Sunday Evening Bible Study
August 15, 1999
The book of Joshua is a book about taking the Promised Land. The Israelites have been delivered from the slavery of Egypt, but before they can settle into what God wants to give them, they have to conquer the land. They have now conquered the majority of the land, and itís time to send everyone home.
:1-6 Joshua sends the Eastern tribes away
:2 ye have kept all ...
These 2 Ĺ tribes had kept the promise they made earlier to both Moses and Joshua.
They had earlier received their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan River, yet they were supposed to help out the rest of Israel until every tribe had their inheritance.
They were an army of about 40,000 men, and had now been away from their families and homes for about 7 years.
:5 take diligent heed to do the commandment
A final word to remind the eastern tribes to follow after the Lord. This could simply be Joshuaís final departing charge to these faithful brothers, but I think thereís something important here.
The Jordan River will be a significant barrier. There are no bridges from one side to the other. It is a lot of work to get across the river.
Even though the Law of Moses prescribed that everyone get together three times a year for special feasts, the Jordan River is going to keep a lot of these eastern folks away.
Donít let anything keep you from serving the Lord.
I see this in a lot of people who get all excited about serving the Lord. Often all the enemy has to do is put up a little barrier that makes it a little harder to serve the Lord. Heíll put the family into financial difficulty, have a car break down, stir up a little trouble between one person at church and another person and then they both stop coming because they donít want to be around the other person.
Donít let anything stop you from serving the Lord.
:7-9 Joshuaís blessing to the Eastern tribes
:8 return with much riches unto your tents
The last seven years had brought lots of spoil from the enemies.
:10 The Eastern altar is built
:10 built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to
or, "an impressive altar"
Itís an extra large altar, maybe like youíd see in Texas.
Itís most likely sitting on the eastern side of the Jordan.
:11-20 Israel confronts the apparent sin
:12 to go up to war against them
They are obviously taking this very seriously.
It looks like the eastern tribes have gone off into idolatry.
Doesnít this sound strangely familiar?
Like some of our marriages? Or families? Or friendships?
We hear one negative sounding thing, and BOOM! Itís war!
:11-12 the children of Israel heard say ...
Keep in mind that the western tribes are now going to base their actions on "hear-say".
Somebody saw something. They told somebody else, who told somebody else.
What they heard was true, but the conclusions we can draw from the observation can be false.
Many problems stem from poor communication
Communication is actually a very difficult process.
It involves thinking up a message, putting that message into a communicable form, someone else receiving the message, then decoding it into what it "really" means.
A little girl and a little boy were at day care one day. The girl approaches the boy and says, "Hey Tommy, wanna play house?" He says, "Sure! What do you want me to do?" The girl replies, "I want you to communicate your thoughts." "Communicate my thoughts?" said a bewildered Tommy. "I have no idea what that means." The little girl smirks and says, "Perfect. You can be the husband."
A man is a person who, if a woman says, "Never mind, I'll do it myself," lets her.
A woman is a person who, if she says to a man, "Never mind, I'll do it myself," and he lets her, gets mad.
A man is a person who, if a woman says to him, "Never mind, I'll do it myself," and he lets her and she get mad, says, "Now what are you mad about?"
A woman is a person who, if she says to a man, "Never mind, I'll do it myself," and he lets her and she get mad, and he says, "Now what are mad about?" says "If you don't know I'm not going to tell you."
How can we communicate better?
1. Install a warning system.
If you start coming to red-faced-conclusions, consider the possibility that youíve misunderstood.
Proverbs 18:13-AV He that answereth a matter before he heareth [it], it [is] folly and shame unto him.
2. Try using a little feedback.
Take time to try and understand the other person. Sometimes it helps to try and let the other person know what you think youíve been hearing them say. Put your conclusions into words and see if you heard correctly.
:13 Phinehas the son of Eleazar
This is a guy with a reputation.
Heís next in line to be high priest. His dad is Eleazar, the current high priest, and his grandfather was Aaron, the first high priest.
Heís known as a sin policeman.
When the sons of Israel were starting to go off into idolatry and immorality by fornicating with the Moabite women at Peor, it was Phinehas who fixed the problem. He even put to death two of the individuals involved (Num.25)
If I were in sin, I donít think Iíd want to meet up with Phinehas!
Was it wrong for Israel to confront this apparent sin?
Absolutely not! They might have over reacted a bit, but they were definitely correct in dealing with the issue. If this was a real sin, then they could correct it. If there has been a misunderstanding, then itís better to clear it up so the rumors donít keep persisting.
:16 what trespass is this
Phinehas knew that God didnít want the people setting up a lot of altars, it would leave the people open to idolatry, rather than keeping the worship centralized where the priests could keep it focused on Yahweh. (Deut. 12)
:16 that ye might rebel this day
If God wanted only one altar made for Himself, and these people had built another altar, doesnít that sound a little like rebellion?
:17 the iniquity of Peor
This was the situation that Phinehas was so familiar with. This was when the sons of Israel committed fornication with the Moabite women, and Phinehas learned how to make shish-kabob.
:17 from which we are not cleansed until this day
Peor was a few years ago. (maybe 8-10 years ago)
In a way, Phinehas had put an end to it. God also had killed 24,000 people with a plague.
Yet Phinehas says that the nation still hasnít fully recovered from it all.
Sin has lingering effects.
:18 He will be wroth with the whole congregation
Because sin spreads.
Galatians 5:9-AV A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Thatís why Phinehas is here to deal with it. He doesnít want the sin to spread like it did at Peor. He doesnít want the other tribes to think that they can go off and make their own altars too, and then everybody ends up making up their own religion instead of worshipping the Lord.
:19 if the land of your possession be unclean
Hey guys, if youíre unhappy about the land you settled in, weíll let you live with us, but just donít be sinning...
:20 Achan the son of Zerah
When Israel had their first victory in the Promised Land at Jericho, God had warned the people not to take anything from the city for themselves. Everything was "under the ban". This was because of the gross idolatry at Jericho, and God didnít want His people exposed to all the pornographic and wicked things going on in Jericho.
But a man named Achan decided heíd take a few souvenirs anyway. As a result, the people suffered a surprising loss in their next battle because God let them be defeated. Godís concern was that the people would start to think that they could get away with sin and it wouldnít affect their life.
:21-29 The Eastern tribes reply
:22 the Lord God of gods, He knoweth ...
The eastern tribes could be getting pretty ticked off about now.
Weíre going to see that they have a very good, righteous, godly reason for building their altar. And now theyíre being accused of being backslidden, idol-worshipping pagans!
Notice how the eastern tribes DONíT respond. They donít say,
"So, youíre going to make stupid accusations of us, huh? I see youíre all armed to the teeth and ready to fight! If you want to fight, letís fight!"
Proverbs 15:28-AV The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.
Too often we respond to miscommunication with answering ugliness for ugliness. We get our pride hurt, and rather than pursue to clear up the matter, we just make things hotter. Take time to think before you speak.
You may be having trouble with clear communication and getting the other person to understand, but God knows what the truth is. He sees. He hears.
:24 done it for fear of this thing
"The very thing you thought we were doing is the very thing that weíre trying to avoid."
Itís for the very purpose of preventing idolatry and backsliding that the altar was built in the first place.
:24-25 your children might speak unto our children ...
The Eastern tribes were concerned that the natural barrier of the Jordan River might eventually cause a great separating from their brothers.
Eventually the Israelites on the western side of the Jordan might not even recognize that they are related to the Israelites on the east.
They might even prevent the eastern tribes from crossing the river to come and worship the Lord.
:27 that it may be a witness between us
Hebrew word for witness - "Ed"
They have realized that man over time has the capacity to forget. Theyíre insuring that in the future, someone will be able to remember that they belong to each other.
This is why the altar was so big and impressive. They didnít want anybody to miss their witness.
:28 the pattern of the altar of the Lord
Apparently the Eastern tribes had built the great altar to be a copy of the bronze altar that Moses had had built for the tabernacle.
The fact that it was a replica of the altar now in Shiloh would be a further testimony to future generations that the eastern tribes belonged to Israel.
:30-34 Israel is pleased
:30 when Phinehas ... heard the words ... it pleased them
Here we see the final resolve of good communication.
Israel was ready for battle, but wisely they talked before they fought.
:34 called the altar Ed
Edis Hebrew for "witness". I wonder if it was a talking altar (as in Mr.Ed?)
Itís very possible that the full name of the altar was "It shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God".