MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 22
As the book of Joshua begins to wind down, we encounter the story of the two and one-half tribes that had asked Moses for permission to live on the wilderness side of the Jordan and not move into Canaan with the rest of the nation. Moses had granted them permission to do that but with the stipulation that armies from those two and one-half tribes would cross the Jordan and help the rest of the nation defeat the Canaanites.
As they were getting ready to head back to their families that they had not seen in at least seven years, Joshua gives them a charge on how to live when they got back home. They were to obey the Law of God given through Moses. They were to love God, walk in His ways, cling to Him, and serve Him. Although their military responsibilities had been taken care of, they still had some spiritual things to continue to take care of.
They were given substantial spoils of war. Joshua told them to share that with those who did come over to fight. On one hand, it might seem unfair that those who stayed home and didn’t join the fight should get anything from the battles that were won. On the other hand, the fact that they were to get a portion of the spoils was one way of recognizing their contributions on the home front.
When the armies of the two and one-half tribes got to the Jordan River, they decided to build a huge altar. By their own admission they did not intend on sacrificing there. It was to be a reminder to them and the following generations. However, when the tribes that had taken up residence in Canaan heard about this, they assumed the worst and decided to go to war against their fellow Israelites.
Thankfully, the priest took some men to find out what was going on before the fight started. That’s when they heard that the intention was not to make a place of sacrifice but a memorial or future generations to see and remember.
So, why was this such a big deal? One reason is there was one thing that bound all of Israel together and that was their worship of Yahweh. And that worship was to take place where the Tabernacle was. Anything else would be false worship and would separate the tribes of Israel. That brings us to some lessons we can learn from this episode:
One, it is commendable for believers to be zealous for the purity of the faith. Compromise in this arena never works out. Never. Two, it is wrong to judge people’s motives. We should always get the facts and give others the opportunity to explain their motivation. Three, it is good to have honest, open conversation to resolve differences and bring about reconciliation. Four, when wrongly accused it is good to remember Proverbs 15:11 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”