And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua Said, “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you…” ~Joshua 1:12-15 (ESV)
During the wilderness journey to the Promised Land, two and a half tribes of Israel asked permission to remain on the east side of the Jordan. Their main reason was the goodness of the land to provide for their many livestock. Moses granted permission on the condition that the abled-body warriors among the tribes would follow the remaining tribes into battle and help them take possession of the land. This was a condition that the two-and-a-half tribes agreed with (Numbers 32).
As Joshua readied the people to cross the Jordan, he reminded these tribes of their promise and called them to be faithful. This reflects the greater biblical principle that we are to be people of our word.
In response to people swearing oaths by things that they truly had no authority or ability to give if they broke their oath, Jesus said in Matthew 5:37, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’” We are to be true to our word, to say what we mean and mean what we say, and to not make promises that we cannot or are unlikely to keep.
Followers of Jesus are ultimately to be focused on truth and love, as our Savior-King embodied both and called us to both. In keeping our word, truth is being honest with our intentions and statements, and love is not hurting others by going back on what we had said to them.
Obviously, sometimes, plans have to change. Emergencies or situations crop up that we cannot control. But if we are more known for changing plans and backing out than for keeping our word, the fault does not lay in our situations but in our promises.
Reminded of the promise they made, the warriors of the two-and-a-half tribes fulfilled their word. Let us do like Jesus commanded and keep our yeses and noes simple, and let us follow the example of these tribes and stay true to those yeses and noes.
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