Jumping to Conclusions
Joshua 22:10-12 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. Now the children of Israel heard someone say, “Behold, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan—on the children of Israel’s side.” And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered together at Shiloh to go to war against them.
The eastern tribes of ancient Israel had been fighting with their western counterparts to take the land that God had promised them. When the Lord gave them rest, Joshua commended them for “keep[ing] the charge of the Lord” by waiting to settle their land until the western tribes had the same opportunity.
One of the first things these two-and-a-half tribes did when they crossed the Jordan was to build an altar. That’s all that the rest of Israel knew, but look how quickly they “gathered together at Shiloh to go to war against them.” Their first verbal attack assumed a great deal: “What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the Lord by building yourselves an altar this day in rebellion against the Lord?”
That fact that an altar had been built was indisputable. But the wrong assumption was made that this was an altar of sacrifice, which was a violation of God’s law, and would be in competition with the true altar at the central sanctuary. Read Joshua 22:15-20 to read the whole detailed accusation, including the various judgments made about the tribes’ motivations and the rebellion of their hearts.
Actually, the truth was the opposite. The eastern tribes were concerned that future generations would forget their connection with the rest of Israel because of the natural boundary of the Jordan. The altar was supposed to be a teaching tool as an altar of remembrance, which they called an “altar of witness.” Happily, when the leaders bringing the accusations heard the explanation, “it was good in their eyes,” war was averted.
How quick we are sometimes to attach accusation to information, and to assume the motivations of others. There are a couple of possible steps to take here. One is simply to find out the real story. Proverbs 18:17 is our guide: “The one who states his case first seems right, until he comes and examines him.” The first story can seem complete; it usually is not. If we determine to do this first, we can stop at step one.
If we have been too quick to judge and assume motivations, we have to take a second step: repent and do some self-examination. If we’ve been proven wrong about something, we need ask the Lord to search our hearts and show us why we were so quick to judge, and what needs dealing or healing. This second step is one that too many of us skip over, but it’s a necessary one on the way to spiritual maturity.
Prayer: Lord, help me to hold back from making judgment calls until I know all the facts. Please show me those things that lead me to judge others and assume their motivations, and work in me to remove any tendency toward that in my heart.