MLToday: [Joshua Chapter Twenty-Two]: Where are You Building Your Altars? In this chapter we see the nation of Israel divided and two altars erected that leads them to the brink of war. Altars are places where the spiritual context of our lives is defined. When we arbitrarily choose what gives meaning to our lives we often find ourselves separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ. God had warned the people to only worship in the place HE commanded. This teaching today is a powerful understanding of self will and the consequences it brings when we think we have a better idea than God himself.

Today: [Joshua Chapter Twenty-Two]: Where are You Building Your Altars? In this chapter we see the nation of Israel divided and two altars erected that leads them to the brink of war. Altars are places where the spiritual context of our lives is defined. When we arbitrarily choose what gives meaning to our lives we often find ourselves separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ. God had warned the people to only worship in the place HE commanded. This teaching today is a powerful understanding of self will and the consequences it brings when we think we have a better idea than God himself.

[Jos 22:1-34 KJV] 1 Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, 2 And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you: 3 Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God. 4 And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, [and] unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan. 5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. 6 So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away: and they went unto their tents.

The Reubenites, the Gadites and the two half tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Mannaseh) had settled on the eastern banks of the Jordan. They had requested of Moses not to go into the promised land but to settle in the wilderness. God had a plan but they had a better plan. Evangelist A.A. Allen said some people are more spiritual than God. These tribes continually deviated from the guidance God gave them and eventually complained to Joshua went it didn’t work out for them – all the while never acknowledging that the difficulties began with their own willfulness. Nonetheless Joshua blesses them and sends them on their way with an exhortation to do what they were already prone NOT to do – that is to love the Lord AND to walk in HIS ways (not their own).

What was the key to Jesus’ successes? We often think without realizing that His miraculous power arose by virtue of the virgin birth. Rom. 1:4 says that Jesus was declared to be the son of God by the “spirit of holiness” or the Holy Spirit. In other words His life was unique not because He was virgin born but by virtue of His dependence on the Holy Spirit which He then died to make available to you and I. We can have the same experience in life that Jesus did because He gave us the same resource of the Holy Spirit to make it possible. This is the inference of John 14:12 when Jesus said we would do His works and in fact greater works. This is not only commentary – it is prophecy. It WILL happen before God wraps up the time of man on the earth under the current dispensation.

So considering the fact that Jesus gave the same Holy Spirit to us as He relied on why did He get miracles and we so often do not? In John 5:19 Jesus said “I only do what I see My father do and make My decisions as I hear Him speak….” This chapter is a litany of decisions made by everyone involved that excluded God altogether and as a result brought the tribes to the brink of war. Learn not to do “your thing” or to do what is simply acceptable or allowable from a statutory standpoint but rather do what you see the Father do and make your decisions as you hear Him speak.

7 Now to the [one] half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given [possession] in Bashan: but unto the [other] half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this side Jordan westward. And when Joshua sent them away also unto their tents, then he blessed them, 8 And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren. 9 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which [is] in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

The word of the Lord by Moses about these tribes settling on the OTHER side of Jordan in the wilderness was a PERMISSIVE word not a specific directive. These tribes ASKED to be ALLOWED to have their way and NOT go into Canaan but to settle outside of Canaan. We need to be careful what we ask for. Peter when he saw Jesus walking on the water asked a question there was only one answer to: “Lord if it is you – bid me come …” That didn’t mean that Jesus wanted Peter to walk on the water. Consequently Peter while gaining an interesting testimony almost drowned. We often ask God for things that get us in trouble. We assume God wouldn’t give us something we couldn’t handle but we don’t realize the power of “ask and it shall be given…” For instance we pray “Lord if you love me … do thus and so…” That is a very dangerous prayer. Better to pray “Father show me and I will follow ….”

10 And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that [are] in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to. 11 And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.

These tribes now become known as the eastern tribes and the other tribes in the Promised land are considered the western tribes. This was the precursor to the separation that characterized the children of Israel their entire history up to the time of Jesus. The eastern tribes separated from the western tribes because they had a better idea for their welfare than God did. They said “no thanks we will take land in the wilderness we don’t want the land God called us to …” Then centuries later the northern tribes separated from the southern tribes during the time of King Reoboam dooming the northern tribes to eventually fade from history under Babylonian captivity. There are always excused for doing things our own way but likewise there are always consequences.

Having chosen a willful path the eastern tribes wish to maintain their religious sense so without consulting God or informing the western tribes they built an altar. Close study of this will reveal they actually built this altar on the OTHER side of Jordan in the wilderness. Where are you building your altars? They called this altar “Ed” or “Witness”. Your altars are built where your testimonies are established. There is something very deep to consider here. These tribes continually went their own way, complained when it didn’t work out, never considered the impact of their choices on their brethren or on God’s wider purposes and now they are focusing their worship and grounding their spiritual identity in the land of SUFFERING rather than the land of PROMISE.

Many people erect altars of consecration around times of suffering in their life. In some ways it is understandable because when you struggle and suffer you feel close to God. Great care however must be taken not to guild the sufferings of life with some mystical quality and forget that Jesus died to take you OUT of suffering not merely to keep you spiritual minded while prayers go unanswered. Where are you building your altars?

12 And when the children of Israel heard [of it], the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them. 13 And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 14 And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one [was] an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel. 15 And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying, 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? 17 [Is] the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD, 18 But that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD? and it will be, [seeing] ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel. 19 Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession [be] unclean, [then] pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD, wherein the LORD’S tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the LORD our God. 20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

In Due. 12:13-14 and many other places God plainly said that they were not to build altars anywhere other than where the Lord specified. At this time the altar was in Shiloh which means “peace and tranquility”. The eastern tribes built an altar on the eastern banks of the Jordan which means “low place” a type of humility. They actually built the altar at the ford where the tribes came of into Jordan carrying the ark of the covenant on their shoulders. It was almost as if to say – “you go ahead and go into the land of promise – we will stay here and be humble in the wilderness…” As a result the misunderstandings arising from this brought them to the brink of war. Where are you building your altars? At the ark of His presence in your life or around the testimony of what happened in the past or some current suffering?

21 Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel, 22 The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if [it be] in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,) 23 That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require [it]; 24 And if we have not [rather] done it for fear of [this] thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel? 25 For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD. 26 Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice:

Notice what they said – “the Lord made a border between us and you in the Jordan”. In fact this was not a border that God set. This became their border because they rejected God’s plan to go into the promised land and chose the wilderness as their dwelling place. So now they are engaging in revisionist history and suggesting that in not giving them their way the western tribes were interfering and ignoring what they claim God told them and in fact did not. In all of this God is silent and Joshua is silent. We never hear God intervene and give judgment in this situation. The eastern tribes built an altar without God’s permission. The western tribes went to war against them without asking God’s permission. Both groups claimed they were doing what God wanted them to do but none were inquiring of the Lord in the midst of the situation.

27 But [that] it [may be] a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD. 28 Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should [so] say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say [again], Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it [is] a witness between us and you. 29 God forbid that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn this day from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD our God that [is] before his tabernacle. 30 And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which [were] with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them. 31 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the LORD [is] among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the LORD: now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the LORD. 32 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the princes, returned from the children of Reuben, and from the children of Gad, out of the land of Gilead, unto the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought them word again. 33 And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt. 34 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar [Ed]: for it [shall be] a witness between us that the LORD [is] God.

In the end the eastern tribes get their way. Because of willfulness a permanent separation was established and the kingdom was divided. It was a foreboding precursor of the divided kingdom in Reoboam’s time that ultimately cost the Israelites so much suffering. The eastern tribes chose the other side of Jordan out of willfulness and self interest. They baptized their choices with religious context by building an altar to commemorate their separation from the western tribes. None of this was in God’s plan. Where are you building your altars? I’ve seen people invest themselves and their whole identity in Christ in some experience they went through in times past. It becomes a sacred cow and anyone who touches it will be met with resistance. God wants us to worship, or invest our sense of self referral in the place HE chooses (which happens to be in this case Shiloh [tranquility and peace] not in the wilderness). Where are you building your altars?

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