Joshua 22: Memorials and Commands
Read: Joshua 22
The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half tribe of Manasseh had all received and inheritance on the east side of the Jordan River. In all that they had done, they had been faithful to obey the commands of God and were commended for doing so. Even more so, they had been made wealthy with the spoils of war for that matter. Joshua blessed them and also gave them a staunch reminder to obey the commands of God. As they went back, the built a huge altar as a commemoration for all that God had done for them. They did this so that the following generation would know. To the tribes on the east side of the Jordan, they saw this and though that they were building an altar to Baal and were ready to go to war over it. But in a council, they were able to explain why the altar was built, all the while proclaiming the greatness of God.
The peoples of Israel living on the east side of the Jordan had great intentions when they were constructing the altar in that they wanted to honor God, and what they did was probably harmless otherwise. The people of the west side of the Jordan, however, saw it has a front to God – outright rebellion against God – thinking it was Baal worship because of what happened in Numbers 25 when Israel came into contact with the Moabites who also lived on the East side of the Jordan. The tribes of the west thought that the tribes of the east were again being seduced by the Moabites. But this was indeed far from the truth and they had to set the record straight. While there is nothing inherently wrong with memorials as the memorial altar that was built, what would set the people apart and from their neighbors and what would be reminder to them was their careful adherence to the commands of God. Israel wanted to remember what God had done for them, but the better way to do this would be to do as the scriptures command: teach the commands of God. Deuteronomy 6 makes this abundantly clear.
For Christians, much the same is true – the word of faith does not come by way of memorials, but by faithfully teaching the things of God from one generation to the next generation. This was what Paul told Timothy to do (2 Timothy 2:2) and the Jesus told the disciples to do (Matthew 28:19-20). There can be no confusion if one is known by what he teaches rather than by what he builds.
Lord, help me remember you by doing what you say and teaching others to do it as well!