The two and a half tribes have returned to the east side of Jordan. On their way they made an altar on the western side of Jordan. That altar ALMOST brought brother against brother in war.
When we were together last time we saw Joshua release the two and a half tribes back to their families and their land on the eastern border of the Jordan. The nation as a whole had rest from war and those who had sworn to assist in that war were no longer needed. Yes, there was still work to do to inhabit all the land given to them by God but those who it now belonged to would be assigned that task.
On the way home the men from these two and a half tribes had an idea. They didn’t think to check it out with their brothers who remained behind, with Joshua, or even the Levites. In their own hearts their motives were good but what they did didn’t come off that way.
Israel had spent 40 years wandering in the desert because of their rebellion. All the first generation died before God would let them into His Promised Land. MANY of those died as a result of extreme sins. One of those extreme sins was chasing after other gods. The construction of an altar on the banks of the Jordan looked, to those who would remain on the western side, like one of those extreme sins. “NO! Not again! Not after we JUST got into the land! This can’t be happening! We HAVE to nip this in the bud, no matter how hard it hurts.”
They were up in arms because of what they saw. God had explicitly told the people that there was ONE place to offer sacrifices and that was before His Tabernacle. They were not to build altars for sacrifice wherever and whenever they wanted. In fact, as they cleared the land of its inhabitants they broke down the altars and Ashtoreth poles set up by the people.
I want to take time to commend and condemn both sets of people in this issue. I’m going to call the three and a half tribes side E and the remaining tribes of Israel side W. This way we can keep them straight without having to keep referring back to long titles.
Pros (commendations) Side E:
- They loved God
- They loved being a part of the whole and wanted to make sure there didn’t come a break in the family relationship over the years
- Created a permanent reminder for all
- Were able to articulate their case when confronted
Cons (condemnations) Side E:
- They didn’t bother to tell anyone what they wanted to do or were doing before doing it. They let the others discover it on their own
- Didn’t consider how this would look to those who weren’t informed or involved
- They didn’t trust their brothers to maintain their bond without something tangible as proof
Pros (commendations) Side W:
- They loved God
- They were determined to keep the commandments they had been given
- They were zealous for the Lord and ready to defend against ANY that would pollute God’s laws
- They came to their brothers with a delegation instead of acting on their outrage
Cons (condemnations) Side W:
- They jumped to conclusions and were instantly angry enough to entertain the idea of war
- Didn’t consider other possibilities
- They came across the Jordan ANGRY and accusing instead of inquiring
I’m VERY glad that both sides were able to talk out their differences! So much could have been lost if one side refused to communicate. This was a BIG deal to both sides. A refusal to listen AND explain their side was essential in resolving this conflict.
We have to remember and apply these lessons in all aspects our own lives. We need to be able to really listen to what the other person has to say as well as articulate our own argument. So MANY relationships are destroyed for lack of one or both of these skills.
Do you really hear what I’m saying? Do I know what I’m trying to say or get across to you? Is there a better way to say it? Are my emotions getting in the way of the message I’m trying to send? Is there a “communication barrier” that I need to be aware of?
Am I really hearing you? Do I truly understand the message I’m receiving? Am I interpreting your message with some kind of bias? Are MY emotions getting in the way of my listening to you? Am I giving you time to finish what you are saying/sending before trying to craft my answer? Is there something that is preventing me from taking in what you are sending me?
Be willing to ask these questions of yourself. Be willing to answer them honestly and adjust your communication style accordingly. BOTH sides have to be open for this to happen. When one side closes down showing that you are still willing to listen can mean the difference between life and death of the issue, the relationship and possibly even the individuals involved.
This does NOT mean that you can’t have a valid point and stand your ground on it. It simply means that you have be able to define that point/ground and have the rational to support your point/ground. I have found that asking God to give me the words to say or how to say them is important. This lesson was learned after a LOT of failures in the whole process, most of them due to my own inability to truly listen to the other side of the argument.
I’ve found through experience too that this is not a “one turn” each exchange. It often takes MULTIPLE times revisiting an issue before it is laid to rest. I have two issues that I’m currently in the middle of. One is a repair service on one of my kitchen appliances. It has been more than a month since I started this process and I’m STILL waiting on parts. Through repeated contact with both the seller and manufacturer I’m expecting a resolution within the next two weeks. NOT what I want to hear. I want it fixed NOW but I have to respect the other’s concerns and therefore will wait. I WON’T drop it though and I expressed to the last representative I spoke with that if I hadn’t heard from someone by a certain time I would be calling again.
My second issue is more delicate but my message to the other person involved is: “So long as there is clear communication, I am willing to be patient.” I DON’T do well with ‘pie crust promises’ (easily made, easily broken)! If you make a promise to me I expect it to be kept or a reasonable explanation given as to why it wasn’t. I’m willing to wait (up to a point) as long as you keep me informed.
Father God, thank You for increasing my patience over the years. Thank You for improving my communication skills too! My messages used to get stuck in the “my emotions are getting in the way” phase and the “I don’t want to hear your excuses” phase. Neither of those were or are conducive to good relationships. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened in Israel in our story if one or the other of these groups took on my old communication strategies! It would probably have ended in bloodshed.
Help me Father to be patient with the changes and issues I’m going through right now. Help me know when it is time to say “enough” too. Don’t let me be so understanding that I get trampled in the process. I’m trusting You with both these issues. I believe I’m following where You lead in the most sensitive one too. If I’m not PLEASE let me know clearly so I can extricate myself from it. And if so, help me do so without losses. Thank You that YOU hold my future!