15–21 May 2016.
One day I got an email advertising holidays to the “holy land”. Of course, what the travel agent meant was that they were selling trips to Israel. Sometimes we still hear people talking about “the holy land”, but it’s really quite a strange expression. What makes land in Israel any more holy than land in Taiwan? Can we only be close to God in Israel, or only worship him there? Is there really any difference between the so-called holiness of land in one place or another? This is the question we run into in Joshua 22.
We know the Israelites were divided into many tribes, but two-and-a-half of those tribes lived on the eastern side of the Jordan, outside the area people thought of as the “holy” or “promised land”. That was a problem when it came to worshipping God. Could God be worshipped in such an “unholy” or “unclean” place?
In today’s chapter we see how the eastern tribes make their own altar, and this throws the western tribes into a panic! In v. 19 the western leaders tell the eastern tribes that if they want to worship God, they shouldn’t do it in unclean land, but instead cross back over the Jordan into “the Lord’s land” and worship God there.
Of course for us Christians today, we don’t have this worry. We know that God is the creator of the whole earth, and all lands belong to him. We don’t have one holy land. Instead we know we can worship God in all places. And we know God calls people in all countries to praise and follow him.
We know there is nowhere in this universe where we could be far away from our Creator. We know that Christ is Immanuel, “God with us”, wherever we may be. And we know that God’s Spirit fills this whole world and supports us wherever we are. So don’t be afraid or worried! Whether you are on the MRT, in your office, at home or at school, wherever you are and whatever you are going through, know that God is always there together with you.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis