New Nation Parts 1 & 2

Joshua 22 is a study of accusation and explanation, in two parts.

Part One: CIVIL WAR

2 1/2 tribes of the 12 tribes of Israel had made a deal with Moses, blessed by God, to settle on the EAST side of the Jordan River once the people of Israel had taken the promised land.  It's noteworthy because the promised land didn't include territory east of the river.  But after seven years of fighting side by side, it was time for the 2 1/2 tribes to settle east.  Joshua blessed them but warned them, almost as if he had a premonition, to stay faithful to God.

Then they did something weird.  

They built, on the west side of the river, a second altar like the one in the tabernacle in Shiloh, which of course was an altar to Yahweh (Hebrew YHWH), the god of Israel.  When the western tribes heard about it, they were offended and got ready for war.

Phinehas, Moses' great-nephew led a group of tribal leaders to accuse and ask (albeit rhetorically) why the eastern tribes would rebel.  

So Part One ends on the brink of civil war, but has this important foreshadowing of Christ -- the Israelite leaders offer to give up some of their own territory so the eastern tribes can move west.  They were willing to sacrifice what they had a right to in order to maintain unity.  

Part Two: THE ALTAR 'WITNESS'

When the eastern tribes get the chance to explain themselves, jaws must have dropped.  It turns out that contrary to the accusation of rebellion, they built the second altar for the exact opposite reason.  They built it to demonstrate unity with the western tribes and faithfulness to God.  Thankfully, Phinehas and the Israelites listened and war was averted.

The eastern tribes' need for a "witness" isn't the first time we see such a thing in scripture.  Many times, people will build something to help remind future generations of what took place.  A "witness," in general, is someone or something that points to the TRUTH that others have not been able to experience for themselves.  A witness in court is supposed to help the jury know the truth about the case.  A witness to Jesus is supposed to help the world know the truth about Jesus.  Thankfully, though our Christian witness is always imperfect, we have a perfect witness to emulate.  Jesus himself is the faithful and true witness to God (Rev. 3:14) and bears witness in several important ways.  
Jesus bears witness that inspires unity amongst his followers.  
Jesus bears witness that we have a portion in God's kingdom.
Jesus bears witness that gives us the power to persevere.
Perseverance is perhaps more salient than in recent memory.  The repercussions of Covid-19, alongside a presidential election year, has created an intensity in our culture that is exhausting at best...and destructive at worst.  But the author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus persevered the worst that humanity had to offer, for the sake of the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:1-3).  

May we all be empowered by the Holy Spirit to give of ourselves freely and bear witness to the One who gave everything for our salvation.



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