Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites conquered them. And Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to be their possession.
Joshua 12:6 (NIV)
Last night, Wendy and I went to a local watering hole for dinner. It’s a place where locals gather and we like to sit at the bar where we can meet people and chat with the staff as we eat. Next to me was a woman whose husband died just three weeks ago. She was alone, and with the way she engaged me in conversation, I could feel her emotional desperation. Wendy received a phone call and stepped outside the restaurant to take it.
The woman shared her story, weeping off and on as she did so. She and her husband had lived at the lake, but she’d discovered that the “friends” they’d made weren’t friends at all. They partied together, but the only person who showed her any compassion through her husband’s illness and death subsequently tried to con her out of money. Her family was not with her. She was preparing to move, but was obviously alone and feeling the weight of everything. So much so, that she was pouring out her heart and grief to a perfect stranger who sat next to her at the bar.
Last week I was on the road for business and my travels afforded me several hours of windshield time driving hither and yon. I took the opportunity to spend some time talking to each of my siblings. It had been a while since I’d simply caught up with each of them. It refreshed my soul. Our lives are so spread out, and each of them is full, so it is that we can go long stretches of time without connecting. At the same time, we’re family. If any of them called and said, “I need you,” I would drop everything in a heartbeat. I know they would do the same for me.
Today’s chapter marks the end of the first half of the book of Joshua. It’s one of those chapters that seem insignificant on the surface of things. It’s like a box score of the conquest campaign, marking all of the Canaanite kings they defeated.
What struck me was the mention of Moses, who died thirteen chapters ago at the end of the book of Deuteronomy. The author of Joshua is listing off the conquest victories that made way for the lands on which the tribes would settle. He goes all the way back to before Moses died on the other side of the Jordan. Three tribes asked Moses if they could settle there. Moses pledged that as long as the three tribes supported the other tribes in the conquest of the land, they could have the land they desired (Num 32). They kept their pledge. The three tribes could go back over the Jordan to their land, as the rest of the tribes settled theirs.
This got me thinking about families. My family is more spread out on this planet than ever. When I think about my parents, siblings, and children, we’re a relatively small crew, but our life journeys have us spread out from Scotland to the southeast U.S. and all the way west to the Rocky Mountains. Yet, we are family. We are connected. That is an earthly reality.
At the same time, Jesus said that there is a Kingdom of God reality that is just as true. Jesus made it clear to His followers that they were His brothers and sisters even as His own earthly family stood outside waiting to see Him. Jesus went on to tell His followers that sometimes the Kingdom of God supersedes earthly family. Jesus recognized the possibility, especially among His Jewish followers, that being His disciple would divide families. Jesus’ ministry had even divided His own earthly family and at one point His mother and siblings wanted to have Him committed:
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Mark 3:20-21 (NIV)
In the quiet this morning, I am exceedingly grateful, for I am doubly blessed. I have an earthly family who loves one another and supports one another across the miles and in spite of differences in the way we may sometimes see the world. I also have a spiritual family that is just as intimate, connected, and supportive, though the bond is Spirit and not flesh.
I’m praying this morning for the woman who is alone in her grief.
It’s a good thing to have family, both of blood and Spirit.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.