104-1022-Joshua Chapter 22
Joshua bids farewell to the tribes of the Rebuenites, Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh. These are the tribes that possessed the land east of the Jordan River. They had been commissioned to help the other tribes to conquer the lands west of the Jordan. They had now been helping conquer the land for seven years and had been completely obedient to the commands of Moses and Joshua. Even as these three tribes had already taken possession of their inheritance they remained faithful to their brethren as God had commanded them to do. Now Joshua is releasing them to return to their land as the work had been done.
Joshua gives his final instruction to these tribes to “to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Joshua reminds them to love their Lord. This is a matter of the heart and it is the command that Jesus also said when quoting from the Old Testament Scriptures. (Matthew 22:37 Deuteronomy 6:5) Joshua also tells them to obey His commandments and hold fast to the Lord and serve Him with all their heart and soul.
Looking at the order of this exhortation we see that we are to first hear the Lord. Then we are to love Him and walk with Him in obedience. To not follow this order of the command is to venture into heresy, loving without hearing of legalism, obeying before loving.
Joshua then gives them a blessing before sending them off to their home. It is important for us to bless people before they depart from us.
Joshua may have used Aaron’s Benediction to the Israelites. “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.” (Number 6:23-27) This is a demonstration of faith in God from a faithful leader to the Lord’s faithful people.
The returning tribes to the east of the Jordan left with many riches of plunder from the conquered enemy. Their obedience to God and their brethren had been rewarded. Through our obedience to God the rewards will always exceed the sacrifice. We may be blessed while here in the world but the blessings of His riches in glory will far exceed our finite imaginations. In our service to our Lord we will never be losers but always gainers of proportions beyond are dreams.
The departure of the Rebuenites, Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh was most likely an emotional experience. For the past seven years they had fought side by side with their brothers of the Israelite nation. Members of an army develop a unique bond as they fight and lived together. It is more than fighting to defeat an enemy, it is fighting to save the life of your brother. This is the bond that we also can form together with our fellow Christian Soldiers as we fight to good fight for the souls of the lost.
Before the two and a half tribes crossed over the Jordan to return to their land they built an altar. The size of the altar is not significant but it was the meaning of the altar that caused a stir. An Altar is a place of sacrifice and it was disturbing because both the Israelites and the pagans used altars.
When the Israelites heard of the altar being built on their side of the river there was no debate of the matter but a quick reaction. They formed together and prepared to make war against the eastern tribes. This was not of Joshua’s decision as they did this on their own accord. It is believed that their reaction was one out of fear. They feared that the eastern tribes were doing this as a sign of allegiance to the pagan gods of the region.
This action on the western tribes is a sign of courage to go against their eastern brothers. They were quickly prepared to wage war in belief that they were fighting against a rebellious brotherhood towards their God.
The High Priest Phinehas led the delegation because of his position of authority. He was not only the High Priest of the eastern tribes but also for the western tribes. His purpose was to give correction to the error of the western tribes for building this pagan altar. It was his duty to protect the nation and to drive out all evil. Their readiness to go to war demonstrates how God reacts to un-holiness but their personal meeting with their western brothers shows the character of God’s love.
God’s tabernacle was at Shiloh and now the western tribes had built an altar on the east side of the Jordan River. The sons of Israel thought that this altar was a place of worship and sacrifice to a pagan god. It was the command of God that there was only one place of worship and sacrifice for Israel. As we read in Leviticus, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.” (Leviticus 17:8-9) The message here is that we cannot worship God in any manner that we please or in a way that is just pleasing to ourselves. First and always the manner in which we worship God must be pleasing to Him. Our worship of God must be in Spirit and Truth. (John 4:24)
The High Priest, Phinehas, reminded the eastern tribes that Israel had been punished before during the rebellion of Peor as the example. It was at Peor that the men of Israel had relations with the Moabite women. They also worshiped the Moabite gods. God punished then by sending a plague that killed 24,000 of the people. (Numbers 25:1-9) Phinehas knew of this incident well as he was the one who stopped the plague by making a strong stand for the return to righteous behavior in result of their sin. The fear that Phinehas had was that God’s anger would reflect upon the whole of the Israelite nation.
Phinehas did not want to see any of the Israelites fall into rebellion unto God. So he said to the eastern tribes that if there was uncleanness in the land of their possession they could remain with them on the eastern side of the Jordan. This was a sacrificial offering as the land available to the eastern tribes would have been smaller if the western tribes remained with them. Still the offer was made in order to keep their brothers from falling into sin against the Lord. This is a fault revealed here on the part of many. We are quick to point out the sin of others but will not help them if it will cost anything.
Phinehas reminds them of the sin of Achan, how he had taken the first fruits of Jericho and caused men to die in battle and his whole family to perish because of his greed.
The first appeal of the western tribes was to God because He knows the hearts of men. They knew that the eastern tribes had misunderstood their intentions. When we face the misunderstandings of others our first appeal should be to God as He knows are true intentions. God is our refuge. It is first for us to find the peace of God before justifying ourselves before men.
They also knew that the intentions of those who had come against them were right. They did what we should all do when there is conflict between us and others. We should first try to understand the intention of those who oppose us. If we understand why they may see a situation then we can better resolve the issue.
The Jordan River stood between the western and eastern tribes of Israel as a barrier between them. So they explained that the altar was not for worship or sacrifice but as a memorial to show unity between the tribes of Israel. They built it big and strong that it would last into the generations to follow to show that the tribes on both sides of the river worshiped the same God. In this explanation the western tribes made it known to the eastern tribes that they had misunderstood their intentions.
The High Priest was pleased with this explanation of the western tribes. If time is taken to understand the position of others many an argument can be averted. When facing adversaries we should gain an understanding of their position before making rash actions. Phinehas knew that the Lord was with them as there had been reached an understanding of each other’s intention and peace was now restored between the tribes of Israel. This is the marvel of the passage in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!”
Phinehas reported back to the congregation of the Israelites and all was now at peace. It is a rightful thing for the people of God to have a peaceful relationship. The tribe of Reuben and Gad named the altar “Witness.” It was given this name as the altar was a witness that the eastern and western tribes of the Israelites stood in unity. Also that the tribes worshiped the same God faithfully.
- We see here in this chapter a method to resolving misunderstandings with our fellows.
- Respond with a concern for God’s holiness.
- Respond with the courage to confront in love.
- Respond with an attempt to reconcile before you fight.
- Determine that you are willing to sacrifice to help them; don’t confront unless you are willing to help.
- Determine that you will see the situation from the perspective of the other person.
- Determine that you will believe the best of one another.