Altar as Witness

Joshua 22:21-34

21 Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account.
24 “No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.
26 “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ 27 On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’
28 “And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the Lord’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’
29 “Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle.”
30 When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. 31 And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is with us, because you have not been unfaithful to the Lord in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s hand.”
32 Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. 33 They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived.
34 And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us—that the Lord is God.


How does one use the name of the Lord improperly? God commanded not to use His name improperly. Does invoking God’s name an improper use of God’s name?
In Exodus 20:7, 7“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

When the western tribes of Israel confronted the altar they built at the border on the west side of Jordan River, they invoked the name of God.

1. Invoke

21 Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day.

The eastern tribes invoked the Lord about their intention of the altar they built. Sure, the Lord knows every intention including the altar they built but does it mean they trust in Him? Does it prove their trust in the Lord if they were worried that their descendants may possibly rejected by the descendants of the western tribes?
Did they trust God but cannot trust their western tribe brothers? The eastern and western tribes did not have any heated dispute or quarrel against each other before they were told to go home to their inheritance. What made the eastern tribes think that the descendants of the western tribes might reject their descendants as God’s people?

It says in Psalm 119:33-37, 33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

The eastern tribes had been focused on taking care of the families. They asked Moses to have the land east of the Jordan River as their inheritance. They did not wait for God’s go signal. The Lord wanted all the Israelites to live together in Canaan, why?
God must have known that living on the eastern side of Jordan would bring confusion, just the way the eastern tribes were confused in they decisions.


Parents are advised to support their children in the pursuit of their dreams. One mother escaped one Sunday Worship just to support her only son playing basketball, and she watched an online worship service to compensate for her absence at the church.
Prioritizing her support to her son’s basketball aspiration revealed a deeper spiritual struggle on the part of the mother. How many parents would rather escape worship services to watch children play their favorite sport? Parents’ help to advance the career of their children can be disguised as care or love but needs proper timing.
One may plan and prepare to be the best basketball player but with God’s permission, our plans will be productive as God allows.
In Proverbs 16:3; 9, 3Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans… 9In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps…
It also teaches us in Proverbs 19:21, 21Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Haven’t we proven that many of our plans individually and as a church did not produce expected results? In many cases, the result is frustration and disappointment.
As we face the next chapter of our church life, let’s keep praying that God would raise more church leaders who would really spend time in prayer.

The western tribes praised God when they learned that contrary to what they have thought earlier, the eastern tribes were not rebelling against the Lord.

2. Praise

33 They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived. 34 And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us—that the Lord is God.

Truly, it brings praise to God’s people when we live at peace with each other.
God gave His commands for the Israelites to have guiding principles on how to live their lives as God’s people. God commanded all the Israelites to cross the Jordan River and live in Canaan. The eastern tribes brought confusion to themselves and to the whole Israelite community because they decided to live their lives outside Canaan.
It teaches in Psalm 119:165, 165 Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.

To love God’s law is to obey them. To obey God’s law becomes possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit leads us, it produces fruit and we have joy, peace obeying God’s law. Enthusiasm in obeying God’s law proves God’s grace is active in our hearts through the Spirit of Christ by faith.
Some people may say, “I am doing this and that by faith.” Living by faith does not need to convince sceptic people to be real. Full grown faith in God brings contentment to the heart. Contentment is only found in Christ the Author of life.
In John 6:35, 35Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

There are many things we desire in this life: career, family, achievements, material things, social standing, hobbies, or sports.

2017 Canada Summer Games

Winnipeg city is currently hosting 2017 Canada Summer Games. Such event reminds us of human attempt to be the best of the best by competing with others.
The desire to outperform others implies thirst for things in this life.
Jesus said in John 4:14, 14 whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The term ‘welling up’ depicts a picture of constant connection of eternal life and the spring of water that brings contentment. Contentment and eternal life are together. For sure, there will still be desires of wanting other things aside from spiritual things, but once we placed our trust in Jesus and grow mature, we be contented eventually.
After we seek God’s forgiveness, place our trust in Jesus as our Savior and received His Spirit, we also received eternal life. The culmination or the highest development of having eternal life is when we receive our glorified body and live with the Lord forever in His heaven. But while on earth, we live our lifestyle as citizens of heaven.
Since we are still live in our mortal bodies, we experience hunger and thirst, not just for food and water respectively but for other essential things. There are physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, material, financial and other aspects of life that we may thirst from. Those thirsts for things on earth make us wanting for more.

Christ invites us John 7:37, 37 “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.
In John 10:10, 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Christ compared the opposite His purpose of coming with the devil’s purpose. The devil is like a thief who would steal life from its fullness. Christ offers life to the full.
What does ‘life to its fullness’ means? A glass full of water does not need any more water to be full. To add more water in a glass full of water is waste.
Similarly, faith in Christ brings life to its fullness. Faith in Christ is contentment. How can we prove contentment in Christ? By not worrying about tomorrow!

Christ teaches us in Matthew 6:31-34, 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Christ commands us not to worry about tomorrow but we often disobey and worry instead. How can we obey such command of not worrying? We need to keep seeking Christ’s Spirit of obedience to prevail in us. Keep asking also for the peace of God that surpasses understanding to reign in our heart and mind. As Christ’s Spirit prevails in us, His peace prevails even when we don’t understand every reason of it and not worry.

The worry of the eastern tribes about the future of their descendants proves that God’s people are never exempted from worries. Christ commands us not to worry because our tendency is to worry. The cross is our witness that Christ has freed us from worries, blames, guilt, and other elements of sins.
Keep asking earnestly God to help you completely experience freedom in Christ.

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