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May 2, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“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, and the children of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them.”—Joshua 22:30 (NKJV)
Before Israel crossed into the Promised Land to possess it, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh decided they would rather inherit the territory east of the Jordan River; not west of the Jordan along with the rest of their countrymen. This would prove to be a costly compromise of what God wanted for them, but they were given permission to settle according to what they wanted.
One of the costs for their decision was a sense of distrust and disunity with the rest of their people. When they went to build an altar, it triggered their countrymen to assume they had already slipped into idolatry and disobedience. So much so that they prepared to go to war with them!
But the heads of Israel, led by Phinehas, met with the leaders of the two and a half tribes, and an explanation was given that this altar was built as a witness to their union with the God of Israel. Once the motives for this memorial were made clear, everyone was set at ease, and war was averted. Phinehas, the son of Eleazer the priest, told them, “This day we perceive that the Lord is among us, because you have not committed this treachery against the Lord . . . ” (Joshua 22:31 NKJV).
Now, there’s no denying the fact that this crisis would have been averted had Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh just settled alongside the rest of Israel. Had they done so, there wouldn’t have been any need for building this altar. But that being said, we get a valuable lesson here on the power of communication—particularly when it comes to God’s people.
It’s natural to want to pick up the metaphorical sword and go to war when someone does something that seems wrong. But it’s much wiser to stop and speak with them. Jesus affirms this in Matthew 18:15 when He tells us that God’s people need to begin resolving conflict by communicating one on one.
Often there’s an unseen motivation beneath the surface action, and we won’t know what that is unless we enter into dialogue. As we do so, the door of opportunity for explanation and understanding opens wide. Usually, peace prevails when we pursue this kind of communication, as it did here in the Book of Joshua.
Communicating amidst conflict is something God’s people need to commit to. Not only is it what Jesus commanded, but it’s a form of kindness that often quenches the conflict that threatens our witness as Christians.
DIG: What healthy principle do we see play out in this exchange?
DISCOVER: How is the Christian to apply this principle?
DO: Who do you need to be more deliberate in communicating with? Pray about the first step you need to take to make this happen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.