Earthly Christianity

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 10
In Joshua 1:12 the Word of God refers to the Reubenites, the Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh. We remember that they had chosen to take their inheritance on the eastern side of Jordan because it was well adapted to their circumstances (Num. 32). Now, when the time had come to conquer the land of Canaan, they do not refuse to enter, as did the previous generation, when the spies caused their hearts to melt. On the contrary, they associate themselves with their brethren, but not to take possession of the land. They had already chosen their inheritance on the other side of Jordan, because the country was “a land for cattle” (Num. 32:4).
Earthly Cares
It is the same with many Christians today. The main point in the lives of such believers is the circumstances of this life, the everyday needs, such as enclosures for their cattle and cities for their families. Such are not, properly speaking, lacking in faith. On the contrary, they experience that the Lord can enter in grace into all their circumstances, adapting Himself to them. Theirs is not a worldly Christianity, but an earthly one. Israel was a type of worldly Christianity when they refused to enter into the land with Moses at the first, but the two and a half tribes are the type of those who lower Christianity to a life of faith for the earthly circumstances they experience, making their life to consist in these things. Moses is at first indignant, but afterwards he bears with them, seeing that although their faith was weak, still it was faith, and that these earthly links did not separate them from their brethren.
Such a tendency to lower Christianity to earthly cares is evident on every hand. With much pretension to power, little is known beyond a Christ in whom to trust for His providential care and in the details, great or small, of everyday life. Christ is indeed known as a Shepherd, but even in this way, how feebly the extent of His resources is appreciated! The green pastures are not in the sheepfolds, pastures and cities of Gilead (east of the Jordan), but rather in the land of Canaan.
Heavenly Canaan
It is good to trust in Him for everything, but let us know something of the joy of entrance even now there where a glorified Christ is to be found, of being attached outside this world, drawn away from this scene, to be introduced, dead and risen with Him, into a heavenly Canaan. There the motive for our walk will no longer be “much cattle,” but, having left all behind — self and the affairs of this life —in the bottom of the river of death, we will be ready to fight to take possession of all our privileges in Christ and to enjoy them in the power of the Spirit. It is well to fight against infidelity and the power of Satan in this world, but let death and resurrection be a realization with us, and not merely a creed.
Worldly Principles
The two and a half tribes again come to our attention in Joshua 22. They had gone on armed before their brethren to fight the enemies of the Lord in the land of Canaan. Now they receive from Joshua permission to return to their inheritance on the other side of Jordan. There was apparently nothing in them with which to find fault. However, a problem soon presented itself with them.
When the Christian allows, in any measure, the principles of this world to govern his conduct, his position necessarily becomes a very complicated one, whereas nothing is more simple than the path of faith. In this way the two and a half tribes had found it necessary to build sheepfolds for their cattle, fenced cities for their families, and to abandon their wives and children during many a long year. Now, when the opportunity comes for them to return to their homes, a fresh complication presents itself. The Jordan separates them from the rest of the tribes and they are uneasy. Their position exposes them to a division, and they see that the moment may come when they will be treated as strangers by their brethren. The danger of their situation obliges them to set up a testimony by which they publicly proclaim that they serve Jehovah, just as on a previous occasion (Josh. 1:1618) their doubtful position had compelled them to make a loud profession. So they build a great altar in the borders of Jordan within the limits of their territory. Their own wisdom leads them to set up this testimony. It might be called a confession of faith, against which, for the moment, nothing could be said. Nevertheless, it had the appearance of another gathering point. This act, the result of a good intention, savored of man. Their contrivance for maintaining unity gave them the appearance of denying it, and they expose themselves to being misunderstood.
The Sin of Independence
The children of Reuben and Gad eventually called the altar, the altar of Ed, meaning “a witness.” An even greater evil was in danger of creeping in with this altar of Ed, and that is that it might open the door to independence. Phinehas, a pattern of zeal for Christ, sees through all this. He brings before these two and a half tribes two things that could result from this — the sin of Achan and what had happened in the iniquity of Peor. Achan’s sin was lusting after the things of the world, while Peor was characterized by a corrupt alliance with the religious world.
May God keep us from worldliness, alliance with the religious world, and independence, the most subtle and dangerous of all, because it is the root of all sin. Christ is ever the holy and the true, and our responsibility is to be faithful to Him. May we be found walking in holiness and dependence, without which there is no communion with Him.
H. L. Rossier, adapted from
Meditations on Joshua