They Built a What???

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Read Joshua 22

This story is one that is likely unfamiliar to many people, even those who know the Bible quite well. But it shouldn’t be. It is a tremendous lesson for individuals, families and nations on conflict.

In Numbers 32 and Joshua 1, we read about 2 full tribes and one half tribe that ask to settle on the east side of the Jordan River, outside the official boundaries of the Promised Land. These tribes faithfully participated in the hardship surrounding the conquest of the territory on the west side of the river during the time of Joshua. They were then sent home with blessing and wealth. Then in Joshua 22:10, we read that these tribes constructed a large altar at one of the Jordan river crossings. The other tribes were horrified. They assumed that the altar was meant for sacrifice in violation of God’s command to have only one place of sacrifice (22:19). It perhaps appeared that these tribes were being influenced by the pagan groups around them, falling prey to the sin of idolatry. The 9 ½ tribes on the west side did not want the Lord’s wrath to come upon them all so they sent a war council to challenge them while the others armed for battle.

In this tension-filled confrontation, we read the answers given by those who built the altar. They sais that it was not an altar of sacrifice but an altar of witness, a reminder for future generations who might forget that those on the east side of the river were also part of God’s promise. The altar was not built out of rebellion but out of fear. Fear that the Jordan River would one day become the dividing line between insiders and outsiders, rather than a shared faith in Yahweh and a commitment to his ways.

As we deal with conflicts in life, remember some of these important lessons:
1) Don’t assume the motives of others – ask!
2) Listen to the “why” as well as observing the “what” of someone’s action – people often act in advance out of fear.
3) Unity matters so make every effort to walk together (Ephesians 4)
4) Don’t let artificial boundaries define and divide.


1) Can you think of a time when you have misinterpreted someone’s motives for action (or had yours misinterpreted) that led to conflict?
2) Max Lucado writes, “Confrontation is inevitable, combat is optional.” Are you one who avoids confrontation? Why? What would help you to become someone who handles conflict is a more healthy, godly way?
3) What sorts of artificial boundaries sometimes divide and define Christians? What are some of the true boundaries that distinguish us?

Author: livinghope

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