“Joshua summoned the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh,.. ‘You have not forsaken your brothers these many days,.. but have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God. And now your God has given rest to your brothers… Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies… Only be very careful… to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways…’ So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.
“And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, of imposing size. And the people of Israel heard it said, ‘[They] have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan…’ And the whole assembly gathered at Shiloh to make war against them. Then the people of Israel sent to [them] Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with ten chiefs,.. and they said, ‘What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the Lord by building yourselves an altar in rebellion against the Lord… other than the altar of the Lord our God [that stands before his tabernacle]…?’
“Then the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh [answered], ‘The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the Lord, do not spare us today… [We built] an altar… to be a witness between us and you… so your children will not say to our children in time to come, ‘You have no portion in the Lord…’ When Phinehas and the chiefs… heard the words that the people spoke, it was good in their eyes. Then Phinehas and the chiefs… brought back word. And the report was good in the eyes of the people of Israel. And [they] blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and the people of Gad were settled.” Joshua 22:1,3-6,10-14,16,19,21-22,26-27,30,32-33
Two and a half Israelite tribes chose to settle east of the Jordan, but had agreed to help their brother tribes take the land across the river. All went according to plan until they returned, and erected their own altar. Immediately, anger flared and accusations sparked, but Phinehas, investigating the truth behind what appeared, extinguished the seeds of a wildfire. (Numbers 32:1-22)
In the flesh, we impose our grid of right and wrong on what we see, and come to quick conclusions. We can readily observe a behavior, or snapshot of activity, and judge another’s motives as suspect. In a day of heightened sensitivities, the tendency is exacerbated; in the frenzy of retorts and sound bites, we jump to assess, choose our side, and pronounce our righteous indignation. But things are not always as they seem.
Where need I pause, relinquish emotion, and discern? What can I do to curtail quick-triggered reactions into thoughtful, self-controlled responses that resolve contention?
Lord, help me see and perceive as You do, and in every response, glorify You by displaying Your Spirit’s fruit. (Galatians 5:22-23)