Scripture: Joshua 22
Observation: Joshua called together the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to tell them they could return to the land promised them, east of the Jordan River. They built an altar, which infuriated the rest of the Israelites who assumed this was an act of rebellion against the Lord. The other tribes were ready to wage war. However, once they talked to these three tribes, they learned that their intention was to build the altar as a memorial, a reminder for future generations of the Lord’s greatness.
Application: Do you assume the best in people or the worst in people?
While I like to think I’m always positive and optimistic, there are far too many moments where I assume the worst in others. I lack empathy, refuse to be open-minded, and find myself thinking a litany of negative thoughts about others -- how prideful they are, lazy they are, incompetent they are.
It’s easy to assume the worst in people. We have a million things vying for our attention – and seeking to understand and see the best in others is overwhelmingly time consuming. Who has time for empathy or trying to understand who a person is and why they do what they do when we have so many other things going on around us?
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m alone in assuming the worst in other people. A few of the Israelites we read about today did just that -- and it almost led to an all-out war.
When Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh are released to go back to their land east of the Jordan River, they build an altar to act as a memorial.
“The truth is, we have built this altar because we fear that in the future your descendants will say to ours, ‘What right do you have to worship the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and you people of Reuben and Gad. You have no claim to the Lord.’ So your descendants may prevent our descendants from worshipping the Lord. So we decided to build the altar, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as a memorial.” (v. 24-27)
But, the Israelites on the west side didn’t know all of that. When they saw the “large and imposing altar,” they assumed the worst, believing that these three tribes built an altar to offer sacrifices, a direct violation of their law that stated they could only offer sacrifices at Shiloh.
Their first response was to go to war – until a wise and patient priest decided to go and talk to them first.
When talking to these three tribes, they found out the truth: their hearts and motives were pure. In fact, they feared that because the Jordan River separated them from the rest of their people, they may become alienated. Their altar wasn’t an act of rebellion; it was an act of respect, a bold response to their devotion to the Lord.
How many times are we just like the Israelites, assuming the worst in others and ready to declare "war" on someone else before we take the time to talk to them and understand?
Today, let's pause. Let's push dow our initial emotional responses and ask God to enter that space with us, to fill us with the fruits of the Spirit, and to talk before acting.
Prayer: God, thank you for always being there to accept us – at our best and at our worst. I pray you’ll help me be open-minded, ready to see others as you see them. Help me be patient and compassionate. Amen.