Tuesday, September 16, 2014

east vs. west pt. 2 (from problems to solutions)

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Joshua 23
Yesterday we left off at a cliffhanger of truly biblical proportions. In it we saw the 2.5 tribes that settled to the East of the Jordan river being threatened with impending military action by their fellow Israelites who settled to the West of the river.
Why? Well building a stone structure without a permit, to start. Then serious accusations of religious and national apostasy. Next rumors of, and then a mustering for a civil war. This is exactly what the barely-settled nation of Israel needed least, and yet that is what they faced. This could get real ugly real quick. And yet-it didn't.
As mentioned yesterday, the real miracle from this story is that there isn't one (no sun stopping, no river parting, no walls a'tumbling down.) Just some good old fashioned crisis intervention. When we actually examine what they did, the contemporary application is astounding. Let's take a look:
First of all, we have to give some acknowledgement to the 9.5 tribes for taking action (albeit a bit premature). They at least cared. They took their faith, and the Law of Moses seriously (1). If the accusations were true, and these tribes were indeed going rogue and putting up an alternate location for sacrifice, that was a big deal. After years wandering in the wilderness, and then an extensive military campaign in the Promised Land, the last thing that any soldier wanted was to go to war with their fellow Israelites. Yet, that is what they were willing to do.
If there is a legitimate issue, you have to deal with it. You have to take some action. The worst thing in the world to do is ignore it. The greatest temptation for many of us (yours truly included) is to try to pretend the issue is not there or that it will take care of itself. But not dealing with anything is really weakness or laziness.
In a surprisingly fresh analysis (considering it is about 100 years old) Mr. G.K. Chesterton spoke about his native country of England:
It is customary to complain of the bustle and strenuousness of our epoch. But in truth the chief mark of our epoch is a profound laziness and fatigue; and the fact is that the real laziness is the cause of the apparent bustle. Take one quite external case; the streets are noisy with taxicabs and motorcars; but this is not due to human activity but to human repose. There would be less bustle if there were more activity, if people were simply walking about (2).
We complain of being too busy, but the evidence shows otherwise. I would argue that the greatest sins of America and the American church are sins of omission: not caring, not dealing with anything, not taking action, not wanting to be bothered, not doing much of anything.
Secondly, we have to commend the Western Tribes for their wisdom of sending an investigative delegation before actually launching offensives. For lesser people, seeing that altar on the other side of the Jordan would be all the information they need. They would be swift, they would be self-righteous, they would show those apostates a thing or two, and they would be dead wrong in their assumptions, leading to much destruction. I know that each of us have been to a place of deep regret when we acted on incomplete information, thinking we had everything figured out, only to find that we didn't. There's no easy way of getting out of that mess.
We've all been told not to jump to conclusions or to assume anything. But in any real conflict, the temptation to do both skyrockets. We need to make sure that we are not ignorant of our own ignorance. We need to actually research and investigate and double-check our facts. When you're cutting a 2 X 4, you're always told to "measure twice and cut once." I think we'd better follow the example of this delegation and get our facts straight before we start cutting off heads ourselves.
Finally, conflict requires that we deal with the specifics. Consider how specific the interchange is between the leaders of the two different parties involved. It's just the facts, ma'am! Consider the exchange (3):
Westsiders Concerns:
- How can you break faith with the God of Israel?
- How can you build yourselves an altar?
- Don't you remember what happened last time?
- Your sin will affect all of us
- Come move over with us if this land isn't good enough
- Please do NOT rebel against the Lord
Eastsiders Response:
- God knows what is going on here
- If we are indeed rebelling then you ought to destroy us
- But we are not rebelling
- This altar is NOT for offerings and sacrifice
- This altar is a memorial for our and your descendants
- This altar will point us to the true altar of God
There's no mention about anyone's childhood, no vague generalities, nothing about feelings, no appeals to Oprah or Dr. Phil. No third party gets involved. These folks are committed to being reconciled, and they do it the right way; all which leads us to the grand finale and it is a happy one. The crisis is averted. The day is saved. Now go and do likewise. (Just remember it's always harder than it looks!)
(1) see Leviticus 17:8
(2) GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter 7
(3) Joshua 22:15-29

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