Focal Passage: Joshua 22:11-12, 15-18, 26-27, 33-34
Some of us have a tendency to assume the worst. This can lead to misunderstanding and conflict. I have considered writing a book about some of the interesting disagreements that have happened in churches. In this account from the history of God’s people, an action that was intended as good led to the assumption that God’s law had been overlooked. The sons of Israel were concerned that the actions of the tribes east of the Jordan were going to bring judgment on the whole nation.
Jumping to conclusions (vv. 11-12). A well intentioned act on the part of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh was misunderstood by the rest of the sons of Israel. God had been very specific about worshipping false gods. Apparently a memorial had been set up near the west bank of the Jordan River (technically not the property of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh).
The reaction by the rest of the sons of Israel was intense. They were ready to go to war if necessary to correct this apparent evil. Emotions were on edge. Because of our emotional connection with each other in the local body of Christ, it is sometimes easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions. How should we respond in these situations?
Confronting the concern (vv. 15-18). Confrontation is seldom easy. This action on behalf of the sons of Israel is carried out in order to avoid the Lord’s judgment. There was much at stake here, their relationship with the Lord and their relationships with their brothers. There also seemed to be a desire for resolution of this situation. In Matthew 18:15-18, Jesus seems to advocate dealing directly with these situations and teaches the proper approach. One way to resolve conflict and misunderstanding is to gently address it with a spirit of understanding, humbly seeking restoration and resolution. Seeking God’s wisdom and the intervention of the Holy Spirit is essential for successful resolution. (Matthew 7 is one of my favorite passages to guide these kinds of issues).
Reasonable explanation (vv. 26-27). If you know the background behind how Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had asked to be given the land east of the Jordan River, their actions in setting up the memorial makes more sense. They would be geographically remote from the rest of Israel, separated by the Jordan River, and closer to other nations. They might be easily forgotten, and future generations might view them as separate from Israel since they would be in closer proximity to foreign peoples. They offered a reasonable explanation that this altar is not one to be used for sacrifice, but a memorial reminder to future generations on both sides of the Jordan of their loyalty to the one true God, and their relationship with God’s people Israel.
They deserved the benefit of the doubt as do those who may have seemed to set out to hurt us intentionally.
Peaceful resolution (vv. 33-34). You can almost feel the sense of relief at the resolution of this misunderstanding. The sons of Israel were made to understand that the three other tribes did not intend to defy the Lord or to declare independence from God’s people. The memorial was intended to be a witness between their brothers and before the one true God. Being followers of Christ does not make us exempt from conflict and disagreement. It does, however require us to learn to be forgiving as the Lord Jesus has showed and instructed us to do. Conflict is never easy, but when it comes to resolution, our basic choices are to confess it, confront it, or let it go. With God’s help, difficult situations can be resolved so we can move forward in serving His Kingdom!
— Harmon is pastor of Rock Springs Baptist Church, Greenbrier.