We open our text in Joshua 22. The Israelites have been settling in the Land of Canaan, and Joshua summoned the Reubenites, Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh. The war is over and they are about to return to their appointed sections of land on the other side of the Jordan River. It is important to know here that the river separates them from the rest of the tribes of Israel. Joshua, beginning in verse five, gives them a few parting words that we should note. We read: “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” I would say that these are pretty significant parting words.
These tribes begin their journey home and as they arrive at the Canaanite side of the Jordan they build an altar to the LORD. The text makes it clear that it was great altar to behold, and this caused quite an uproar among the people of Israel. They sent Phinehas, who was the son of the Eleazar the Priest, and ten leaders from the clans of Israel. These men brought very strong words with them. They even go as far as saying that the great altar these people built was an act of rebellion against the LORD which we have seen in the book of Joshua is not a small thing. The big picture here is that the people of Israel believed that if anyone rebels against the LORD then all of Israel loses His protection and incurs His wrath. Nobody wanted to receive any of that, and this caused people to get a bit upset.
The Reubenites, Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh had something different in mind when they built it. Their lengthy defense is contained in verses 22-29. They saw the LORD work, they believed in Him and loved Him, but their inheritances were on the other side of the river from the rest of the nation. They feared that their children would grow up and be alienated by the children of the Israelites that were living on the Canaan side of the Jordan River. They were scared that their kids would lose their God, so they took action. This altar was not to be one to sacrifice on, but to be a stone monument as a witness between the people on both sides of the river that they had the same God. It was a witness that the people both sides of the river loved the LORD and worshipped Him and Him alone. This is an extremely powerful thing for me to see as a parent. These people thought about their children, their God and their children’s relationship with their God. They didn’t just stop at thinking about it either, they took action. They built something of stone that would stand for a long, long time to remind them of who the LORD is. They built something solid.
This Scripture is not teaching us to build rock piles in our back yard for our children to see, but it does teach us to take actions now for our children’s understanding of the LORD. It is our job, and if we do not do it they will learn something else from somewhere else. There are some who say that they want their children to find their own way, and they don’t want to influence them. I would say that is about the same as saying you want your child to learn on their own whether they should pull the pin on a hand grenade or not. The results of the lack of knowledge are catastrophic, and we should love our kids more than that. I ask you to consider what you can do to teach your children and your children’s children about God. Was there anyone in your family that left a lasting impression on you as a person of God? Let us consider taking actions to build and preserve our children’s understanding of who He is, what He has done for us, and be grateful for His sovereignty over our lives.
Joshua 22:34 – “The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, For they said, ‘it is a witness between us that the LORD is God.’ ”
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