Joshua 22:10-12 10 When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. 11 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, 12 the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.
Today in Joshua 22, Joshua sent some of the Israelites back across the Jordan river to the land that they wanted. They had done all that Joshua had asked of them, so they were free to go. So he sends them out with great blessing. He also gives them one final word of advice: But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul. (v5). It’s kind of like them moving out of mom and dad’s house to go away to college or get married. These are some great words that I plan on speaking to my kids someday when they venture out on their own.
So the two and a half tribes head out and build an altar before crossing over the Jordan. The word gets back to the main headquarters and mayhem ensues. Here’s where the trouble really starts. It starts with assumption. You see, as we continue to read the rest of the chapter we find out that they didn’t build an imposing altar at all. But the people of Israel assumed that they had already turned away from God. And as I read, I made the same assumption. I thought, “oh no they didn’t!” I couldn’t believe that they had turned from God so quickly. How dis-heartening.
Come to find out, they didn’t turn away from God at all. It was quite the opposite; they were building a reminder that they DID serve God. They wanted the generations after them to remember that Israel was one and served the one true God. They were afraid that people would think they didn’t love God because they left the main land. It was all just a misunderstanding. But it didn’t have to be.
As I arrived at the end of the chapter, I was amazed at how quickly the Israelites were stirred emotionally to go to war against their brothers. I was amazed at how deep their assumptions ran. They thought they knew what happened and got angry. But it is a good thing that the truth came out. It is a good thing that Joshua had the wisdom to send some people to ask questions before declaring war. It wouldn’t hurt us to do the same thing. Before we declare war on someone for their actions or words, we should seek clarification on the heart’s intent. We shouldn’t so quickly jump to assumptions that we make a rash decision that we will later regret. One other thing, while it’s good to ask the person what they really intended, we have the Holy Spirit too. He doesn’t mind if you ask Him either.