Bible Readings for July 15th
At the end of Joshua 21, we read an assurance that all of Yahweh’s promises had finally been fulfilled: “Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (Josh. 21:45). This remarkable summary of Israel’s conquest carries two important implications.
First, this passage teaches that, technically speaking, the covenant promises Yahweh had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob concerning the land of Canaan are here fulfilled in totality. Yahweh has officially made Israel as numerous as the stars in the sky (Deut. 10:22) and has given them the land of Canaan. From this point on, then, Israel would keep or lose the land based upon their own obedience.
Second, now that the Israelites have finished their conquest in the land, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh are finally permitted to return to their inheritances east of the Jordan. From here, we read that the eastern tribes built for themselves an altar of witness in Joshua 22:10–34—a story where both sides come off looking very good.
For the part of the ten tribes of Israel, they are admirably incensed when they mistakenly believe that the eastern tribes have already slipped into false worship by creating a false altar (Josh. 22:19). Rather than becoming defensive about the misunderstanding, the eastern tribes patiently plead their case, calling Yahweh himself as their witness (Josh. 22:22–23). The two eastern tribes had built the altar as a witness to their children after them that they did indeed have a portion with the other tribes who dwelt west of the Jordan (Josh. 22:24–29). Neither side acted from ego or pride but out of jealousy for the glory of Yahweh. They were willing to go to war if necessary (Josh. 22:12), but they rejoiced and blessed God when they discovered the truth (Josh. 22:31–34).
This is a model for the zeal that Christians ought to have for the peace and purity of the church. Sometimes, Christians fail to promote the peace of the church by fighting for the sake of fighting, making mountains out of mere altars of witness, and refusing to listen carefully to our brothers and sisters in Christ. But other times, Christians fail to protect the purity of the church by tolerating sin in our midst or backing away from controversy out of a desire for peace at any cost.
In fact, Jesus does not give us the option of erring toward either side. On the one hand, Jesus prays that his people would be unified as one church (John 17:20–23), but on the other hand, Jesus prays that we would be sanctified in God’s truth (John 17:17).
To which side do you err? What would pursuing peace and purity mean in your situation?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.