THE MEMORIAL ALTAR EAST OF JORDAN

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    [Joshua:22:1-34].

    Lesson No.: 
    176
    Class: 
    Junior
    Memory Verse: 

    “LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth” (Psalm 26:8).

    Notes: 

    East of Jordan
    Just before the Israelites were ready to enter Canaan, they passed through a country of very good pasture land. The green fields of waving grass looked good to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh; and as they had much cattle, they asked permission of Moses to settle there, east of Jordan.

    Moses and the people were frightened at such a question. They were afraid God would let judgement come upon them if they did not go all the way God had planned for them. Moses thought they might be trying to get out of fighting the battles that still lay ahead of them in Canaan. But the Reubenites and Gadites promised that as soon as they had their families settled in homes, their men of war would go across Jordan and help conquer Canaan.

    God said that it would be all right for them to do as they had planned, so Moses and the people were satisfied to let the two and a half tribes settle in Gilead. Their soldiers went with the rest of the Israelites across Jordan, and for seven years they fought side by side with them until enough of the land was subdued to give everyone a home.

    Rest
    Now the land was at rest. All was peaceful and quiet. And how rich the Israelites were! They had captured great quantities of gold and silver and brass and fine clothes and cattle, and God had let them keep it. When Joshua sent the two and a half tribes to their homes, he told them to divide the spoils with their brothers who had stayed home to take care of the families. There would be enough to shares so that no one would want for anything.

    Giving Thanks
    Their life would be prosperous, but they must remember something: they must not forget to honour God, and to thank Him for all He had given them. They had been told before that they must teach the Law to their children, and talk about it day and night. They had done this while they had been in need of God’s help to fight their battles; but now that victory was won they must be careful not to neglect the God who had made them victorious.

    When we are going through hard places and feel the great need of help, we feel we must pray. Then we call upon God in desperation, and pray until the answer comes. Do we pray as faithfully when the battle is won? Do we think to talk to Jesus as often as when we wanted His help? He wants us to praise Him in prayer, whether we need help or not. And if we do not need help for ourselves, there are many other people who need to be prayed for.

    The Altar
    The Jordan river separated Canaan from the inheritance of the two and a half tribes. When the returning soldiers came to the river, they decided to build an altar.

    At this time the Tabernacle was pitched at Shiloh, in Canaan. The command of God was that everyone must go there to offer sacrifices. Because of all the idols worship by the people who had been conquered, the Israelites were given very strict orders not to build altars for sacrifices anywhere else.

    Now comes word to the Israelites in Canaan that the tribes of Reuben and Gad are building an altar beyond Jordan. What can this mean? Have they forgotten the true God already? What if God lets judgement fall upon all of them for this disobedience?

    To Israelites gathered at the Tabernacle and decided to go to battle against their brothers who, they thought, were rebellious. But, first, they sent a committee to find out if it was really true that they had built the altar. A prince was chosen from each tribe to go with Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the high priest.

    The Accusation
    When they came to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, they said: “What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD?”

    Phinehas reminded them of the judgement that had come upon Israel the time they had begun to worship the idols of Moab. A plague had struck among them as punishment, and some of the people were still suffering from it. Would these two tribes and the half-tribe now do something else that might bring more suffering upon them? The priest and the princes went on to tell them that if they could not live here in Moab without worshiping strange gods they had better come on over into Canaan, and live with the rest of the Israelites.

    The Answer
    The people listened to al these accusations, perhaps very much surprised. They had not meant to rebel against God, they said: “The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know: If it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD; . . . that we have built us an altar”. Let God be the judge whether or not they were being disobedient. If they had disobeyed God, he would prove it by destroying them; they were willing to take the judgement themselves. But if they lived, all men would know that they meant no harm in building the altar.

    Explanations
    They realised that they were a long way from the Tabernacle, and evidently they did not plan to take their little ones there; so the children would never know what the altar of God looked like. By building this altar to look like the one at the Tabernacle, the children could see for themselves what the altar was like and they would not forget about the worship of the true God.

    Then, too, the children of the Israelites from Canaan might forget about their cousins who live in Gilead, and when they came through that land they might think it was a heathen country. If they saw an altar built after the pattern of the one at Shiloh, they would realise that these people must know the true God, too.

    The Reubenites and Gadites promised never to offer sacrifices upon the altar they had built. When the priests and the princes heard these explanations, they decided that their brothers had not sinned. And when they carried the message back to the Israelites in Canaan, they, too, were pleased.

    “And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God.”

    Although the people of these tribes had not trespassed against the Lord at this time, we do find that later they were the first to be carried into captivity. Their being so far from the true place of worship made it easy for them to forget God. We can learn from that that we are much safer when we are near other Christian people so we may worship with them and talk about the things of God. If it is absolutely necessary for us to be away from the house of God, He can give us power to stand true. But if we through neglect or selfish desires move far away, we are in danger of losing the love of God out of our hearts.

    “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple” (Palm:65:4).

    Questions: 

    1. Which tribes had stayed east of Jordan?
    2. Why?
    3. What did they promise to do after their families were settled?
    4. How long were the fighting men of the two and one half tribes in Canaan?
    5. What did they do on the banks of Jordan when they returned?
    6. What did the Israelites do when they heard about the building of the altar?
    7. What explanation did the two and one half tribes give?
    8. Whom were the Israelites to worship? Where?
    9. Whom do we worship? How?