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03 March, 2014

The Offensive Altar (Joshua 22:10)




Joshua 22:10 “And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size.”

The sons of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar to God. Their intention was to commemorate their national unity with the other tribes that live on the west side of the Jordan (Read Numbers 32 to see why these tribes were living eastward to the rest of the Israelites.) Without knowing what was in the heart of those two and half tribes who built the altar, the Israelites got really upset. So much so that we are told in Joshua 22:12 that they have gathered together to go against them in war (their own brother’s tribes)

When you read Joshua 22:16-20 you can see through their attitude, while in appearance, it looks like they are defending God’s honor and they want to be obedient to all that He said, yet you can smell the stench of self-righteous and hypocrisy at work.”

They were quick to recall one iniquity in verse 17 to accuse their brothers of wrong doings, yet they did not use their ability to recall in order to truly obey God’s commands while in their own respective land. The remaining of chapter 22 from verse 21 is about the two and a half tribes explaining the intend behind their gesture. As such a civil war among them was avoided

Here is what I am driving at, when you read Joshua’s book, you find that the Israelites have not bothered to drive all the inhabitants of the land away as God commanded them. Among others, we are told the Jebusites, the Canaanites, the Gezer and so on remained in the land because the Israelites had decided to put them to forced labor instead of driving them away. They decided it was a better idea than God’s own. It seems like they were getting something back from having them as laborers.

In Joshua 17:14-18 you can clearly see Joshua’s unhappiness with them when Joseph’s sons complained they did not have enough land? “Then the sons of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, "Why have you given me only one lot and one portion for an inheritance, since I am a numerous people whom the LORD has thus far blessed?" - Joshua answered to them the best thing he could have ever said in verses 15-18 Joshua replied, “If there are so many of you, and if the hill country of Ephraim is not large enough for you, clear out land for yourselves in the forest where the Perizzites and Rephaites live. The descendants of Joseph responded, “It’s true that the hill country is not large enough for us. But all the Canaanites in the lowlands have iron chariots, both those in Beth-Shan and its surrounding settlements and those in the valley of Jezreel. They are too strong for us. Then Joshua said to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph, “Since you are so large and strong, you will be given more than one portion. 18 The forests of the hill country will be yours as well. Clear as much of the land as you wish, and take possession of its farthest corners. And you will drive out the Canaanites from the valleys, too, even though they are strong and have iron chariots.” This tells me that they were aware that God’s will was not being honoured through them. But, it did not seem to matter much.

When I was a new Christian reading the Bible for the first time when I got to the end of Joshua’s book, I remember saying, God made a mistake here. How is it I can tell the Israelites did not fully obeyed and they did what they felt like was best for them, yet, God gave them rest and He seemed to be happy with it all? I still remember the arrogance in my heart and my attitude because I was able to see something God did not see, while it is sad, but I can now laugh about the depth of my stupidity and arrogance.  

I remember feeling, well, if this is God, then I can get away with so much and He would never be the wiser. Not only that, I kept thinking how easy this Christianity thing was and felt that God was not expecting much of us in terms of our actions.  I had a picture of God that had nothing to do with the real God. I also had in mind what I kept hearing in the Church about God’s love and patience and how He overlook our failures because of His grace, etc. So, even though I felt God was not that bright, but I kept thinking, “This Christianity thing, I can do it standing on my head”

I had a shock when I started reading the book of Judges, Chapter 2:1-3 the first thing I read was the rebuke of Israel “The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.

I was somewhat relieved that God could see their disobedience and He was a more powerful God than I thought He was. But, the reality is when we are reading without the Holy Spirit and when the Bible is only a book of history to us, there is no telling how far our heart could deceive us.

My point is that I wanted to point out how easy it is for us to tear each other apart in the name of God. In the meantime, God put us in the same basket with the very people that, in our self-righteousness we look down to. I keep asking myself this question, how many Christians in the Church today can see that even though we claim to belong to Him, yet we have not changed at all. We are right up there with the Israelites in their self-righteousness, lack of faith and disobedience, while doing “things” for God.


To you who have been blessed by His grace, enough to see how easy we can be led to do the wrong things while the heart is not in the right place with God, then why is it you are not going full-fledged in complete abandon to Him to change you? How is it, reading about the Israelites does not put the fear of God in you?