Wednesday, February 18, 2009


“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.” – Joshua 22:11

A lady from my hometown recently moved back with her young son. For a long time we went to church together and I didn’t even recognize who she was. We sat only feet away from each other every service and I never recognized her. Over the years, life had changed her. Growing up, not only was she my neighbor, but this lady had been my best friend and a daily playmate.

This past week she was arrested on charges relating to custody of her young son. My heart breaks for her. First it breaks because I know from her own words and her son’s words the mistreatment her son endured at the hands of his father, whom she took him from. Secondly, it burns because I know what is being said about her.

“She’s been arrest?”
“A felony charge?”
“What was she doing in Oak Grove anyway?”
“She wasn’t using her real name?”

Is it so hard to just be silent when something like this happens? Why must we gossip and throw stones at her character? Why do we speak without knowing the truth?

Right after the tribes of Israel had entered the Promised Land Joshua divided the land up and gave each tribe their individual kingdoms. The tribes of Gad, Rueben, and half the tribe of Manasseh had asked to be allowed to stay on the West bank of the Jordan. Moses had promised it to them, and it was given to them. They moved back to the West bank after helping the other tribes win their freedom on the East bank. Things were going well and God was blessing His people.

Then ”someone” said. “Someone”. We don’t know whom because we never know who starts gossip. But “someone” almost started a war! “Someone” almost divided God’s people!

This someone began a rumor that the tribes on the West of the Jordan were building an altar of their own -–disregarding the sanctity of the Altar of the Lord that was on the East side of the Jordan. They gathered heads of all the tribes, elders, and priests to go to them. They rebuked them by asking “what treachery” they were doing against the Lord God. This was based solely on what “someone” said. They were willing to begin a war against their own people, split the family right down the middle – all because of what “someone” said.

Instead of “treachery”, what the 2½ tribes East of the Jordan had done was to erect an altar as a memorial. In fear of being cut off from the eastern side of the Jordan, they wanted to be sure their children would know their heritage, and that they sacrificed to God as they were told and worshipped as God had directed. It was to be a witness to the God that had saved them from so much. There was no treachery! The altar was created out of love for a God that they never wanted to forget.

My friend’s act may have been a felony in the state of Texas, but it was out of love for her son. The acts of those who have taken her name through the dirt were not out of love, but complete ignorance.

Often in the Bible the tongue is referred to as a sword, and rightly so. It can slice and dice a person’s character faster than any other tool. It can cut you to the heart. It can break relationships, tear families apart, and divide churches.

There’s also an old idiom that comes from the words of Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 26:52, “Put your sword back in its place, for all those who take up the sword perish by the sword.” The idiom is “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

Consider the sword in your own mouth, and whom you may kill with it today.

Consider that tomorrow, it may be you that the same sword comes after.