Many are familiar with Jesus’ teaching when wronged by another (Matthew 18) and how the situation should be handled. When reading through Joshua 22 this past week a scenario unfolded that fit the instructions of Jesus perfectly. In fact they had only to go to the “offending party” one time.
When Israel had taken possession of the land of Canaan the sons of Reuben and Gad and half the sons of Manasseh went to their lands east of the Jordan River. Prior to crossing they built an altar, and when word of this reached the tribes remaining west of the Jordan River they were outraged. They believed the actions in building the altar would bring the wrath of God upon them because of disobedience. As a result, they were ready to go to war with them and remove the cause of God’s impending wrath, possibly even preventing Him from turning it upon those not involved in the building of the altar.
We see from the story that cooler heads prevailed and rather than go to war, they sent a delegation of men representing each tribe remaining west of the Jordan. They approached the offenders with the question, “What is this unfaithful act which you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away from following the Lord this day…” The answer they received was that eventually their sons (descendants) would question the connection that they had with those in the lands beyond the Jordan River. What was the “tie that binds them” to the western tribes. To help answer this future inquiry, they built the altar, not for sacrifices or burnt offerings, but rather to be a witness (reminder) to them of the God that they serve and how they are to serve Him.
Not to be overlooked in this lesson were the factors of affect and personal contact. The actions of those building the altar did not only affect them. If God was displeased, His wrath would be directed at all Israel, thus it was to their benefit to respond. Their response was to seek out “face to face” what had happened. The personal manner they used cleared up this misunderstanding better than attempting other efforts (i.e. sending/receiving correspondence, limited or non-interested persons, etc.). In other words we need not “go to war” with others unless we first realize that what others do or have done affects us and we have gone to them “face to face” and ruled out the possibility of a misunderstanding.
Copyright © 2003, Nolan P. Rutter