Joshua 22

* Reuben and Gad, with the half tribe of Manasseh, dismissed to

their homes. (1-9) They build an altar of testimony, The

congregation offended thereat. (10-20) The answer of the

Reubenites. (21-29) The children of Israel satisfied. (30-34)

1-9 Joshua dismisses the tribes with good counsel. Those who

have the commandment have it in vain, unless they do the

commandment; and it will not be done aright unless we take

diligent heed. In particular to love the Lord our God, as the

best of beings, and the best of friends; and as far as that

principle rules in the heart, there will be constant care and

endeavour to walk in his ways, even those that are narrow and

up-hill. In every instance to keep his commandments. At all

times, and in all conditions, with purpose of heart to cleave

unto the Lord, and to serve him and his kingdom among men, with

all our heart, and with all our soul. This good counsel is given

to all; may God give us grace to take it!
10-20 Here is the care of the separated tribes to keep their

hold of Canaan's religion. At first sight it seemed a design to

set up an altar against the altar at Shiloh. God is jealous for

his own institutions; we should be so too, and afraid of every

thing that looks like, or leads to idolatry. Corruptions in

religion are best dealt with at first. But their prudence in

following up this zealous resolution is no less commendable.

Many an unhappy strife would be prevented, or soon made up, by

inquiries into the matter of the offence. The remembrance of

great sins committed formerly, should engage us to stand on our

guard against the beginnings of sin; for the way of sin is

down-hill. We are all concerned to reprove our neighbour when he

does amiss, lest we suffer sin upon him, #Le 19:17|. The offer

made that they should be welcome to come to the land where the

Lord's tabernacle was, and settle there, was in the spirit of

true Israelites.
21-29 The tribes took the reproofs of their brethren in good

part. With solemnity and meekness they proceeded to give all the

satisfaction in their power. Reverence of God is expressed in

the form of their appeal. This brief confession of faith would

remove their brethren's suspicion that they intended to worship

other gods. Let us always speak of God with seriousness, and

mention his name with a solemn pause. Those who make appeals to

Heaven with a careless "God knows," take his name in vain: it is

very unlike this. They express great confidence of their own

uprightness in the matter of their appeal. "God knows it," for

he is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and intents of the

heart. In every thing we do in religion, it highly concerns us

to approve ourselves to God, remembering that he knows the

heart. And if our sincerity be known to God, we should study

likewise to let others know it by its fruits, especially those

who, though they mistake us, show zeal for the glory of God.

They disdained the design of which they were suspected to be

guilty, and fully explained their true intent in building this

altar. Those who have found the comfort and benefit of God's

ordinances, cannot but desire to preserve them to their seed,

and to use all possible care that their children may be looked

upon as having a part in him. Christ is the great Altar that

sanctifies every gift; the best evidence of our interest in him

is the work of his Spirit in our hearts.
30-34 It is well that there was on both sides a disposition to

peace, as there was a zeal for God; for quarrels about religion,

for want of wisdom and love, often prove the most fierce and

difficult to be made up. Proud and peevish spirits, when they

have passed any unjust blame on their brethren, though full

evidence be brought of its unfairness, can by no means be

persuaded to withdraw it. But Israel was not so prejudiced. They

looked upon their brethren's innocence as a token of God's

presence. Our brethren's zeal for the power of godliness, and

faith and love, notwithstanding the fears of their breaking the

unity of the church, are things of which we should be very glad

to be satisfied. The altar was called ED, a witness. It was a

witness of their care to keep their religion pure and entire,

and would witness against their descendants, if they should turn

from following after the Lord. Happy will it be when all

professed Christians learn to copy the example of Israel, to

unite zeal and steady adherence to the cause of truth, with

candour, meekness, and readiness to understand each other, to

explain and to be satisfied with the explanations of their

brethren. May the Lord increase the number of those who

endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!

may increasing grace and consolation be with all who love Jesus

Christ in sincerity!

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