“Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, ‘You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you. You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God’“ (22:1-3). Faithfulness and loyalty; these are good traits. And so, Joshua frees these men to go to their families in the lands east of Jordan, where they had requested their allotments.
These men continue to prove to be faithful. The following verses tell about their building of an altar east of Jordan. The other tribes misread their intentions and thought they were building some sort of shrine to a pagan idol. The response: “The mighty One, God, the Lord! The mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows; and let Israel herself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the Lord, do not spare us today” (22:22). And they went on to explain that the river separated them from the other tribes, and they were afraid of the tendency, over time, for their children and grandchildren to forget their ties to Israel and to Israel’s God. So, they built the altar as a reminder of all that God had done for them and to teach them about the portion they have among the people of Israel. “The people of Reuben and the people of God called the altar Witness, ‘For,’ they said, ‘it is a witness between us that the Lord is God’” (22:34).
Lessons: 1) We should take care about impugning the motives of people. We can misread those motives and wrongly accuse them. 2) We should be quick, as were the western tribes, to acknowledge our mistaken evaluations of others. 3) It is good, always, to remember and to tell our children about God and all that he has done for us and our families. So many struggles, but our destination is sure!
On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
and cast a wishful eye
to Canaan's fair and happy land,
where my possessions lie.
I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
oh, who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land. -- Samuel Stennett (1787)