Daily Devotional – Thursday, November 25, 2021
"11 The rest of Israel heard that the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had built an altar at Geliloth at the edge of the land of Canaan, on the west side of the Jordan River. 12 So the whole community of Israel gathered at Shiloh and prepared to go to war against them.” (Joshua 22:11-12, NLT)
There is an inherent danger with making assumptions. While our assumptions based on experience, past events and what we observe may be correct, they can also be tragically wrong. And the results can be devastating. Such was nearly the case with the people of Israel. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe Manasseh had been granted their land on the east side of the Jordan, with the condition that they would help the other tribes secure the land on the west side as their inheritance. The two and a half tribes had done so and Joshua grants them permission to return to the other side of the river. Before they crossed back over, they decided to erect an ‘imposing’ altar (v.10). The other tribes get word and go into panic mode.
Their reaction is understandable. They knew from recent past that God could hold them all accountable for the sin of a few. Hadn’t they been defeated in the battle against the relatively small town of Ai because Achan had disobeyed a direct order from God and kept some of the plunder that was set aside for destruction after they captured Jericho? Now here were the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh building an unsanctioned altar. What were they thinking? An immediate intervention was deemed necessary—the tribes would go to war with one another!
Thankfully, words of wisdom prevailed and it was determined that before any drastic action was taken, a delegation should be sent to the east side of the river to talk. They were still fully under the assumption that a grave sin was involved, but just maybe they could talk some sense into the wayward tribes and prevent war.
On hearing the accusation of the western tribes, those who had built the altar were able to provide an explanation. The altar was not meant as a place of worship, but as a memorial and safeguard, to remind those on the west side that the tribes on the east side had as much claim to worship God as the rest. They, too, had made an assumption, “24 “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? 25 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 worshiping the LORD.”
Both assumptions were not without potential truth, but were not based on current fact. Thank goodness for cooler heads. Thank goodness they chose to ask questions and talk first, rather than jumping to unwarranted action. If only we would learn from their example! We make assumptions based upon what we ‘know’ and are convinced we are correct; however, when parameters change, when new information is provided that affects what we know, we need to humbly accept that we may have been wrong or that there is need for a new way of thinking. As tempting and natural as it comes to us as humans, we really ought to curb our habit of making assumptions…better always to get the facts!
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!