Until the Lord Gives Rest to Your Brothers
As a first-born kid, I tend to feel too much responsibility for problems that I can't fix. Many of the lessons I've had to learn over the past twenty years boil down to "letting God be God" and not trying to do his work for him.
However, there are some situations when we need to walk away from our own comfort and security and take risks to help others with a cause. Sometimes we need to carry one another's burdens, even when it's hard, even when it's risky.
Last night I was reading the book of Joshua, and two verses popped out that I had never noticed before. These verses appear after Israel left Egypt, when two-and-a-half tribes were already settled into their new cities. After a long journey through the desert, these elite few were finally living in peace and ease.
However, the remaining tribes were still displaced. For these people, more battles stood between their homelessness and their security.
Joshua approaches the settled tribes and says, "Hey, I know you have it good right now. But you also have an obligation to help make sure all those other Israelites who aren't settled find their homes, too. You gotta help a brother out. So get out of your Laz-E-Boys, leave your comfort for a while, and come join the fight. And I don't want you to rest until all of Israel feels as secure as you feel right now."
Joshua tells the biggest, strongest men to leave their wives, kids, and livestock, and walk through all their waiting brothers from the other tribes (which would make an amazing movie scene, if you think about it), then fight for them "until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving to them."
"Until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you."
I love that this sort of costly human service is part of God's generosity. Just look at that last verse, "the land that the Lord your God is giving to them." Sometimes God uses the sacrifices of his people to accomplish his good on this planet.
Think about a time in your life when you were feeling fatigued from travel, beaten down, homesick, afraid. Imagine how it would have felt to see a huge band of your best friends and their best friends show up and say, "We got this. We're going to help you." Imagine your relief in realizing, "They are taking on my cause. I don't have to do this by myself any more."
With Trump's election, a lot of conservative Christians feel room to take a breather. We feel like the Supreme Court will be okay. With both Senate and House dominated by Republicans, we may believe a disaster was averted, that God blessed our cause, and therefore, we can go on with life as normal.
It would be easy now to turn a blind eye to what other people groups around us are still suffering. We could dismiss the struggles of sincere refugees or racial minorities, feeling like it's not really our problem to fight those battles. We might even try to pretend like their problems aren't real or widespread. It feels so much better to just get on with enjoying day-to-day pleasures, making money, raising our kids.
But even though we can't apply God's Old Testament commission for Israel directly to America today, we can see that universal principles of godly living exist within this text. The New Testament reaffirms that those who are comfortable are not supposed to settle down in their abundance while the desperate and displaced are in need of assistance.
So who is in need around me? Even if I feel safe, who doesn't? Which stories do I need to hear that would show me what's really going on? What hard realities would never be a part of my world if I didn't do the work of trying to understand?
The settled tribes could have easily ignored the trouble of their brothers. They could have said, "Listen. I'd love to help, but I am fighting to get my own life in order right now." They could have said, "I finally realize how dangerous the world is, and so I need to get busy making a nest egg." They could have said, "I really just need to focus on my own stuff right now. My family has been been through an awful 40 years of wandering in the desert, and we have earned some time off."
Or as they felt the pull to help, they could have chosen to focus on the faults of the other tribes. "I never really liked the Levites anyway. They are such snobs. This will be good for them." Or maybe, "Judah could have prepared for this long ago. This is just how their people are. They always expect a bailout, and I'm not going to be an enabler here." They could have said, "Not my battle. I put in my time."
They could have made the same sort of excuses we make today. But how much more beautiful would it be if the church of Jesus refused to settle down into a sense of legislative safety while our brothers and sisters who are made in God's image are hurting?
Are we willing to see that until all of us are secure, none of us should relax? Are we willing to internalize the pain of those who don't feel comfortable right now? How can we take the focus off our own ease and rally to the front lines on behalf of those in need until the Lord gives the same rest to our brothers that he has given to us?