Joshua 22:16 Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD?
In a study of Joshua 22, the 2 1/2 tribes of Israel – Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh – are going to be set free to return to their families and earthly inheritance because they had faithfully helped their brothers in the 9 1/2 tribes overcome their enemies. For 7 years, these 2 1/2 tribes lived away from their families and the comforts of home to keep their word of going to war with their brothers until God gave them victory over their enemies. Now they are sent home with all of the blessings of warfare and to be reunited with their wives, children and loved ones. Before they cross the Jordan, while they were still in The Promised Land, they built a monument, large enough for everyone to see. It was actually a memorial or token of remembrance to remind them not only the faithfulness of God, but their unity with their brothers on “the other side of the Jordan.” Unfortunately, when the rest of Israel heard about what they had done, they mustered an army at Shiloh and prepared to go to war against their brother tribes.
Did you catch that? When Israel heard about this altar or memorial, without hearing the whole story from their brethren on the other side, they decide that they were sinning against God and it is time for war! When the delegation from the 9 1/2 tribes confronts their brothers in the 2 1/2 tribes on the other side of what was the meaning of this altar, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh assured the others by Jehovah, the God of gods, that were not in rebellion against the Lord and did not build the altar to sacrifice offerings. The truth was they built the altar as a memorial because they loved the Lord and feared that in the future the children of the 9 1/2 tribes would say to their children. “What right do you have to worship the Lord God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and your people and you who chose to dwell of the other side of the river have no part in the Lord.” (Joshua 22:24,25) The fear was that this rumor would be believed and thus discourage the descendants of the 3 1/2 tribes from worshiping Jehovah. But they could reply, “Look at the altar of the Lord that our fathers made. Yes, it is patterned after the altar of Jehovah, but it is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices; it is a symbol of the relationship with God that both of us have.” (v 28)
The name of the altar was Ed, which means witness or testimony (v 34). The real intention of building this altar was to be a witness or a testimony of the unity of the 12 tribes for future generations. An important lesson that is tucked away in Joshua 22 is that people and churches that are judged falsely are damaged when rumors or gossip are acted on as absolute truth. Beloved, when you hear a rumor about something or someone, before you come to a decision yourself, make sure that you go to the source of the matter and get all of the facts. Had the 9 1/2 tribes not gotten the full story, a civil war between the tribes on the two sides of the river would have broken out! How many wars that have broken out amongst God’s people may have been avoided if after we heard a rumor about someone, we had gone to the person and gathered all of the facts about the situation first? What peril lies in the incompatibility of Christian with Christian! How easily misunderstandings occur, and with what damaging results! How rapidly they spread, and the farther they go the worse they get, until often an evangelical church is completely ruined by this very sin. Why is it we are all so ready to listen to gossip? Why is it that we are so quick to impute the worst motives to other people? Why do we believe so quickly a rumor concerning another person’s character, and then repeat it with hundredfold exaggeration?
The devil has used gossiping, slandering, backbiting Christians to infect other Christians to divide more churches and destroy more lives and ministries than drugs, alcohol and sexual sin combined. See what God says about those individuals with loose lips who sow discord in Proverbs 6. Selah