Joshua-Wayne Barber/Part 18 | John Ankerberg Show

Joshua-Wayne Barber/Part 18

By: Dr. Wayne Barber
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By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004
In the Christian life, whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to deal with relationships. Have you ever said if it wasn’t for people we could live the Christian life? Actually, it’s the other way around: If it wasn’t for people we probably wouldn’t ever live the Christian life. That’s what drives us to that very truth.

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Blessed are the Peacemakers (Joshua 22)

Turn with me to Joshua 22. In chapter 21 he divides up the cities for the priests. But that’s really not for the tribe of Levi, and then we’re moving immediately to chapter 22. Very difficult chapter, and I’m just going to share it the way God put it on my heart. Joshua 22, we’re going to talk about blessed are the peacemakers. Well, you wonder where they are sometimes in this world, don’t you. Blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” And that means the mature ones, the mature sons of God.

In the Christian life, whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to deal with relationships. Have you ever said the same thing I’ve said many times, if it wasn’t for people we could live the Christian life. Has that ever come across your mind? If you didn’t have to relate to anybody; actually, it’s the other way around: If it wasn’t for people we probably wouldn’t ever live the Christian life. That’s what drives us to that very truth.

Last time we saw how we can offend others. I mean, when it’s unintentional; it’s flesh, yes, we shouldn’t have said it, we shouldn’t have done it. But we didn’t intend to offend anybody, especially for the wound to go as deep as it goes. And we go to the Lord and we ask Him to forgive us. We go to the person; we ask them to forgive us. But we saw that many times they won’t do that. In fact, they become like we saw in the Old Testament in chapter 20, the avenger of blood, and they get on our trail. They tell other people, they prejudge our motive.

But what do we do? I mean, we’ve done everything we’ve know to do. And we learn we run to Jesus. We run to Him because He is our refuge. He is our safe place. The six cities of refuge that we saw in chapter 20 were basically designed for somebody that has murdered somebody but not with premeditation or hatred at all in his heart. We could almost say it was an accident, but it took somebody’s life. And they were well-marked; these cities were well-marked. The roads were well-kept so that access to these cities were always known to everyone. They could run to one of these cities if that happened and they could have refuge there. If their case was heard and the people within decided to keep them and the high priest was still living, they could stay in their city of refuge.

What a beautiful picture this is of the Lord Jesus in our life. All six cities of refuge, when put together draw a beautiful picture of who the Lord Jesus is in our life. He is our refuge. When we foolishly and without premeditation, wound or break our brother—we don’t mean to and we’ve done everything we’ve known to do—we can run to Him. He’s always our refuge whether we intended it to or not, but especially in these situations. Thank God for Christ who is our well-marked place of refuge.

Christ is our holy place. The word Kedesh means holy place. It’s a place where we’re safe. It’s a place where we can run and know that He knows. He’s our strength. Shechem means back or shoulder. He holds us up when we’ve been weakened by somebody’s unwillingness to forgive us. He’s our ally, our friend. The word Hebron means community, fellowship, alliance. You could even get the word “friendship” there. In Christ we find a friend that sticks closer than a brother. When nobody else cares He does. Christ is our fortress. The word Bezer means fortress or fortification. He is the place of protection. He stands guard over us. And Christ is our high place. The word Ramoth means heights, or high place. It’s when we run to Him that we get a better perspective of what’s going on. We can see the whole picture how this is supposed to work for us, not against us. And in Christ He is our captor and our rejoicing. The word Golan means exile or captor, or can mean rejoicing. He’s all of that. When we are exiled to Him nobody else cares and so they’ve run us to Jesus. Well, thank God they got us there. That’s where we needed to be to start with. When we get there we find our ability to rejoice once again even when the joy has been drained from us by somebody’s unwillingness to forgive.

But isn’t it amazing how relationships continue, whether we’re in Philippians, whether we’re in Judges, whether we’re in Galatians, whether we’re in Joshua, relationships continue to be the litmus test of whether or not we’re walking properly with the Lord Jesus Christ. If we’re going to possess the life that God has given to us—Israel had a land, but we have a life—if we’re going to possess that life, then we’re going to have to deal in relationships. And this is what we’re going to be continuing to talk about today.

People, in the economy of God—and this is a tough statement to make, because I have to live it to—people, in the economy of God, are, they’re the school that God has designed for us for brokenness. If it wasn’t for people we would never be broken. If it wasn’t for people we’d never come running to the Lord Jesus who is our refuge. And so people are there for a reason. If we’re possessing what is ours in Christ we will be mindful of relationships. And He in us—not us; we’re never this way—but Christ in us will be the peacemaker through us. We’ll want peace with our brother. We’re not going to contend with him. We will seek for peace with our brother.

And today we’re going to deal with another problem all of us are going to have to face until the Lord Jesus comes back. To understand our text in chapter 22, it’s talking about Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, we have to understand that they willingly chose not to take God’s best. They chose to take the land on the east side of the Jordan River as their inheritance rather than the land which God had intended for them on the west side of the Jordan River. And there was a command given them, “You can have this land, but you better go into battle with your brothers.” And they did that, but they chose something less than God’s best. They thought the land was better for grazing on the east side. If they had just looked over the mountain, if they could have seen over it the land that God had for them was better grazing land than they could ever imagine. The fact has to be remembered that they had done this. If you don’t remember that fact, it’ll not help your understanding chapter 22.

To illustrate how we relate to it in our covenant today; how do we, when we’re seeking to possess the life that God has for us, how do we deal with people who sit beside us in church, who live with us at home and whatever, how do we deal with people who just won’t accept God’s best for them? Now, they claim to be believers, and yet they sincerely have chosen to rest over here on the wrong side of the Jordan River. And they’re going to be with us until Jesus comes back. They love church. They just haven’t yet learned how to love Christ. And they’re just different. How do we deal with those kinds of people?

Well, in our text today the tribe of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, we’re going to learn about how they fought right alongside Israel to help the nine and half tribes possess what God had given to them. But then, when it was all said and done, they wanted no part of it themselves. And so Israel had to deal with itself. The nine and a half tribes had to deal with the two and half tribes. Now, there was an obvious rift between these two groups. It’s a silent one, but it’s going to come to the surface as we study today, between the nine and half and the two and a half. You could tell that there were two different groups here even though they’re supposed to be one as a nation. Two and a half tribes were really not a part of the nine and a half tribes and you’ll see that come to the surface. Had these two and a half tribes obeyed God, not only would they have gotten better land to graze their cattle, not only for that, but also they would have helped Israel possess the land that they were having to possess because of the battles.

The Philistines were one of the biggest problems they had over in Israel. And most likely this was the land that God would have given to these two and a half tribes, and so they could have had the whole land subdued had they only listened to God. But no, like many Christians today who want what they want, who have somehow decided that they can live sincerely and not live surrendered to Christ, somehow they figured this all out, and they’re camped on the wrong side of the river. Yes, indirectly they’re affecting the whole body. Yes, there is a difference between those who want to possess the land or the life and those who do not. But we’ve still got to live together.

How do we deal with people like this? They want to be considered part of the whole, and they’ll show up to help out from time to time, but they will not get serious with God. They will not walk with Him. They’d rather work for Him than they would walk with Him. How do we peacefully deal with these people who are sincere, but sincerely wrong? How do we deal with them in the body of Christ?

We must acknowledge that they are there and move on

One of three things I want to bring out of this, and hopefully it’ll encourage your life today and help you to realize that it is under control. God knows what’s going on. First of all, we must acknowledge that they are there and move on. We must acknowledge that they’re there; we have to be aware that they’re there at all times. At the same time, move on. We need to understand that we’re not going to change these people. Oh, I wish somebody would have sat me down and preached this message to me about 40 years ago. We’re not going to change these people. I mean, yes, we’ll pray for them, but only God can change them, just like only God could change Wayne. Only God can change these people.

And the way Joshua treats this two and a half tribes, which obviously set apart from the nine and a half in the fact that they don’t want the land that God had given to them, gives us an example of how we need to live and exist with them until Jesus comes back. In verses 1-6 of chapter 22 it’s a beautiful example. He says in verse 1, “Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh.” Now Joshua, the first thing he does, he thanks them for their participation. They showed up. They did what they were told to do so that they could have that land on the east side of the river. Verse 2: “And said to them, ‘You have kept all that Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you. You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord, your God.’”

So he thanks them for their participation. He’s appreciative of the fact that they went into battle with them and then he graciously sends them to live where they have chosen to live. Verse 4: “And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession which Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave you beyond the Jordan.” Now remember Moses gave them the land. God didn’t. God had land over in Canaan but they wouldn’t take that. And then in verse 5, “Only be careful to observe the commandment of the Law which Moses, the servant of the Lord commanded you to love the Lord your God, and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all of your soul.” Man that’s quite a challenge there.

And then he says in verse 6, “So Joshua blessed them and sent them away and they went to their tents.” They went back to where they really wanted to live. They didn’t want to be with the nine and a half tribes, possessing that which God had given to them. Oh, no, they found something they thought was better for them. They took less than what God’s best was in their life. There will always be those who’ll do this. They’ll show up, they’ll sit beside us in church, they’ll be wherever we are. And you’ll have one who wants to possess the life that Christ has given to them, and you’ll have one right beside him that’s a sincere person. And do they love the Lord Jesus? They’d tell you they did. But they will not get right with God. They will not walk with God. And they do some strange things in the body of Christ.

So what do we do? Like Joshua we wish them well and we move on with our lives. We can’t change what they’ve chosen to do. So often we let the people, the two and a half tribes, capture our focus. It occupies our focus and our attention and we forget about the nine and a half tribes that are wanting to possess what God has for them. We let the tail wag the dog. And I’m speaking to myself as much as I am to anybody else this morning. I tell you the truth, this chapter has tremendously encouraged my heart. And what God just told me was, “Listen, be appreciative of the fact that they at least showed up to help. Wayne, you can’t make decisions for other people.”

If you’ve had children you know what I’m talking about. Haven’t there been times in your raising your children that you wanted to take the truth that you’re trying to teach them and cram it down their ear and just take a plunger and make sure it gets in their head? And you just can’t do that. You can’t do that. They’re going to make their own choices. If they choose not to walk in the life God has given to them so be it, but go on and walk in the life that God has given to you. Don’t let them take away from you the focus of Jesus in your life. Thank God for them. “Hey, I’m glad you showed up. Now listen I’m going on to what God’s told me. I wish you well. And let me tell you how to live, but that’s, you’re not going to be my focus any longer. I’m going to focus on the nine and a half tribes that want to inherit that which God has.”

You know, it’s amazing when you think about those who don’t want to possess the life versus those who do want to possess the life. How do you know the difference? I mean, it’s not as bad as you think it is. I found something that somebody sent to me, and I’m loving the emails that you’re sending to me, the funny ones, okay. Listen at this. A mother enters her daughter’s bedroom and sees a letter over the bed. With the worst premonition she reads it with trembling hands. “Dear Mom, it’s with great regret and sorrow that I’m telling you that I have eloped with my new boyfriend. I have found real passion. And he’s so nice even with all of his piercings and tattoos. And I love riding on the back of his big motorcycle. But it’s not only that, mom. I’m pregnant and Bubba said that we will be very happy in his trailer in the woods. He wants to have many more children with me and that’s one of my dreams. I’ve learned that marijuana doesn’t hurt anyone and I’ll be growing it for us and his friends who are providing for us all the cocaine and ecstasy we want. In the mean time we pray for science to find the AIDS cure for Bubba to get better. He deserves it. Don’t worry, mom, I’m 15 years old now and I know how to take care of myself. Someday I’ll visit you so you can get to know your grandchildren. Your daughter, Judith.” And then there was a P.S. “Mom, it’s not true. I’m next door at Sandy’s. I just wanted you to show you that there are worse things in life than my report card that’s on your desk. I love you!”

That’s classic. That is classic. Hey, it could be worse! You know, at least you’ve got people showing up and acting sincere. Just because they won’t get a clue don’t let that bother you. Wish them well. Acknowledge that they’re there and move on with your life. Don’t let two and a half tribes take away from you the joy of the nine and a half that are seeking to possess what God has given to them. And that was good advice. I think it’s good advice for me. Joshua understood it.

We can’t allow their flesh to provoke ours

But secondly, we can’t allow their flesh to provoke ours. Two and a half tribes did a very unthinkable thing. They built an altar on the west side of the Jordan River. Now remember, the land that they had chosen was on the east side. When you get over to the west side, that’s territory belonging to the nine and a half tribes that they have chosen not to possess. They built an altar on the west side. Joshua 22:10, “When they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, a large altar in appearance.” Now it’s one thing to build an altar. That’s bad enough. That’s, you’re going to see in a moment, that’s heresy because of something, and I’ll tell you. But to build it on the west side when your property is on the east side is unthinkable. It’s unthinkable.

And it was nothing small. It was something that was large. People would notice. It wasn’t something that could just be put aside and nobody would figure it out. It says, “A large altar in appearance.” It was a huge altar. It would have been visible from quite a distance. In fact, verse 28 says it was “a copy of the altar of the Lord,” speaking of that which was at the tabernacle at Shiloh. These two and a half tribes who won’t possess what is theirs are wanting to make their presence known. And they’re acting as if they have no sense at all, and they don’t even understand what they’re doing.

It’s just like that in the body of Christ. Those who won’t possess what God has given to them will do some ignorant things along the way. What they worship and how they worship will make no sense, but it will attract our attention. It will get our attention. They’ll put altars in some strange places and they will not be small. They’ll be big enough that it’ll catch your attention.

Now building this altar, as I said, was an act of heresy to the tribes on the western side. Why? Because in chapter 18 it says they moved the tabernacle to Shiloh. Shiloh became the center of worship. And there can be no other altars given and erected, because this altar that was their tabernacle was for worship. The altar was where you put the animal the brazen sacrifice, then they had the laver, then they had the tent of meeting. And this was very special. They actually took the dimensions of that same altar and built it over by the Jordan River on the eastern side. What are they doing? And I’m telling you, people who won’t possess what is theirs in Christ have no discernment in what worship is all about to begin with. They do strange things. They attach themselves to strange altars.

So in Joshua 22:11, “And the sons of Israel heard it said, ‘Behold, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan in the region of the Jordan on the side belonging to the sons of Israel.’” Now watch out. Remember I told you there was already a rift that was beginning to develop there in the beginning and it comes out right here; the fact that they were separate in mind at least. They called themselves the sons of Israel. Now wait a minute; there were 12 sons of Israel. And the nine and a half tribes called themselves the sons of Israel; and secondly in verse 12 they’re called “the whole of Israel.” “When the sons of Israel heard it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh to go up against them in war.”

Now that just caught me by surprise. Nine and a half tribes calling themselves the sons of Israel, and calling themselves the whole of the nation of Israel. It seems to me we already see how they disenfranchised themselves from this two and a half tribes. And that’s not good. Well now they’re preparing to make war with them. Isn’t that, that’s amazing to me. It says that they gathered themselves in Shiloh to go up against them in war. You know, one of the things that’s hit me, and hopefully it’s hit you as we study Joshua, is how quickly they are to kill each other. I mean, you don’t like what I like, boom, I’ll take you out. And here they are the whole congregation said what? “‘They’ve built an altar. Let’s go kill them.’ And they gather for war at Shiloh.”

How quickly we do that in the body of Christ. We wound people and then we shoot our wounded. I mean, it’s incredible. And many times what we don’t understand is these people that we’re shooting don’t have a clue they’re not willing to go on say yes to Christ. Sincerely in their hearts they’d tell you in a minute that they love Jesus. They exist among us. They’re everywhere in the body of Christ. We don’t shoot them. That’s not the answer. We immediately stoop to their level. And that’s what we’ve got to be careful about. You never let the ignorance of another, in their own flesh, provoke our flesh. You cannot do that. We still have those who choose to do the very same thing. We’ve got to be very careful about it.

They will not possess what God has given to them and they conspicuously, very conspicuously build a large altar. But the point is, instead of acknowledging them and moving on, and at this particular point confronting them in the right way, the people wanted to kill them.

From time to time I’ve made the mistake of trying to shoot down people’s altars that they had built. And I’ll be honest with you, I admit that from time to time it still comes back on me. When you see it just come up and say, “Wayne, bless your heart. I’m praying for you. You’re doing it again.” My wife used to say when we’d get in the car and I’d be real tender about a certain point, something maybe I’ve had a battle in my life and I’ve never seen the victory in it. And we’d get in the car and she would say, “Well, you’re still struggling aren’t you. You haven’t got the victory in that one, have you?” There are a lot of people doing a lot of crazy things today and calling it worship, building altars in strange places and for whatever reason I felt like it was my responsibility to go out and nail every one of them. And finally, I’m just realizing it.

Now this Scripture so encouraged my heart. If it’s not speaking to anybody else out there, it’s spoken to me, and that is, “Wayne, son, go on and do what you know to do and don’t kill your brother. Just because he’s ignorant, just because he’s off here in left field, don’t shoot him down. Don’t shoot him down.” We must not let other’s flesh provoke ours. Well, when we do that we cease to be the peacemakers God wants us to be. God desires for you and I to be a peace maker. “Well Wayne, my goodness, you don’t understand what this person…,”

And if it’s outright sin, and it’s deliberate, then the next point will help you. It needs to be confronted. But we’ve got to remember that many of these people are believers and they’re weaker brothers. We see that all through scripture where the strong helps the weak. We’ve got to remember that. We don’t shoot our wounded. We continue to move on and possess what God’s given us, but don’t let their flesh provoke ours. Roy Hession used to tell me all the time, “Son, always be the wrong one.” I said, “Yeah, explain that one to me; because they did something to me. I didn’t do anything to them.” He said, “Yeah, but how are you responding to it?” Oops! Not so good, brother Roy. So, in other words, you’ve already stooped to their level by your response, no matter what they did to you. We have to be very careful not to let the flesh of another provoke our flesh. And I’ll tell you what, it’s a constant battle in every one of our lives.

When confrontation is necessary, it must be done by the most spiritual

Thirdly, and here comes the third point, because this does happen and this was very necessary here. When confrontation is necessary, and it is here, then it must be done by the most spiritual. Why? Because the spiritual man is a man of peace; a fleshly man is a man of war. You go back and study Galatians 5:20 and the first word in 21, and it talks about the relationship words that are there. Go back and study them. Every one of them are competitive: I have got to win so therefore when I confront my brother it will be for the point of winning over him, not making peace and finding out how we can solve this situation God’s way.

Israel had every right to confront what the two and a half tribes had done. If they were going to build another altar to worship another god, and that’s the assumption, I mean, how could you look at it any different? Then that was sin and that would affect the whole of Israel. So Israel sends a delegation, not the warring, not everybody that wants to go kill them, they take their most spiritual men to confront these tribes. I thought about the New Testament admonition of that and fulfillment of that. It says in Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in a trespass you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself so that you too will not be tempted.” That’s exactly what we’re seeing here. Because if a person’s not walking possessing the life that God has given him and he sees sin and he sees error, he will absolutely assault that person with no love whatsoever and no peace in mind at all.

So they send the spiritual delegation. Verses 13-14, “Phinehas, who is the son of Eleazar the priest, and ten chiefs.” By that he means the spiritual leaders of the households, the ten tribes. You say, “Wayne, there’s nine and a half.” I know that. But that half tribe of Manasseh counts as a tribe and so that makes 10. And they send the spiritual delegation to find out what in the world are you doing now? Building an altar of all things, and building it on our side. So they send these spiritual men. Most likely Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the priest is probably the one who does the speaking. And he’s going to remind them of two previous times in Israel’s history that idolatry and sin caused a problem to all of the nation of Israel.

And the first time he reminds them of is during Moses’ day. In Joshua 22:16, “Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, ‘What is this unfaithful act which you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away from following the Lord this day, by building yourselves an altar, to rebel against the Lord this day? Is not the iniquity of Peor enough for us, from which we have not cleansed ourselves to this day, although a plague came on the congregation of the Lord, that you must turn away this day from following the Lord.’” As if that’s what they’re doing. “If you rebel against the Lord today He’ll be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow.”

Now what he does he refers to a time when Israel worshiped the god of Baal at the Mt. Peor in Numbers 25. And it was such a heinous thing that God caused a plague to fall upon the Israelite and 24,000 people died as a result of it. Phinehas recalls this probably because he was there. An Israelite brought a Midionite woman to his tent. Now this is blatant. This is right in front of Moses, took him, took this woman into his tent and proceeded to have an illicit relationship with her, right there with Moses standing there. And Phinehas took a spear and ran into the tent and threw the spear right as they were in the act, threw the spear right through both of them and killed them. Well, the moment he did that the plague ended and that’s what Phinehas brings back to their remembrance.

Numbers 25:7, “When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation, took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman through the body, so the plague on the sons of Israel was checked.” And Phinehas was there and Phinehas brings this up and he says, “Listen, Israel has learned that sin in the camp doesn’t just affect one, it affects everybody; 24,000 died because of sins of many that happened in that time.” He says, “If you rebel against the Lord today, He will be angry with the congregation of Israel tomorrow.” Don’t you know that?

Well, Phinehas assumes that since they have built the altar on the west side, evidently this is idolatry and evidently they’re thinking that their land is unclean and they want this altar on the other side of the river. So he offers a peaceful suggestion, which is good. He says, “If, however, the land of your possession is unclean, then cross into the land of the possession of the Lord where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and take possession among us.” In other words, if you think your land is unclean and you can’t build your altar over there, then at least come on over here and possess the land you have and worship where we worship, “Only do not rebel against the Lord or rebel against us, by building an altar for yourselves, beside the altar of the Lord our God.”

Now that needs to be confronted. When somebody has built an altar to themselves instead of the altar of the Lord, the place of worship; when somebody has exchanged God and the worship of Him for something else; that needs to be confronted in the body of Christ. But the spiritual men are the ones to do it.

The second illustration was not too far removed from their own experience. In verse 20 he says, “Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.” You know, bottom line, what he’s saying is, “Guys, do you understand if you’re building this altar over here and you have any thought of using that, do you understand it’s going to bring all kinds of consequences on the whole nation of Israel?” The case against these two and a half tribes, as far as they could see, and even these spiritual men could see, was airtight. I mean, after all, look what you’ve done. And so they confronted them in a peaceful manner.

But how surprised they were to hear the answer of why the altar was built. This shouldn’t surprise us. I’m telling you, people who won’t possess what God has given to them come up with all kinds of things they think are okay, which is absolutely ignorant. Their answer just shows us that when people are that way they may be sincere, but sincerely wrong. Verse 21: “Then the sons of Reuben and the son of Gad and the half tribe f Manasseh answered and spoke to the heads of the families of Israel. ‘The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion, or if in an unfaithful act against the Lord do not save us today!’” That was not our heart. That’s not why we built it. “If we have built us an altar to turn away from following the Lord or to offer a burnt offering, a grain offering on it, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, may the Lord Himself require it.” If that’s what He wants us to do with it.

“But truly we have done this out of concern.” Now this is interesting, misguided, but it’s still real. “For a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your sons may say to your sons, to our sons, “What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?”’” They’re scared to death that because of that division of the Jordan River that they’re not going to be included over here. Good reason! “For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you sons of Reuben and sons of Gad; you have no portion in the Lord.” That’s what he’s thinking these sons would say to their sons. “So your sons may not, may make our sons stop fearing the Lord.” In other words, there’s going to be huge contention between the families of the next generation.

Well, he said, “Therefore we said, ‘Let us build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice.” That just really grabs me. We’re just going to build an altar. We’re not going to worship on it. We just want to be remembered. We want to keep our name on the roll, even though we never give and hardly ever come. We just want to make sure our children don’t suffer from where we have been.

And then it’s interesting. They said the Lord made a dividing line with the Jordan River. No, the Lord did not. They made the dividing line by not going over and taking what God had given them. Verse 27: “Rather it shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings and with our sacrifices and with our peace offering,” it’s a reminder, “so that your sons will not say to our sons in times to come, ‘You have no portion in the Lord.’ Therefore, we said, ‘It shall also come about if they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, “See the copy of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you.”’”

And what they were saying, I don’t care how sincere that you can come up with, it was totally idealistic. Do you know what book follows the book of Joshua? The book of Judges, right? What happened in the book of Judges? This is the next generation. I mean, come on, folks. But they’re sincere. They are sincere. And they’re being dealt with by spiritual men who have peace in their heart. Well, it borderlined blasphemy is what they were doing, but they were sincere to think that this altar would never be used or desecrate. Come on. But people who will not possess what God has given to them don’t make a lot of sense to start with and they do put altars in strange places, but they’re sincere. That’s interesting to me.

Can you change it? No, verse 29: “Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from following the Lord this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.” Man, if they really had wanted to be remembered, why in the world didn’t they pack up, cross the Jordan and get on over to the land which God had given them? If you want to be remembered, that’s the way you remember. But you see, there’s other ways that they’ve come up with because they’re not about. They’re not about to possess what God says is theirs. And that’s a sad story of what goes on in Christianity even today. Now no possible way, there’s no sermon I could preach and there’s nothing we could do to convince anybody to do it. God has to work on that heart. You can’t change it.

Since peace is the motive of spiritual men, Phinehas accepted their answer. That was gracious of him, as to why the altar was built. If they were planning on a sacrifice, man, they would have been nailed right there, but they evidently were very honest and very sincere. So in verse 30, “So when Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the congregation, even the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them.” And go down to the last verse in verse 34: “The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad called the altar Witness.” It’s going to be a witness “for they said, ‘It’s a witness between us that the Lord is God.’”

We don’t have to kill those who don’t have a clue. We don’t certainly shouldn’t focus upon them, but we just simply go on. We move on and possess the land God has given us even though we know they’re going to be in the crowd all the way along. Not a thing in the world you and I can do. God’ll have to do it. We must acknowledge those who will not possess what God has given them and move on. We must not allow their flesh to drag us down to their level to provoke our flesh. And if we must confront—and some things like this one had to be confronted, because it was altar of worship they thought. They were satisfied that the people weren’t going to use it for that, but just wanted to be remembered—If we must confront, only the spiritual must do the confronting because they’re the only ones that’ll have the discernment to know how to handle the situation.

You know, many times I’ve preached a message and I tell people I preach to myself and hope you got something out of it. I hope you’ll forgive me for preaching to myself one more time today. I have to deal with that all the time and you do too. Family, I don’t care, it’s at church, it’s everywhere. And you just want to grab somebody and shake them and say, “Do you realize the very thing you’re running from is the very thing you need?” But they don’t hear you. They don’t hear you. They come out of a different mindset, but they’re going to exist with us till Jesus comes back.

Read Part 19

Dr. Wayne Barber

Dr. Wayne Barber

Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.
Dr. Wayne Barber

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