Joshua 22:21-34 It is better to err on the side of trust than doubt
21 Then the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered and spoke to the heads of the families of Israel. 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, the Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion, or if in an unfaithful act against the Lord do not save us this day! 23 If we have built us an altar to turn away from following the Lord, or if to offer a burnt offering or grain offering on it, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, may the Lord Himself require it. 24 But truly we have done this out of concern, for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your sons may say to our sons, “What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you sons of Reuben and sons of Gad; you have no portion in the Lord.” So your sons may make our sons stop fearing the Lord.’
26 “Therefore we said, ‘Let us build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; 27 rather it shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, so that your sons will not say to our sons in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord.”’ 28 Therefore we said, ‘It shall also come about if they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, “See the copy of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you.”’ 29 Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from following the Lord this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.”
30 So when Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the congregation, even the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them. 31 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the sons of Reuben and to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is in our midst, because you have not committed this unfaithful act against the Lord; now you have delivered the sons of Israel from the hand of the Lord.”
32 Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders returned from the sons of Reuben and from the sons of Gad, from the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the sons of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33 The word pleased the sons of Israel, and the sons of Israel blessed God; and they did not speak of going up against them in war to destroy the land in which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad were living. 34 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad called the altar Witness; “For,” they said, “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”
The Western tribes upon seeing the new altar were struck with fear, having been reminded of the divine retributions brought upon them in Israel’s past. In a bid to avert a perceived disaster, the Westerners gathered for war against their Eastern brothers. As we know it, the new altar was an attempt to awake their Western brothers into renewing their commitment towards a united Israel for the generations to come. In today’s devotion, we see a time when Israel entered into a new existence that required a deeper level of trust towards one another. Despite the psychological divide posed by the Jordan River, the tribes were tested of their fraternal commitment towards a united Israel under God. Today’s devotion teaches the importance of giving trust for it is better to err on the side of trust than doubt.
Let us build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice.
The eastern tribes in response to the reproach of the Western tribes affirmed that if their act stemmed from rebellion against God, they deserved His judgment. They earnestly explained that the altar was erected deliberately to remedy the psychological divide posed by the Jordan river that might keep future generations from crossing over to Shiloh to worship God thus estranging them from the main body of Israel. The new altar served as a tacit witness that an independent sanctuary would be developed should the eastern tribes be barred from Shiloh. As long as the Eastern tribes were given access to Shiloh, an independent sanctuary would not be necessary.
It is a witness between us that the Lord is God.
The Eastern tribes made it clear that they did not want to transgress God’s laws governing Israel’s worship. The new altar was not intended for burnt offerings and sacrifices but as a witness to future generations that the Eastern tribes had the right to cross over to Shiloh for worship.
Trust is essential in fulfilling our potential and accomplishing our calling
The Jordan River that separated the tribes tested the limits of their trust and their identity as a nation under God. The Western tribes were afraid that a calamity might befall them should the Easterners erect a new altar. The Eastern tribes were wary should the Westerners monopolise Shiloh. However, it did not take long to realise that in order for the tribes on both sides to survive, they must learn to trust one another. They must trust their fraternal instincts to maintain unity in the worship of God and stand as one people should any tribe be attacked.
People went solo because they could not trust others enough to work with them. They strive for their own benefit, using and manipulating others towards their course. Such produce followers after their kind, damaging and vilifying those who may cross their path. Unless we learn to trust and work with others, we will not fulfill our ordained potential and accomplish our calling.
It is better to err on the side of trust than doubt
When dealing with people, it is better to err on the side of trust. In doing so, we promote dignity and personal responsibility. By withholding trust, we tend towards strict supervision with micromanagement. This not only stifles motivation and creativity, it stunts growth towards our full potential. By giving trust before it is fully earned, we produce greater ownership and facilitate space for others to approach tasks creatively and fearlessly.
The Eastern and Western tribes must exercise trust towards one another even though they are out of sight for a protracted period of time. It is important to note that their fear of God had provided a strong framework through which they could built their trust. The new altar serves as a witness, a perpetual reminder of their covenant with God and with one another.
Do you find it difficult to trust others? Perhaps, this fear stems from the bad experiences of misplaced trust. Hence, the answer lies in the ability to discern if another is trustworthy and to what extent he is. By reading God’s word daily and assimilating the truth, we develop a right framework on which to base our convictions. It is wise at inception to test a person’s trustworthiness by giving smaller responsibilities. A person may not harbour deceit, but his personal habits and maturity will inevidently affect his competency and reliability. Therefore, although trust is built over time, we must give people opportunities to make mistakes so that they may learn and grow in due process.
Dear Lord, give me wisdom and discernment through your Spirit. Help me to build trust within the community through responsible living. Use me to build networks of trust through which believers could fulfill kingdom’s purposes as a community of God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.