READ: Joshua 21-22
BACKGROUND: The Israelite tribes have just been given their land tribe by tribe. The Levites, who were priests, are given towns to live in on other tribe’s lands. Because they are part of the priesthood their duty is to worship God and lead Israel to worship God. It is the responsibility of the other tribes to support them and give them the land and food they need. In chapter 22 there are three tribes who are returning home after the conquest of land. They had already been given their land but left it to help the other tribes fight. Joshua blesses them and reminds them that their purpose is to serve God only and to reflect him.
21:8- God had made a promise a long time ago, when Moses was around, that the Levites would be provided for and have towns to live in. Here that promise is fulfilled.
21:44- God granted Israel rest. They had been fighting for a long time and their rest did not come from their own victory over their enemies, but from God. A reminder that only God can silence our enemies and allow us peace.
21:45- One of my favorite verses in the Bible. “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises…failed.” God is still a God who keeps his promises today.
22:3- Joshua encouraged the faithfulness of the Eastern tribes
22:5- A warning from Joshua to not turn from the Lord and to be obedient to his commands
22:10- “built an imposing altar.” One of the Lord’s commands was that sacrifices were to be made to him only in one place. Sacrificing on this altar would have been disobedient.
22:12- The other Israelites took this perceived sin so seriously they were going to go to war with them.
22:17- Building the altar gets compared to the sin of Achan in Joshua 7 and the events a Peor in Numbers 25.
22:22- This is a really interesting verse. To demonstrate the purity of their motives and their deep faithfulness and thankfulness to God, they use all 3 names for God – El, Elohim, & Yahweh – and then repeat it. This lets the other tribes know very clearly, right off the bat, that they have no intention of turning from him.
22:24- Understanding of why the altar was built comes out. It was not an altar for sacrifice, which would have been a violation of God’s commands. It was an altar of remembrance and a symbol of unity under the guidance and provision of God. There is a great desire to be remembered as one of the Lord’s.
THINK: Have you ever had a really bad communication mix up? Maybe you thought you were meeting a friend at a certain time and then they never show up. This has happened to me. And then of course my first response is to criticize them. “They obviously don’t care about me. They forgot. They always forget.” And the accusations continue to build in my head, until I realize that I am at the wrong place or have the wrong time. It is a humbling experience.
I think this is the same type of situation with the Israelites. This story shows us how important communication is within the body of Christ. The Eastern tribes are pumped up about going home, but take time to build and altar to the Lord. They want to be remembered by the other tribes. They are trying to communicate with future generations that their God is the Lord. However, the other tribes see that they have built and altar and it seems like they are about to disobey by sacrificing on it. Imagine what these other tribes were thinking. How could they disobey God already? He just made us a victorious people and is giving us rest. Now we have to go fight another war. Those selfish people.
But we see that these tribes are stopped in their tracks when they hear the real purpose behind building the altar. It isn’t in a spirit of disobedience at all, but rather a desire to have a witness between the two sides of Israel that the Lord is God (vs. 34).
This story leads me to live with caution in my communication. It is easy for all of us to jump to conclusions when we only know a part of the story. It is easy to draw judgments about people when in reality the things we think we know, aren’t even true. We must be careful to watch our tongues and our thoughts as we talk with other people. Let us be a humble people, willing to give grace before judgment.
ASK: Are there people in my life whom I have judged, without really knowing them or their situation? Is my first response to a questionable situation grace? Or condemnation? How can I let the Holy Spirit rule my thoughts?
Written by KVHx2