Histo-Ray Joshua 22 – Commentary by Ray Moore

Histo-Ray Joshua 22 – Commentary by Ray Moore

Sermon: Handling Conflicts Within the Camp
Date: August 16, 2015


JOSHUA 22:1-9 Call to Commitment


Verses 1-5 This is the first test case in Israel’s collective and corporate commitment to God. Though not a familiar story, it provides some valuable lessons about:

  1. Faithfulness to God
  2. Handling confrontation and conflict
  3. How we challenge one another to be committed to Christ
  4. How we confront when it seems commitment has been compromised.
  5. How we respond when someone questions our commitment.

As the story unfolds, the two and a half tribes located on the Eastern side of the Jordan had done their jobs. For seven years they had stood beside the other nine and a half tribes in conquering Canaan and now it was time to go home. Joshua had nothing but commendations for them. He reminds them of the distance to the tabernacle and to not let that distance them from God. “Be very careful to keep the commandments and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave to you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and serve with all your heart and all your soul.”

What a great tribute to these soldiers from the eastern tribes! For seven long years they had sacrificed themselves to stand with their brothers and fight for the land that they themselves would not possess. They had been away from their families and risked their lives. They deserved to be commended.

Verses 6-9 Joshua blessed them and sent them home with their plunder from the wars. He told them, “Divide with your brothers the plunder from your enemies.” This was a great moment of future hope for all the tribes. Who could predict the lurking danger of a possible civil war just days away.

JOSHUA 22: 10-20 Confrontation over Commitment

Verses 10-14 The exact location of Gililoth is unknown. It is suspected to be near Gilgal where they originally crossed.

With the purest of motives, the two and a half tribes “built an imposing alter there by the Jordan.” So far, this behavior doesn’t alarm us but it certainly did the tribes on the western side of the river. They were concerned on two fronts:
1. Where it was built, in the territory of Manasseh and Benjamin
2, The significance of the alter

They were so concerned, they immediately thought of going “to war against them.”

The Western tribes thought the Eastern tribes had built their own place of worship that was much more convenient to them than having to travel to Shiloh. This was totally unacceptable and violated a direct command of God. (Deuteronomy 12:13-14) While this conclusion may seem harsh and far fetched, at least the Israelites understood the danger of unfaithfulness. If this was an alter, the nation was in jeopardy. Here we learn some positive and negative lessons from the story.

Positive—There was serious concern for unfaithfulness and strict adherence to God’s law.
Negative—This was a knee-jerk response of considering war with people who had helped them for 7 years.

At least they decided to send a delegation headed by Phinehas. He was the grandson of Aaron. He is noted for being zealous of God’s honor. He succeeded Eleazar as high priest.

Verses 15-20 What was Phinehas’ immediate question? “How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this?” He used strong language to describe what he believed to be a major spiritual failure. He recalled the sin of Achan who “acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things.” They had learned a hard lesson about unfaithfulness through that experience.

To their credit, the delegation offered a solution (before actually knowing the answer to their question) that if they (the eastern tribes) were not happy with their land, “come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands and share the land with us.” Let’s look at three characteristics of this solution/appeal:
1. It was PERSONAL. A sincere message
2. It was PASSIONATE. About faithfulness to God
3. It was PURPOSEFUL. A desire to restore the tribes

JOSHUA 22:21-34 Communication of Commitment 

Verses 21-29 The tribes of Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh wasted no time with their response. They invoked a combination of three divine names, EL, Elohim and Jehovah. They cut right to the motive and openly said, “if our motive is wrong, do not spare us this day.”

Was it an alternate alter? No, it was a witness. A lasting remembrance that the tribes on both sides of the Jordan River shared a common commitment to the worship of God. It was a testimony of their commitment rather than fragmentation. Like Joshua’s pile of stones in the Jordan, this alter served as a reminder that all 12 tribes belonged to God.

Verses 30-34 To the credit of the two and a half tribes, the explanation was clear and their true motives were revealed. To the credit of the Phinehas committee, they immediately recognized their wrong judgment and admitted it, “Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s hand.” Thankfully they “talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the eastern tribes lived.” This chapter ends with the alter getting a name. “A Witness Between us and the Lord is God.”

CONCLUSION: Denominations have some great benefits and provide helpful services to the community. On the other hand, they can serve to divide us significantly and not just on theological grounds. We are quick to criticize and complain and too slow to affirm and acknowledge the validity of our differences while maintaining the strength of our unity in Christ. Note: Churches should be much more interested in COMPLETING each other than COMPETING with each other.

There are 4 lessons that can be learned from this chapter that are relevant and applicable to today’s church. They are:

  1. It is commendable to be zealous for the purity of the faith.
  2. It is wrong to judge people’s motives on circumstantial evidence.
  3. Frank and open discussions often clear the air and lead to reconciliation.
  4. When wrongfully accused, remember the wise counsel of Solomon, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.? (Proverbs 15:1)