theoretically have rested in their new territory, while others dealt with the fighting and conquering.
However, getting to their place of rest was not their final goal. A longer, more permanent rest was available to them, but not until their work was finished and their commitment was completed.
In the same way, followers of Jesus look forward to an eternal rest. While I believe that we will get to work in Heaven, it won’t be unfruitful or painful, like the results of the curse that was placed on this earth. Once a person has given their life to Jesus, though, having trusted Him as their Savior and Lord, they haven’t yet reached the Promised Land. Our eternal destiny is ready and waiting, but there is plenty of work to be done before we can settle down and enjoy our final destination.
We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.
John 9:4 NLT
There are great times of rest that God gives us, even as we walk this earth, but those aren’t meant to be where we remain. We can worship together, seek solitude with God, and do things that help our bodies, minds, and souls recharge. These just aren’t where we are called to remain permanently. Eventually, that rest and recovery must give way to an outlet of God’s grace and love to others.
It is also interesting to me that the tribes settling west of the Jordan River weren’t gearing up to fight for their own immediate families. They had agreed to go to battle for others, because they had committed to do so. Likewise, for those who have secured their eternal destiny, the work that we do while still here on earth isn’t to somehow solidify our status with God, or to earn our salvation. Instead, our service while we remain here is for the good of others: making disciples, teaching them what Jesus taught, serving and loving them as Jesus did (see Matthew 9:37-38).
May we be inspired by these Hebrew tribes. We may be in a place of rest, but still need to get out and fight for others.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.