Scripture Reading: Joshua 22:21-34
“The Might One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows and let Israel know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the Lord, do not spare us today for building an altar to turn away from following the Lord, or if we did so to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings on it, may the Lord Himself take vengeance.” (Joshua 22:22,23)
The eastern tribes (Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh) built an imposing altar (v. 10). The ten tribes on the western side of the Jordan River heard about it and were deeply concerned because the altar seemed to be an act of rebellion against the Lord and against His people. The true altar was in Shiloh where the tabernacle was located. Thus the ten tribes sent a commission to investigate the matter (vs. 13,14). When confronted with the matter, the two and a half tribes were horrified (v. 22). They made it clear that their intent was not to dishonor the Lord. Their altar was not a functional altar but rather it was a memorial or a reminder of the altar in Shiloh (vs. 26,28). It was to be a mark of unity with the other tribes — “Behold, the copy of the altar of the Lord, which our father made, not for burnt offerings, nor for a sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you” (v. 28).
This confrontation had a good ending. The commission said, “Today we know that the Lord is in our midst, because you have not committed this breach of faith against the Lord. Now you have delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the Lord” (v. 31). When the commission reported its findings to the western tribes, they were satisfied (vs. 32,33). The altar served as a witness that the Lord is God — “The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar ‘Witness,’ for they said, ‘it is a witness between us that the Lord is God'” (v. 34).
The ten tribes did the right thing when they confronted the two and a half tribes, for they perceived that God’s honor was at stake. This confrontation had a successful outcome for two reasons. First, there was a clear agreement on the importance of truth. Both sides understood that the holiness of God demands obedience from His people.
Second, there was a demonstration of love. The ten tribes attempted to deal with the matter of truth in love — they were willing to give up some of their own land to settle the matter (v. 19). The Scripture says, “Lovingkindness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10). We are clearly instructed to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Truth without love is too harsh; love without truth is too tolerant.
Things are not always what they seem to be. This clearly was a case of mistaken motives. Before we draw too many conclusions about a perceived matter, we must be sure to get the facts. It is easy to look at someone’s behavior and fail to understand what has motivated it. This is where both truth and love are needed.
Lord God, enable me to speak the truth in love. Help me to seek peace with others if at all possible. Jesus, You are my peace and You enable me to have peace with others. Let me be wise in dealing with those who seem to be heading down a sinful path. Let me be an instrument of Your grace and peace in their lives.
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