Reflections: As the Israelites allow the Reubenites, Gadites and half tribe of Manasseh (Joseph’s son) to return to the land East of Jordan. But then quite a confusion happens when those returning built an altar near the Jordan. The text says it was quite an “imposing altar”, meaning it could not be missed. Well, the other tribes misunderstood the meaning of this temple and took it to mean that these tribes were setting up a separate temple to worship another god. In those days there was one temple, where the Israelites worshipped the Lord in Jerusalem. So thinking these folks had already started to run after other gods, they chased them down prepared to fight against them for such a transgression (read Israel’s passion to obey God and worship him in one temple!)
Well as it turned out these 2 and ½ tribes were not building an alternative worship site, they were building a replica to remind them of the one true God where they came from. It was to be a witness of where they came from and the God they served. They were concerned that future generations might not remember because as the saying goes, “out of sight out of mind”. They replied that God knew their true hearts, so if they were guilty may it be, but see our true intentions here. Once the tribes understood the true reason, Eleazar the high priest and the other leaders were relieved.
It reminds me of a saying that is very helpful as we interpret our brothers and sisters actions. It is called “best possible construction”. It comes from Martin Luther’s teaching in the Catechism in regard to the Ten Commandments. Of course the first three commandments are about our relationship to God, but the rest are about our relationships with each other. In Luther’s explanations called, “What Does This Mean”, he would put the negative prohibition into a positive light. Like with not taking the Lord’s name in vain in the 2nd commandment he said, “We should not take the Lord’s name in vain, but instead call on him in prayer, praise and thanks.” This is one of the benefits of memorizing the catechism as a youngster.
Whose character or actions do you need interpret and put the best possible construction on today? Remember the Lord’s grace with us as He is slow to anger and merciful to us despite our continual failings. Reach out to your brother and sister and if they have sinned against you seek reconciliation for the God’s sake but before you judge make the best possible construction of what they have done or what you have perceived they have done.
7 All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols —
worship him, all you gods!
8 Zion hears and rejoices
and the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments, Lord.
9 For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.
Eastern Tribes Return Home
22 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh 2 and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. 3 For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. 4 Now that the Lord your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5 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 obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. ”
6 Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. 7 (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan along with their fellow Israelites.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, 8 saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites.”
9 So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.
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.
13 So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 14 With him they sent ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.
15 When they went to Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh—they said to them: 16 “The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? 17 Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! 18 And are you now turning away from the Lord?
“‘If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. 19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things,[a] did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”
21 Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account.
24 “No! We did it for fear that someday your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.
26 “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ 27 On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’
28 “And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the Lord’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’
29 “Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle. ”
30 When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. 31 And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is with us, because you have not been unfaithful to the Lord in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s hand.”
32 Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. 33 They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived.
34 And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us—that the Lord is God.
The Coming of the Kingdom of God
20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God. Isaiah 55:5
Paul wrote: I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. 1 Corinthians 2:3-4
Heavenly Inspiration, we want to share your love with all the world, but we are just one person. Show us that whatever we do in your name, no matter how small, will help to bring your kingdom on earth. Amen.