Joshua 22: Connections in Worship
I really liked chapter 22 in the book of Joshua. Let me get right into the story.
Jos 22:4 And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.
Jos 22:5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had been given their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River. However, they had to help out the rest of Israel get their land before they could retire to their own. Now that had been done, so they were going home, and Joshua told them not to leave God. There is something to be said that about a relationship with God being over a lifetime rather than just one little moment, but let me continue with this story.
Jos 22:10 And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to.
Jos 22:11 And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.
Jos 22:12 And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.
Now, these three tribes decided to build a giant altar. Immediately, the rest of Israel assumed the worst and were going to go to war. After all, they remembered that several times while they were in the wilderness that the sins of part of them affected the entire nation.
The three tribes were fortunately given a chance to respond before war broke out, and here is what they said.
Jos 22:22 The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,)
Jos 22:23 That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require it;
Jos 22:24 And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?
Jos 22:25 For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD.
Jos 22:26 Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice:
Jos 22:27 But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD.
Jos 22:28 Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.
Jos 22:29 God forbid that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn this day from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD our God that is before his tabernacle.
Basically, this altar was meant to demonstrate that there was a shared commitment to following God regardless of what side of the Jordan River the people lived on.
I think that it can also be a powerful statement about the current state of Christianity. The church in North America is different than the church in Africa which is different than the church in Asia which is different than the church in Europe which is different than the church in South America which is different than the church in Australia.
We may have different cultural practices, and it may seem that the differences are huge. However, just like the three tribes built an altar to demonstrate a shared commitment, churches around the world today have the same Bible as that shared commitment.
We have brothers and sisters around the world who are following God, and even if we don’t understand everything about their worship, kind of like the rest of Israel did not understand what the altar was for, they still can be following God.
I know that this was an incredibly long post for me, but I really like this story. Love for God is demonstrated in a variety of ways, but if they are sincere and truly honor God, that is okay.