A House Dividing
Words of Faith 10-6-2020
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh  and said to them, "You have done all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded.  For a long time now--to this very day--you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you.  Now that the LORD your God has given your brothers rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan.  But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."
 Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes.  (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan with their brothers.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them,  saying, "Return to your homes with your great wealth--with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing--and divide with your brothers the plunder from your enemies."
 So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the LORD through Moses.
 When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan.
 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side,  the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.
The tribes of Israel had been together for more than forty years. They had been through a great deal together—the long journey in the desert, the miraculous entry into the Promised Land, the dramatic victory over Jericho, and many more victories over the kings of Canaan. Now they were ready to separate to their allotted lands.
The territory east of the Jordan River was always a concern. The Eastern tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had served well in battle alongside their brothers. But now, the physical barrier of the river and the vulnerable position of those lands created the concern. Would these tribes be too isolated? Would they come to help when needed? Would the other tribes be able to protect them? Good questions, but it was now time for the war-weary men to go with their families to the new home God had provided.
Joshua commended and blessed the three Eastern tribes. But he left them with the admonition-- Be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.
The three tribes left with great wealth gathered during the conquest—livestock, silver, gold, bronze, and iron. The three tribes headed off from central command in Shiloh toward the land of Gilead, east of the Jordan River.
But before they left Canaan, these three tribes did a strange thing. They built an altar. Their thoughts may have been flooded with the memory of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River or the victory over Jericho. They may have also been fearful because of the imposing barrier presented by the Jordan. It was between 5 and 13 miles wide at the time. They wanted to mark their connection to Israel.
The altar was "imposing," meaning it could be seen from a great distance. It was huge. The Eastern tribes might have built a monument to their own part in the victory. But instead, they built an altar that would honor the Lord and stand as a witness to their connection to the Tabernacle and to Israel.
But when the Israelites heard about the altar, they took it as an offense against God and against Israel. The whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war. The enemies of Israel, those driven from the Land, would love to see Israel divided and warring against each other. That would present a perfect opportunity for them to swoop back in.
It is stunning that a people could in one moment be so united, and in the next, be nearly at war! Will a civil war break out within Israel just days after the Lord had secured "rest on every side" for them (Joshua 21:44)? It appeared so. And why?
There is a powerful lesson here about listening to one another. There is a powerful lesson about not taking offense. Without so much as a clarifying discussion, the ten tribes in the west were ready to go to war with the tribes in the east. They were quite certain that this altar was an act of rebellion against God. Offense, especially when we label it "against God," stirs a passion within people and pushes brother against brother.
We will see how this huge misunderstanding works out. But we can certainly pause, and gift thought to the days in which we live. The Enemy of our souls desires very much for people to be divided against one another. It starts when we jump to conclusions. We get offended when we fail to listen and assume we know the motivation of others.
The Bible teaches that Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). Paul instructed that we are to walk with humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3). We are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19).
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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2005, 2020
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)
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