The Power of a Witness

And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the rulers, returned from the children of Reuben . . . and brought back word to them.”—Joshua 22:32 (NKJV) 

Phinehas and a contingency of Israel’s rulers had been sent on a mission. Their goal was to find out what was going on east of the Jordan where their countrymen had built an altar—something that suspiciously sounded like idolatry.

They made the journey, asked the necessary questions, inspected the situation, and came to the welcome conclusion that this wasn’t an issue of idolatry at all. No, instead, the people had built an altar as a memorial to the God of Israel. They even called this altar “witness” because it was to be an enduring witness that “the Lord is God” (Joshua 22:34).

This was all good news to the traveling delegation because the rest of Israel was poised to go to war had this been an act of idolatry. In many minds, assuming the worst, it was likely that blood would need to be shed in order to right this wrong.

But just as the altar in question served as a witness, Phinehas and company were also witnesses to the good news that warfare wouldn’t be necessary. They brought back word to the rest of Israel that all was well. There was no need for judgment, swords and spears could be put away. Their witness changed everything that day and many days to come. 

This underscores the power of a witness. When a witness testifies to something, it can carry incredible consequences. For example, if there’s a murder trial, a witness’ word might be the difference between life and death. 

However, consider how this dynamic is amplified to an infinitely greater degree when we bring it into the spiritual realm. God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross as payment for mankind’s sin. A person’s sin before God can be freely and fully forgiven if they simply trust in this truth of what Jesus has done for them. 

This is the truth of the gospel, the “good news” that we can have peace with God through Jesus. And every Christian has been entrusted to be a witness of this to the world around them. Just as Phinehas prevented a war from happening by sharing his good news, we possess an incredible power as witnesses of the gospel. Our words have the ability to prevent a person from experiencing the penalty of their sins and to find forgiveness and peace with God. The war between God and sin can end and every follower has a part to play as witnesses.  

DIG: How did Phinehas and company demonstrate the power of being a witness? 

DISCOVER: In what way does this power of a witness translate to the Christian?

DO: What has God called you to be a witness to? Consider ways you can fulfill this purpose in your life.

About the Author

Pastor Dan Hickling

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.