Summary: This sermon deals with the disasters and conflicts of life and now we can both diffuse and avoid them.
This past week at a concert in Manchester England a terrorist bomb exploded killing 22 and wounding over a hundred.
Such disasters are mind boggling, and so what I’d like to do today is to look at how we can defuse situations before they turn into full-blown disasters. And while this attack in Manchester is beyond our scope of influence as individuals to defuse, we can however defuse the potential disasters that crop up in our lives.
And while we think these national and international disasters have little to do with how we live our lives, the reality is that they do. Our lives, like the lives of those around the globe are filled with difficulties and disasters, and like so many we’re just trying to survive. You see, not only is our lives continually encroached upon by violence perpetrated by others, but also the violence we perpetrate towards those who hurt us.
Now I thought about having you imagine what it would be like, but then I realized that most of us really don’t have to imagine. All we have to do is to remember.
So here’s the question, “How do we defuse these potential suicidal time bombs in our lives?”
In our text not only do we see the cause of these conflicts, but also the actions taken for their resolution.
Let me begin by giving you some background leading up to our text. Seven years have past since Israel crossed the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Joshua has now released the tribes of Ruben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh from their obligation, which allows them to return to their homes.
What obligation? What happened is that these tribes liked the land on the East side of the Jordan River so much they asked Moses if they could have these lands and cities for their inheritance; instead of the land God wanted to supply on the other side, that is, the Promised Land, the land of Israel.
So Moses said it would be okay only if the fighting men from these 2 ½ tribes accompany the other tribes across the Jordan River and lead the fight against the inhabitants until their brothers received their inheritance.
And so, after the major fighting was over and all the tribes received their inheritance, Joshua releases them saying that now they could go home. But on their way they stopped on the West side of the Jordan and built a large altar. When the other tribes found out what they had done, thinking their brothers had transgressed the Law, they gathered together to go to war against the tribes of Ruben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.
I think it’s safe to say a major conflict arose in Israel. But what caused it, and what did they do to resolve it, and what can we learn from this story to help avoid and resolve such conflicts that happen in our lives?
Before we look at this conflict there is a truism about all conflicts, and that is “It always takes two.”
It’s never just the problem of the other person, nor entirely their fault. We have to look at ourselves, because it may involve something we said or did that precipitated their action and words.
So what causes conflict? From our text there are two basic reasons, one from each side of the conflict.
1. Freedom Flaunting
This is what the 2 ½ tribes did.
And when they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan – a great, impressive altar (Joshua 22:10 NKJV)
Later on in the chapter they explained their actions saying,
“Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering nor for sacrifice, but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your descendants may not say to our descendants in time to come, ‘You have no part in the Lord.’ … Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord, and turn from following the Lord this day, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for grain offerings, or for sacrifices, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.” (Joshua 22:26-29 NKJV)
They weren’t building an altar to sacrifice upon; that would be a blatant sin; instead they built a memorial. Now there’s nothing wrong with what they did, rather it’s in how they did it. Yes they had complete freedom to build such an altar, but they never considered how it would affect the other tribes.