Monday, September 15, 2014

the original east versus west--pt. 1

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: Joshua 22
Have you ever felt like the whole purpose of your life was to serve as a warning to others?
For us, we can never really know if that is our lot in life. But for the Israelites, it was a much different story. Whether they knew it or not, they have for ages been on display for all to see and know about. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (1).
After all, they are our spiritual ancestors, and we can certainly look to the great heroes of old for inspiration and encouragement. But we are naive if we do not admit the truth that they were flawed people, that they had a very checkered history with all sorts of skeletons coming from all kinds of closets. (Come to think of it- they sound a lot like you and me!) For every Joshua and Caleb, there were 10 faithless spies. Ever since their Exodus from Egypt, we've seen all sorts of depravity: repeated grumbling, idolatry, false worship, rebellion, and sexual immorality (2).
So far in this book of Joshua, we've also seen a mixed bag. Great successes, but also failures- (e.g. the troubles with Ai and Achan's sin, being foolishly duped by the Gibeonites (3). It has not been a cake walk to conquer all the Promised Land, and there have been different setbacks. Today's reading finds us at another crisis, where things can really go bad for this fledgling nation of Israel. But the encouraging part is that here, for this moment, the crisis is actually adverted. There is no direct divine intervention, nothing supernatural, but perhaps the bigger miracle is the fact that we have a genuine, bonafide success story.
Today, we'll explore the the details of the story...
Here's a brief summary of what we know:
A. As seen from the map above, 9 (and a half) of the 12 Tribes of Israel found their land allotment on the West side of the Jordan River. (We'll call them "Westsiders")
B. The other 2.5 tribes: Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh had the territory to the East side of the Jordan. (We'll call them "Eastsiders")
C. Since the East side was conquered first, the women and children of the Eastsiders were permitted to settle in their territory. But the men who could fight were required to remain with the Israeli army until all the land was secure (4).
D. Israel indeed conquered the nearly all of the Promised Land (5).
E. It was time for the soldiers of the Eastsiders to go home, and home they went, with Joshua's blessing.
Okay. So far, so good; so what is the big deal?
First there are rumors, then a confirmed report that an altar-like structure is indeed being constructed. The problem is that the Law of Moses allowed for exactly one place for sacrifice and offerings, and that was at the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle). The penalty for violating this was death (6). That Tent was residing, at that time, in Shiloh (7). So when the other 9.5 tribes heard about the altar the Eastsiders were building, they immediately assumed the worse, and they planned to wage war in order to correct this breach of faith...
(To be continued. Tomorrow we'll focus on what they got right and how we can learn from what happened here.)
(1) Romans 15:4
(2) see Exodus 16 & 32; Leviticus 10; Numbers 14, 16, 31
(3) see Joshua 7 & 9
(4) Numbers 32:29-33
(5) see Joshua 1-21
(6) Leviticus 17:8
(7) Joshua 18:1

No comments:

Post a Comment