Who Can Worship The Lord?

The truth is, we have built this altar because we fear that in the future your descendants will say to ours, ‘What right do you have to worship the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and you people of Reuben and Gad. You have no claim to the Lord.’ So your descendants may prevent our descendants from worshiping the Lord.”—Joshua 22:24–25 (NLT)

“My daddy.” “No, MY daddy!” “No, he’s MINE!” This is a little game/fight my kids sometimes have. They argue about who I belong to. And I have to remind them, “Kids, you are both my children. Jude, I am your daddy; Zoe, I am your daddy. I love you both.” 

So, what’s the story here? The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh chose to stay east of the Jordan instead of settling in the Promised Land. Numbers 32:1 tells us that these tribes wanted the land east of the Jordan because they believed it was great for raising livestock. 

So, after the conquests of the land, these tribes headed back to their land, “But while they were still in Canaan, and when they came to a place called Geliloth near the Jordan River, the men of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh stopped to build a large and imposing altar” (Joshua 22:10 NLT). 

Upon seeing this, the rest of the Israelites assumed they had rebelled against the Lord and built their own altar for sacrifice apart from the one at the Tabernacle. But that wasn’t their intent at all. So why did they do it? Essentially, they were afraid that the rest of the tribes of Israel would play the “My Daddy” game and say that the Reubenites and Gadites have “no claim to the Lord” (Joshua 22:25 NLT).

So, the Reubenites and Gadites created a reminder to all of Israel “of the relationship both of us have with the Lord” (Joshua 22:28 NLT). My friends, I pray that we would never be a people that make anyone feel like they have no claim to the Lord. I pray we would remember that, as the people of Israel were one people, regardless of the tribe they came from, we are all one family, all children of Adam and Eve, of Noah, all people Jesus gave His life for (John 1:12; Hebrews 10:10), people He loves dearly (John 3:16) and desires to see have everlasting life (2 Peter 3:9).

Let us remember what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:23–24 (NKJV): “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

May we be a people that draw all people to worship the Father in spirit and truth, no matter which side of the proverbial Jordan they’re from. 

DIG: What was the issue the other tribes of Israel had with the Reubenites and Gadites? What did they think these two-and-a-half tribes were doing?

DISCOVER: Why did the Reubenites and Gadites build this altar? What purpose did it serve? 

DO: Pray the Lord would give you a heart for all people, that you would be a person of hospitality, compassion, and love to draw people to true worship of the Lord.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.