Monday, April 1, 2013

Someone Said

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.” – Joshua 22:11-12

To create gossip you only need two things: the ability to speak much about something you know very little about, and to whisper.  It appears that people will believe anything if you whisper it.
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.

When the tribes returned to the west bank of the Jordan, they built an altar. Joshua 22:10 says it was “a great, impressive altar.”  The tabernacle remained on the east side of the Jordan, while these tribes were on the west side.
Then ”someone” said. Who? “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! “Someone” took the little they knew, let it grow in their empty head into something bigger, and then spoke about it to the remaining tribes on the east bank of the Jordan.

“Someone” began a rumor that the tribes on the west of the Jordan were building an altar of their own – an idolatrous altar.  They said that the western tribes were 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.  They feared being cut off from the tabernacle on the eastern side of the Jordan.  They were aware that the western region was not like that of the eastern side, and wanted to proclaim their way of worship.   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.
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 spoken in Matthew 26:52. Jesus said, “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 the deadly weapon it can be to someone’s character, to family relationships, to church relationships and whom you may kill with it today.  Consider also that tomorrow it may be you that the same sword comes after.  Those who live by the sword [of the tongue] will die by the sword.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Proverbs 18:21

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