Welcome to expound, our verse by verse study of God's word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Back in 1967, how many of you were even alive in 1967? OK, hands down. I'm just, out of curious, how many of you weren't born yet in 1967? Wow. That's like a good half and half or more younger than older.
Well, there was a movie that came out in 1967 called Cool Hand Luke. Anybody remember that? OK, so this scene-- you clapped for it. I mean, it was good, but it wasn't that good.
Anyway, [LAUGHTER] in Cool Hand Luke, there's this scene. It's the quintessential scene of the movie, in my opinion. Paul Newman is a prisoner. And the prisoner guard, the warden, thinks that this prisoner is talking back to him, so he roughs him up, you know, punches him a little bit. And Newman's on the ground and the warden looks down at him and says, what we have here is a failure to communicate. You know the line.
Well, what we have here-- in chapter 22 of Joshua-- is a failure to communicate. We're going to see that. It's a lengthy chapter. And because it's a lengthy chapter, I was just thinking this thought. There's a reason, in a book that is filled with the details of an occupation of the land and distribution of the land, that so much attention is given to this singular event of a misunderstanding that I thought would just take one chapter tonight. And it's lengthy enough and the Holy Spirit gave us that length, because I think he wants us to consider it.
As we begin, let me just say that one of the most painful things in life is to be misunderstood, because when you are misunderstood by somebody else, when they read a motivation into what you said or did that really isn't there, you really can't rescue yourself, you really have no recourse. You try to explain it, you try to correct it, but it just seems to get worse. You dig yourself deeper, at least in their eyes. So it's awfully difficult, it's awfully painful for people who don't know all of the facts, or for the person to be confronted by somebody who doesn't know all of the facts, to be misunderstood. And we see that in this chapter. We're going to see 2 and 1/2 tribes are greatly misunderstood.
Now there's a few things I just want you to notice as we begin. And as I mention these, you're going to notice that these are elements anytime there is a misunderstanding. First of all, there is an act or a word that is done or said with the best of intentions. They don't know your intentions. You did it or you said it. You didn't mean anything malicious by it, but it was said, it was done.
And then second, after the act or the word, there is an offense that is taken by another party at that act or offense. They read something into it that isn't there. They take an offense to it.
And then number three-- and we'll see this here-- there is a gossip that happens. The matter doesn't stay private. Most people don't do what the Bible says, confronting the person-- Matthew 18. They just feel led to talk to somebody else about it. And that gossip is when the matter that should be dealt with privately is taken publicly. And it can get so out of hand that it gets a life of its own and it's hard to rein it in.
OK, here's what's happening in this tribe. 2 and 1/2 tribes of Israel-- there are 12, 2 and 1/2-- Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, asked Moses and made an agreement with Moses to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan River. We remember that. We've read the Pentateuch so far.
So they made that agreement. They liked the fact that there was plenty of land for them. They had lots of cattle, lots of animals, and the ground was good for grazing. So they said, we'd like to settle here, if you don't mind, if it's OK with you, and if it's OK with the Lord.
Moses struck a deal. He said, tell you what, you can have the land that you request on one condition. You have to go over the Jordan with the other tribes and you have to help them settle their portions, their territories. When they have conquered the land and safely settled, at that point, you can go back to your families and you can occupy the land.
Well, now it's time to go back. Moses here is sending them back. 2 and 1/2 tribes are going to leave the area of Shiloh. That's where the tabernacle has been temporarily set up. And they're going to cross over the Jordan to settle where their families and herds are.
They have been on the Western side of the Jordan River for seven years. That's how long it takes to settle the land. So they left their families there. There was no email going on. They couldn't text messages back and forth across the Jordan. There was no communication, except maybe, every now and then, a runner would go with some kind of correspondence, but we don't know that. But it took seven years for the military campaigns to take effect and for the land to be settled.
So now they pivot. They go from a military campaign to domestic life, once again. It's now their turn to settle down where they left their families on the other side. So verse one, chapter 22-- then Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh, and said to them, you have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you.
You have not left your brethren these many days-- many days means seven years-- up to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord, your God. That is a great testimony. You have kept the charge of the Lord your God. You've done what God wanted you to do through the intermediary agency of Moses, the servant of God, and through me, Joshua-- he was telling them.
You've done what you said you would do. So here, he is commending them. The people of God acted like the people of God. They were obedient. That's what people of God should do. People of God should obey God.
That's what he is commending them for-- very basic. You're God's people, you have acted like God's people. You said you were going to do it, you did it. You promised me, you promised Moses, you made a covenant before the Lord. You did everything that you should have done.
You and I are called to follow the Lord. We're not called to follow the Lord to walk after the Lord perfectly or flawlessly, but we are called to follow the Lord obediently. We are going to fall. We are going to fail, but I love this overall testimony-- you have followed the Lord obediently.
No, obedience to God proves that you have a relationship with God. Hear me out on this. Obedience to God does not produce a relationship with God. It proves the relationship with God.
You see, if I were to say your obedience to God produces a relationship with God, I'd be preaching a gospel of works. You are saved by doing good things. You're producing a relationship by you working hard at it, you being earnest and devout.
You don't produce a relationship with God by your works, but you prove that you have a relationship with God by your works. That's what Jesus said in John, chapter 14-- I believe-- verse 15. If you love me, keep my commandments. Do what I said. So it proves a relationship with God.
Obedience is the hard part of the Christian life. Enthusiasm is the easy part. It's easy to get people enthused over an event, to get them excited, to get them emotional. Many people love to emote, and to be vociferous, and to get into it. But obeying the Lord, that's a different category-- what one author called a long obedience in the same direction. I love that book-- A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
Enthusiasm is always easier than obedience. Who doesn't love to go to a great worship concert? You have a favorite artist. He's there, or she's there.
You get into it. It was exciting. You were jumping a little bit. You were stoked. You worship God. It was sincere.
The question is, how do you act when you go to your car in the parking lot and drive home? How are you on the roads? What do you say to those you are with?
What will you do the rest of the night and waking up the next day? How's the obedience factor? More than the enthusiasm.
It's not easy to get enthusiastic about leaving your families for seven years and helping other dudes settle their land, but Joshua says, you've done it. You've obeyed. Now let me remind you before we move on of a scripture you know you're familiar with, but it's just perfect timing to share this with you.
Out of the book of James, James says, but be doers of the word, and not hearers only deceiving yourselves. That is, if you just hear a sermon or a Bible study, but you do not put it into practice, you're deceiving yourself. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he's like a man observing his natural face in a mirror-- picture it-- for he observes himself-- he's checking himself out-- and then he goes away and immediately forgets what kind of a man he was.
It's a fascinating idea. Most of us have mirrors. Mirrors reveal truth. We have mirrors in our homes. Any of you have mirrors in your homes? You all do. Some of us have many mirrors in our homes.
And it's not because we like mirrors, per se, but the reason we have mirrors, generally, is because mirrors tell us the truth about ourselves, and therefore they improve our condition. So you look at yourself in the mirror and you go uh-oh, I've got to comb that hair.
Or you go, uh-oh, I've got to put makeup on that face. Or, you know what? I've got to put a dress on, or pants on, or whatever. I see the truth.
So but imagine now a person looking in the mirror, seeing what needs to happen, but then goes away and he forgot what he just saw. It could be embarrassing as you go out in public and your hair is like a rooster, or you forgot to put makeup on, or you forgot to put those pair of pants on. We've all had dreams of being in the bank and you just have your underwear on, and that feeling of embarrassment and insecurity in the dream that you've had.
So a mirror serves a purpose, but if you just hear the word, it serves as a mirror to show you what you are really like in comparison to its standard and, where by God's grace, you need to improve. If you just hear it and don't do it, you're deceiving yourself and you're like the dude who looked at himself in the mirror and forgot what he looked like.
So back to the wonderful ratification of Joshua. You've obeyed Mo, and you've obeyed me, and you've obeyed the Lord, in short. Now verse 4 of chapter 22, and now he continues to these 2 and 1/2 tribes.
And now the Lord your God has given you rest-- has given rest to your brethren, as he promised them. That is, the 10 tribes are settled in. Now therefore return and go to your tents and to the land of your possession, which Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave you on the other side of the Jordan.
But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you-- to love the Lord your God, to walk in all of his ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all of your soul.
This was the exhortation that would be ringing in the ears of the 2 and 1/2 tribes as they left the area of Shiloh-- Joshua and the 10 tribes. And they would walk toward the east, these words would be ringing in their ears. Obey God. Love God. Serve the Lord. Keep obeying him. Keep following him.
Every parent who has a child go away to and move to another town, or go away to college, every Christian parent knows what it's like to see their child drive away. It's a sad moment. It's exciting, but it's sad, because the parent wonders, will that child drift away from the Lord?
What's college going to do to that person? What are those courses going to do? What are those friends that they meet going to do? Are they going to keep following the Lord or are they going to drift away from the Lord? That same sort of feeling must have been in Joshua's mind as he sees 2 and 1/2 tribes go away to be separated by a geographical boundary of a river not easy to cross over.
So they're going to be separated. Access won't be as easy. They're going to be further away. Are they going to follow the Lord, or are they going to drift away from the Lord?
So basically, he's saying your military obligations are over, your spiritual obligations are not. And I love this string of commands. Love the Lord. Walk in all of his ways. Keep His commandments.
Hold fast to him and serve Him, again, with all your hearts and with all your souls. In other words, as you go, know this, the Lord want your obedience, but more than your obedience, he wants your joyful obedience. He wants your willful obedience. He wants it to be from your heart.
Now there is a difference between obedience and compliance. You can comply, but not really obey, because your heart isn't in it. My dad gave me many commandments. I complied, but I have to say, I wasn't obedient. I did it, because I was afraid of repercussions.
You've heard me tell about the boy who is disobedient to his dad. And his dad told him, sit down. Boy stood up. Dad said, sit down. Boy sit up further, straighter. I said to you, and I won't say it again, sit down. The boy sat down, but leaned toward his Father and said, I'm sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside.
That's compliance, but not obedience. He says, do it with your heart, willful obedience, a joyful obedience. Here's the difference. Jonah complied with God. You know the story of Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh, he wasn't thrilled about going to Nineveh.
You wouldn't be either. You know what Nineveh is today? It's Mosul. It's one of the headquarters of ISIS.
Now the Lord told my wife to go to Nineveh-- Mosul-- and she went with a couple of people from the church here recently. But when Jonah was told to go there, he didn't want to go. He went the opposite direction.
OK, you know the story. God strong arms him with a wind, and a storm, and a fish. And so once he becomes whale barf, he decides, you know, I'm going to do what God wants me to do, enough of this. He goes and he preaches and he is effective, but he's not happy about it, because he doesn't want to see God forgive those people who hate the Jewish people.
He complied, but in his heart, he didn't obey. Now compare Jonah to Jacob. Jacob works for his-- or for Laban-- soon to be his Father-in-law for seven years. Laban was not an easy guy to work for.
Do this, do that, lift that, carry this. But it says that he did it in exchange for the daughter of Laban. Laban made him work seven years, but here's what the Bible says-- but those seven years seemed like a day to him because of the love that he had for her.
Love was the motivation. They're going on the other side. Nobody's going to be looking at them from Israel. Do it from your heart. Do it out of obedience, not just compliance. Do it with a willing heart.
That's why love is stated first. Love the Lord your God, followed by walk, and followed by obey, but do it-- he ends it up-- with all of your heart and all of your soul, in verse 5. Verse 6, so Joshua blessed them. I like that-- give them his blessing. Sent them away and they went to their tents.
So they go to their tents to pack up their stuff to go home. Now to half the tribe of Manasseh, Moses had given a possession in Bashan, that's up in the northern area, opposite the Jordan, opposite Galilee, in the High Country on the other side of the Jordan, but to the other half of it, Joshua gave a possession among their brethren on this side, Western side of the Jordan, westward.
And indeed, when Joshua sent them away to their tents, he blessed them. And he spoke to them saying, return with much riches to your tents, all the spoils of war in those seven years. With very much livestock, with silver, with gold, with bronze, with iron, and with very much clothing-- divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.
Now there is a principle in these verses. He says, take all the stuff you've gotten from the spoils of wars and go back home and share what you have gotten in battle with your family and friends. Don't keep it for yourselves, share it.
Now I say it's a principle, and it's a very important principle, and the principle is this-- it was a sacrifice for the men of war to go over to the western side of the Jordan and help the 10 tribes settle their land. It was a sacrifice for them. They had to be willing to enter the conflict. They had to be willing to get wounded or killed in the conflict.
But those they left behind, also sacrificed. They sacrificed seeing their husbands and children go to war. They sacrificed the separation for seven years, and all of the loss of momentum of the family unit. So both sacrificed. Joshua was giving them a principle-- you share it.
Now this principle is reinforced in a few books. I'm going to share with you now. So when I share it with you then, you'll remember it because I'm going to refer back. I always do. I make a reference back to this point.
Now this is out of 1 Samuel. This is 1 Samuel, chapter 30. I'll just read a couple verses to you. But 1 Samuel, chapter 30-- David conquers Ziklag. Z-I-K-L-A-G, if you're trying to spell out, if you're taking notes. He conquered Ziklag.
He conquered Ziklag, because the Israelites lived in it, but the Amalekites attacked Ziklag and all the people in it. So David goes after them to recover the people who are taken captive and the spoils of war and bring them back to Ziklag.
So when David wins the battle, some of the people that help David fight the battle said, well we're not going to give any of what we got in the spoils of war back to the people who stayed in town. We're keeping it for ourselves, because they didn't go fight with us. So they're being kind of stingy.
Now somebody has to stay back. Not everybody can go to war. You can't say to your little 10-year-old son, come on get a sword, let's go fight. You have to have women and children and some of those people to left to watch it and keep things intact and keep businesses running. But there were stingy people who said, we want it all for ourselves.
Now listen to what David said. This is chapter 30, 1 Samuel, verse 24. For who will heed you in this matter? But as his part who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies. They shall share alike.
Whether you went to war and won the spoils of war, or you stayed behind and let those people go out, you share and share alike. Now the next verse says this. So it was from that day forward, he made a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day. So he signed an executive order the next day, made it law. Those who go to war and those who stay behind share the same.
Now I'm bringing this up, because it's a beautiful principle. It's a principle reiterated and magnified, augmented on, in the New Testament in the concept called the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ. There is one body. There is one head, that's Jesus, but there are different members in the body of Christ, we are told.
And so for example, in 1 Corinthians, 12, the apostle Paul says there is one body, but many members. And there are members of the body that seem to be weaker, but are necessary. And he says, you have to give special treatment to some, but we're all one body, but no part is better than another part. All parts of the body are necessary for the total work.
And I love that. Those that seem to be weaker are necessary. There's parts of your body that nobody sees, and it's a good thing.
What if your lungs decided they wanted more exposure? They're tired of living in your thorax, behind a rib cage, in prison. Nobody sees them. Nobody knows them.
I want people to notice me. What if they decided to get out? Well, you die of an infection very quickly. So it's protected. It's delicate, but those lungs are necessary for your survival.
So I love this concept of the body of Christ. And I love reiterating it by saying a person who preaches in a pulpit or sings on a platform is no greater than a person who serves as a volunteer or as a prayer warrior or whatever capacity. We all serve with our gifts. All parts are necessary.
For the last few weeks, I've had this on my finger and people asked me about it. So what's up? I mean, are you just being, like, delicate or-- like, it's high tea or something?
So a couple of weeks ago, when I was in Hawaii doing a marriage conference-- and I wish I could have a great story for this. I wish I could say, yeah, man I was cliff diving, or I was paddling out surfing, and then there was this shark. And he went after my finger, but no, I was catching a Nerf football in a pool. Really glorious, huh? It's my war story-- a Nerf football. And it's a common injury, the doctor told me, but it's called mallet finger.
So when the ball comes at you and just catches your finger just right, it can tweak that little distal interphalangeal tendon and pop it. So the finger bends and you can't bring it back up. And as long as the tendon is intact, and there's not an effusion where it pulls up part of the bone, the treatment for it is six to eight weeks in a splint.
You have to keep it immobilized. You have to keep it straight or slightly bent up for six to eight weeks. You can't ever have it bend down, or you have to start all over.
So in the process, I'm realizing that the weaker parts of my body are pretty necessary. That things that I just took for granted doing-- activities that I did-- just a little bend of a finger that has helped lift something or move something or just to do an ordinary task, now it is difficult. It takes much longer.
So it's a good lesson I'm learning on the importance of the body of Christ. And all of the members do the total working. That's sort of the principle. That's the New Testament equivalent of this Old Testament principle that we're bringing out here.
So verse 9-- better get going-- so the children of Reuben the children of Gad, half the tribe of Manasseh returned and departed from the children of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan to go to the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, which they possessed according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses. And when they came to the region of the Jordan, which is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben the children of Gad, half the tribe of Manasseh, built an altar there by the Jordan-- a great and an impressive altar.
Literally, it means it's an altar great to the site that is massive enough to be seen at a great distance. You could look in the distance, and you can see this imposing altar that was built in the distance. Now why did they build the altar? What were they thinking?
Perhaps as they're marching away from those 10 tribes and the population base, the fellowship they had grown accustomed to at Shiloh, the fellowship where the tabernacle was-- as they're moving out into the wilderness and toward the Jordan River, the sense of isolation begins to settle in. They're leaving the companionship, the camaraderie. They're leaving the center of worship.
And you've heard the statement, out of sight, out of mind? Maybe they think that's going to happen to them. We're going to be out of their sight-- the 10 tribes, most of these people-- they're going to forget about us. So let's build an altar, sort of like the stones of remembrance that Joshua had put up when they crossed the Jordan down south. Let's build an altar to remember our unity.
Now that's going to be in their heart, that's not how it's going to be understood. It will be misunderstood. But their idea was let's celebrate the fact that we belong to God, we won't sacrifice on it, it'll be a tribute. Not for worship, but for remembrance.
Now look at verse 11. Now the children of Israel heard someone say-- that's all it took. Someone spouting off their mouth, and what they're going to say is, this is what's happening and this is probably why it's happening. They're going to impugn them by reading a motive into this.
The children of Israel heard someone say-- this is hearsay-- behold the children of Reuben the children of Gad, the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier in the land of Canaan in the region of the Jordan on the side occupied by the children of Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered together at Shiloh to go to war against them.
What is happening? Moses had given a commandment in Deuteronomy, chapter 12-- that whole chapter of Deuteronomy. The 12th chapter of Deuteronomy is the law of the central sanctuary. What does that mean?
It means that the worship of one God should be done at one altar, in one place. The worship of the one true God should be done at one altar, in one place. That place was Gilgal at first, then Shiloh second, and eventually Jerusalem. There weren't to be multiple altars all around the countryside like the pagans did. Just one God, one place, one altar.
They build an altar. The other people hear of it and they decide to go to war. How many wars have been started by hearsay? How many wars among us, among your family members, among friends of yours? How many conflicts by hearsay?
Did you know that one of the laws of God in Leviticus chapter 19, verse 16, says that thou shalt not be a tale bearer among your people. A tale bearer is a old word for a gossip. Don't be a person who likes to wag their tongue, carry the juicy info from one person. Hey, did you hear what those two and a half tribes are doing? They started their own worship system. Let's go to war-- all based on hearsay.
And the children of Israel heard of it, and the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered together at Shiloh to go to war. Let me make a couple of suggestions to you when somebody brings hearsay-- hey, did you hear? Ask them a few questions.
Question number one, what is the reason that you're telling me this? What do you mean? Well, why are you telling me this? Is it that you want a sympathetic ear? I mean, just kind of ask those questions. Why are you telling me this?
Number two, where did you get your information from? Now what you're doing is you're demanding that they give you sources. Well, I can't tell you. That's what most people say-- I can't tell you.
Well, why are you telling me if you really can't tell me? Hey, I want to tell you, but I really can't tell you where I heard this from. Now it's just hearsay.
Check the sources. Have you checked the sources? You're giving that person pause as they're enjoying giving you the gossip. You're taking the enjoyment out of it for them.
And really, you want to do that. You want to get the pus out of the wound. So what is the reason you're telling me this? Where did you get your information from?
Then ask them this question. Have you gone directly to that person yet? Because that's what it says Jesus said that in Matthew chapter 18, go directly.
Well, no, you know, I thought I just wanted to tell you so we could pray about it. I don't want to pray about it I want you to go to that person. I won't pray with you until you do.
How's that? Refuse to pray until they do what Jesus said. You know, Jesus even said the closest way to God sometime is through another brother. You don't bring your gift to the altar, you go to your brother first. Then, you offer your gift.
Fourth question, have you really checked your facts? You've given me a source, or not, but have you actually checked the facts? Because, you know, facts are squirrelly things.
Anybody can find statistics. Have they been corroborated? Have you checked your facts?
And here's the fifth question. I always love asking this, because by the end of the dialogue, they're just not too happy already. They don't have much enjoyment in giving me this gossip. But this one really just sucks all the wind out of their sails.
Can I quote you on that? Well, no, I want to be anonymous. Sorry you gave me the information. You are no longer anonymous.
Now we're going to get to the bottom of this. Let's resolve this. Can I quote you on this?
And this is perhaps why a lot of people don't share gossip with me, because they've heard me say this over the years. They go, whatever you do, don't tell that to Skip, because he's going to ask you those questions. So I've protected myself.
Verse 13, then the children of Israel sent Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest to the children of Reuben to the children of Gad, to half the tribe of Manasseh into the land of Gilead. And with him, 10 rulers-- one ruler from the chief house of every tribe of Israel-- and each one was the head of the house of his Father among the divisions of Israel.
So he's coming with the heavyweights. And they came to the children of Reuben, to the children of Gad, and to half the tribe of Manasseh to the land of Gilead. And they spoke with them saying, thus says the whole congregation of the Lord.
What treachery is this that you have committed against the God of Israel? To turn away this day from following the Lord-- hear the motive in that? You hear them impugn them, not knowing all the facts?
In that you have built for yourselves an altar that you might rebel this day against the Lord. Now in verse 16, notice the word treachery. Do you see that word? It's a Hebrew word-- ma'al. Ma'al-- treachery translated here-- is exactly the same word in verse 20, translated trespass. Did not Achan, the son of Zerah, commit a trespass? Trespass and treachery are the same word in Hebrew-- ma'al.
You see, what they're doing, in bringing this accusation, is they're being accusative. They're confronting them. They're saying, you guys are a bunch of sinners. You've sinned. You've committed a trespass. This is treachery. It's very, very accusative in their approach. So they're assuming the worst. You can tell by their language. They're assuming their motivation was this and that.
All of us hear things, facts, rumors, reports, news bits, and then we draw conclusions based upon what we hear. Unfortunately, unfortunately, our assumption is not a good assumption all the time, because it's not based on all of the facts. It's based on just the facts we have heard.
Now if you live by assumption, you're not a good person to communicate with because assumption is the lowest form of communication. Hear that again. Assumption is the absolute lowest form of communication. You need to ask follow up questions. I gave you five to ask. Those questions obviously weren't asked. They're just bringing the judgment to these tribes.
Now it's interesting that Phinehas is the guy that brings this, because Phinehas had a reputation. He's very zealous for the Lord. He has a good reputation.
I want to say it correctly. He is very righteous. He's very zealous. And he's very judicial.
Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, was the guy back in Numbers 25-- you remember Numbers 25? That's where Balaam the prophet told Balak how to overcome the children of Israel by sending Moabite women in there with their little idols, seducing them to commit fornication. And then they could bring their idols. God would judge them for, not just the immorality, but the idol worship brought in by the women of Moab who would seduce them.
So after this happened, some of the Moabite women were hanging out with the Israelite men. And one day, some Moabite women came to the door of the Tabernacle. And one of the guys of the children of Israel, took that Moabite woman crying at the door of the Tabernacle to his tent and was having sexual relations with her.
Phinehas took a javelin, went into the tent, and thrust both of them through. Killed them both with one shot. For a priest, he was a good shot. And in doing that, it stopped the plague of the Lord over the whole camp of Israel. So he's very direct. He's very judicial. And he's known for upholding God's righteous standard.
So it's interesting that Phinehas is the guy. And you're going to see Phinehas fuming, fuming Phinehas. Rawr! Rawr! Rawr! Why did you do this treachery to the Lord? You rebelled against God. And they know Phinehas's reputation. They're going, uh-oh, it's Phinehas. It's the bad priest or it's the mad priest.
So Phinehas comes and says that. And look at verse 17, he continues. Is the iniquity of Peor not enough for us-- that's the whole Balaam incident-- from which we are not cleansed of until this day? Although there was a plague of the congregation of the Lord. But that you must turn away this day from following the Lord.
And it shall be, if you rebel today against the Lord, that tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. Nevertheless, if the land of your possession is unclean, then crossover to the land of the possession of the Lord. You've come to the west side where we are. Now the west side there was a little different than the west side here.
I'm not saying the Lord isn't on our west side. I don't want to say I heard what you said. I live on the west side. OK, sorry.
The Lord's tabernacle stood on the west side there. Take possession among us, but do not rebel against the Lord nor rebel against us by building yourselves an altar besides the altar of the Lord, our God. Did not Achan, the son of Zerah, commit a trespass in the accursed thing. And a wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel and that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.
So what's Phinehas doing? He's recalling their history. He's saying, OK, first of all, let's remember Balaam, and what happened with Balaam and Balak, and the Moabite women seducing, and the plague of the Lord. And what he's saying is, I'm afraid this is happening again and it could be devastating for the whole congregation.
One thing the children of Israel knew after that, and by now, God takes idolatry very seriously, doesn't mess with it. Soon they will forget that. And the way God will spank them in the future is through the Babylonian captivity. That's how he will cure that idolatry.
And when they come back from that captivity, they're pretty much cured for a long time. But Phinehas, and everybody knows, God doesn't take idolatry lightly, serious business. So he says, remember Balaam. Then he gives a second example, remember Achan
And you know about Achan. We read it in the book of Joshua. They stoned him. He was really achin' after that.
Did not Achan, the son of Zerah, commit a trespass? And notice what it says. And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity. What he is saying is this, one dude sinned, everybody faced the punishment.
Do you get that principle? Do you know that a disobedient child of God is a menace to everyone else around him? Jonah was.
He fled from the presence of the Lord. All those sailors on that boat faced the storm, were crying out to their false gods. And they found out Jonah ran away. He goes, you ran away from that God?
So one man's sin created a whole mess for a whole lot of people. It's funny. Some people are superstitious. Even Christians are sort of superstitious sometimes. So let me give you an example.
I was on an airplane one time. And I got my seat, and people were coming past me and getting their seat. And one gal saw me, and she said, oh, you're on this plane. She said, I feel so much better. And she went and took her seat. Now I didn't say it out loud, but I thought, well, that depends, doesn't it?
If I'm obedient, it's OK to go, ah, I'm glad that you're on this plane. But if I was a disobedient servant of the Lord, that plane is the last place you want to be. Think Jonah and those people on that boat. That boat with that Jonah prophet, dude, you don't want to be on that boat with that guy at that time.
There were 13 ministers traveling on one flight at one time. They were talking together. And plane took off, was going good. And then it started hitting a storm. And it was rocky and rough. And people buckling their belts and you could see folks were afraid.
So that group of ministers said to the stewardess, as you walk by, go tell the captain, he's got nothing to worry about. There's 13 ministers aboard his plane. And she came back a little while later and said, the captain is glad that he has 13 ministers aboard his plane, but at this point, what he'd rather have is just four good engines. At that point, four good engines were better than 13 ministers, because you never know what their walks like. So anyway, one sin created a whole effect for a lot of people.
Verse 21, then the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, half the tribe of Manasseh answered and said to the heads of the divisions of Israel, the Lord God of Gods, the Lord God of Gods-- do you see that in the text? It's an interesting response.
He knows and let Israel itself know, if it is in rebellion or if in treachery against the Lord, do not save us this day. Now that linguistic construction that we just made note of in that verse is a strong invocation. They're invoking the name of God. Literally, in the Hebrew, it reads thus, [SPEAKING HEBREW] Three names said twice. [SPEAKING HEBREW]
It's a strong, strong way of saying we are calling God in to witness. We're invoking his strong name, even his covenant name, Yahweh, to say, if we have sinned, let him judge us. We are pure in this. They're appealing to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court aren't a few justices in Washington, DC. It's the god who sits in heaven.
Verse 23, if we have built ourselves an altar to turn away from following the Lord, or if to offer on it burnt offerings or grain offerings, or if to offer peace offerings on it, let the Lord himself require an account. But if, in fact, we have done it for fear, for a reason saying, in time to come, your descendants may speak to our descendants saying , what have you to do with the Lord God of Israel?
For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between you and us, between us-- you children of Reuben and the children of Gad-- you have no part in the Lord. If they say that, so your descendants would make our descendants cease from fearing the Lord. Therefore we said, let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar not for burnt offering nor sacrifice.
What they're saying is we built an altar, but we didn't build it for a rebellion. We built it to remember. We didn't build it out of disobedience. We built it out of reverence.
We did it so that in times to come, if some of your kids and grandkids and great grandkids accuse ours of saying you're really not on our side. You're on the other side of the Jordan. You're not following the Lord like we are. There is a place that we can look at and point to and say, there is unity of faith in God and unity of camaraderie and fellowship. That's what all of that is about. It's a symbol.
Now saying that-- let me just say this. I still think it was a bad idea. OK, so they didn't mean anything by it. They're not going to sacrifice animals on it. It's a bloodless altar, but it was a bad idea.
It was a bad idea, number one, because God never told them to do it. So why do it? Why work hard for nothing? God didn't command it. Why build it?
God said build that one in Shiloh and have the tabernacle. That's what he said. Why build this one? He never commanded you.
And number two, it just caused confusion. It could have saved a whole mess if they wouldn't have done it. So I believe it was a bad idea. 2 and 1/2 tribes divided the nation of Israel by a bloodless altar. Things haven't changed much.
In the Church of Jesus Christ in churches around the world, there is a thing called liberal theology. And I don't mean liberal in the sense of Democrat versus Republican. I'm an independent. It's liberal in the sense of straying away from the truths, the basic fundamental truths of the scripture, liberal theology.
In liberal theology, there's no room for the cross of Jesus Christ. Liberal theologians and liberal churches have no place for a bloody altar called the cross. They have given us a bloodless Christ.
And because of that, there is no salvation. So because of a bloodless altar, they divide the people of God. That corollary in the Old Testament is played out even in modern times.
Verse 27, here's why we built it. But that it may be a witness between you and us, our generations after you. That we may perform the service of the Lord before him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, with our peace offerings. That your descendents may not say to our descendants, in time to come, you have no part in the Lord.
Therefore, we said that it will be when they say this to us or our generations in time to come, that we may say, here's the replica of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, though not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices. But it is a witness between you and us.
Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn from following the Lord this day to build an altar for burnt offerings or for grain offerings or for sacrifices besides the altar of the Lord, our God, which is before his tabernacle. That is, Yawl's altar in Shiloh.
And when Phinehas, the priest, and the rulers of the congregation, the heads of the divisions of Israel who were with him heard the words that the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, children of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them. Then Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, said to the children of Reuben, children of Gad, children of Manasseh, this day we perceive that the Lord is among us, because you have not committed this treachery against the Lord. Now you have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord.
And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, and the rulers returned from the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and from the land of Gilead, to the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel. And brought back word to them so the thing pleased the children of Israel. And the children of Israel blessed God. You can just see it. They're ready for war. They're going, oh no. And then the word comes back, sike. We're not going to have a war. And they're going, praise God. They're just all stoked now that it was a fluke.
I say, go find the guy who gossiped. Anyway, it pleased the Lord. They said, bless God. They spoke no more of going against them in the battle to destroy the land where the children of Reuben, and Gad dwelt. And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar witness. Turned a name in their buildings, for it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.
Again, as we close this chapter and close our evening. I ask the question again, why so much detail in a land about occupation and distribution of land to the tribes of Israel? Why so much detail about this incident?
Well, I believe what the Bible says about the stuff written in the Old Testament. These things were written beforehand for our learning, that we, through the patience and endurance of scripture, might find hope. So I find principles of God in the Old Testament. I hope you do too.
What I find here is the principle for community, the principle for community. Principles for getting along with you and your family, you and your marriage, you and your church, you with your neighbors, you with your homeowners' association. That's a ridiculous form of government. How do you get along? What do you do?
Let me close with these principles. Number one, be watchful for flagrant mistakes. Be watchful for flagrant mistakes. I do applaud people who have discernment.
I never want to repress somebody who looks around to make sure that we're pure in doctrine, pure in practice, honoring the Lord, serving the Lord, raising the red flag when there is necessary for that to happen. Be watchful for flagrant mistakes.
They were on the lookout. And somebody heard somebody saying that it got into this. They thought it was for idolatry. If it had been idolatrous, they should have acted. That would have been proper. So that's number one, be watchful for flagrant mistakes.
Number two, be careful not to judge motives. Be careful not to judge motives. You don't know why they did that. You don't have all the facts.
Don't suppose or assume they did it for a certain reason. You don't know yet. Wait until all the facts are in. Circumstantial evidence, any lawyer will tell you, is not enough. You need to have the facts.
Number three, be truthful in discussing the matter. Nothing better than just go up to someone, Matthew 18, open, honest, frank communication. You say, oh, I don't like that. I don't like confrontation.
Well, then you're the type of person who'd rather talk to others about it instead of going to the source. That's a dangerous precedent. Just try it.
Get out of your comfort zone and go face to face when there's an offense. And try it, because once you try it once and you have a favorable response, you'll get your sea legs. Be able to do it right the next time.
Number four, be gentle in your method. Be gentle in your method. Ephesians 4:32, be kind, be gentle to one another. Proverbs 15 says a gentle answer turns away wrath.
You know you can go in there and go, OK, man, we know what you're doing here. You've done this or that. Or, you can just be very gentle, not assuming anything, not accusing. I have a question for you. Ask the question. Is it true that-- or, I'm noticing-- oh, no, no, no, no. OK, great, now let it go. Be gentle in your approach.
You know, Jesus washed feet. We ought to wash one another's feet. And I don't mean that you have to take your shoes off after the service and wash somebody's feet, because that's really holy. Figuratively, wash their feet.
Some of you like to wash feet with scalding hot water. You're like Phinehas, javelins out, water's hot. Others of you forget the water, you just believe you'll scrape the dirt off their feet. Be gentle in your approach.
There is a monastery in Germany, Bebenhausen in Germany. And on the wall, there are the antlers of two deer that got into a fight and they locked horns. They locked horns so deeply, so fiercely, they could not disengage. And they both starved to death. And so the skulls and horns are preserved in a monastery near Bebenhausen in Germany.
What a life lesson as you look up at those horns and you say, that's what happens when two parties have a conflict and neither of them will give in. Oh dear, I mean, [LAUGHTER] that can happen. That can happen. So I better quit while I'm ahead.
Thank you, Father for your word. Thank you for these truths. Thank you for this play played out on this stage of Old Testament history. And that detail is given in our Bible-- I pray we never forget this chapter. One of those obscure chapters, but great graphic lessons of not assuming, not impugning, not accusing to quickly.
Watching out, but being careful, being gentle in our. Approach I pray, Lord, that this would serve our relationships in our family, our family of God and our families of flesh and blood, in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.