Joshua 22* Reuben and Gad, with the half tribe of Manasseh, dismissed totheir homes. (1-9) They build an altar of testimony, Thecongregation offended thereat. (10-20) The answer of theReubenites. (21-29) The children of Israel satisfied. (30-34)1-9 Joshua dismisses the tribes with good counsel. Those whohave the commandment have it in vain, unless they do thecommandment; and it will not be done aright unless we takediligent heed. In particular to love the Lord our God, as thebest of beings, and the best of friends; and as far as thatprinciple rules in the heart, there will be constant care andendeavour to walk in his ways, even those that are narrow andup-hill. In every instance to keep his commandments. At alltimes, and in all conditions, with purpose of heart to cleaveunto the Lord, and to serve him and his kingdom among men, withall our heart, and with all our soul. This good counsel is givento all; may God give us grace to take it! 10-20 Here is the care of the separated tribes to keep theirhold of Canaan's religion. At first sight it seemed a design toset up an altar against the altar at Shiloh. God is jealous forhis own institutions; we should be so too, and afraid of everything that looks like, or leads to idolatry. Corruptions inreligion are best dealt with at first. But their prudence infollowing up this zealous resolution is no less commendable.Many an unhappy strife would be prevented, or soon made up, byinquiries into the matter of the offence. The remembrance ofgreat sins committed formerly, should engage us to stand on ourguard against the beginnings of sin; for the way of sin isdown-hill. We are all concerned to reprove our neighbour when hedoes amiss, lest we suffer sin upon him, #Le 19:17|. The offermade that they should be welcome to come to the land where theLord's tabernacle was, and settle there, was in the spirit oftrue Israelites. 21-29 The tribes took the reproofs of their brethren in goodpart. With solemnity and meekness they proceeded to give all thesatisfaction in their power. Reverence of God is expressed inthe form of their appeal. This brief confession of faith wouldremove their brethren's suspicion that they intended to worshipother gods. Let us always speak of God with seriousness, andmention his name with a solemn pause. Those who make appeals toHeaven with a careless "God knows," take his name in vain: it isvery unlike this. They express great confidence of their ownuprightness in the matter of their appeal. "God knows it," forhe is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and intents of theheart. In every thing we do in religion, it highly concerns usto approve ourselves to God, remembering that he knows theheart. And if our sincerity be known to God, we should studylikewise to let others know it by its fruits, especially thosewho, though they mistake us, show zeal for the glory of God.They disdained the design of which they were suspected to beguilty, and fully explained their true intent in building thisaltar. Those who have found the comfort and benefit of God'sordinances, cannot but desire to preserve them to their seed,and to use all possible care that their children may be lookedupon as having a part in him. Christ is the great Altar thatsanctifies every gift; the best evidence of our interest in himis the work of his Spirit in our hearts. 30-34 It is well that there was on both sides a disposition topeace, as there was a zeal for God; for quarrels about religion,for want of wisdom and love, often prove the most fierce anddifficult to be made up. Proud and peevish spirits, when theyhave passed any unjust blame on their brethren, though fullevidence be brought of its unfairness, can by no means bepersuaded to withdraw it. But Israel was not so prejudiced. Theylooked upon their brethren's innocence as a token of God'spresence. Our brethren's zeal for the power of godliness, andfaith and love, notwithstanding the fears of their breaking theunity of the church, are things of which we should be very gladto be satisfied. The altar was called ED, a witness. It was awitness of their care to keep their religion pure and entire,and would witness against their descendants, if they should turnfrom following after the Lord. Happy will it be when allprofessed Christians learn to copy the example of Israel, tounite zeal and steady adherence to the cause of truth, withcandour, meekness, and readiness to understand each other, toexplain and to be satisfied with the explanations of theirbrethren. May the Lord increase the number of those whoendeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!may increasing grace and consolation be with all who love JesusChrist in sincerity!
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