the witness

altar image borrowed from

altar image borrowed from

As I’ve said, frequently and fervently, I’m believe that the first 3/4 of your Bible is just as important as the the last 27 books.  I don’t think they were an accident, or that Isreal was Plan A and the church is Plan B.  Or that God somehow needed to go through Abraham, Moses, David and the Prophets to get to Jesus.  I believe, like Paul wrote to believers in Rome and Corinth, that these things were written as examples to us.  I believe that God, the author, architect, and artist of creation used the Hebrew race to give us a picture of who he is, how much he loves us, and his purpose for us.

So I’ve been hung up for two days on Joshua 22 – the story of the witness. Here it is in brief:

  • The children of Israel have just finished conquering the promised land
  • The families of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had chosen land west of the Jordan river for their inheritance, but they’d gone on with the other tribes to conquer the rest of the land
  • When Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh went back to their land they built a huge altar
  • The rest of the tribes heard about it and got crazy mad.  They came back across the Jordan ready to do battle against the “rebels“.  Why?  Because God had said he would designate one specific place for all Israel to worship.  Anything else would be an abomination.
  • When the ten and a half tribes confronted the two and a half, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh told them they had it all wrong.  They weren’t going to worship at the altar or sacrifice.  It was just a reminder to them that they were part of Israel and needed to go to the tabernacle (later the temple) and worship.
  • This satisfied the ten and a half tribes and they went on home

The reason the ten and a half were upset is they remembered what happened at Peor and with Achan at Ai.  In both cases, a small group had sinned and brought God’s wrath on the whole nation.

I could go off on the judgment aspect of it, but the thing on my mind is the one place of worship that God designates.  My mind immediately jumps to Jesus’ discussion with the woman at the well about where to worship.  In response to her question Jesus said, “an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.   God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

He told the woman it was no longer a relevant question.   Yes, God had designated a physical place – the temple in Jerusalem – as the one place he would accept our worship.  But Jesus was saying “It’s a new day.  The physical temple was a placeholder to lead you to the spiritual temple where God now allows our worship

Which makes me kinda cringe when someone stands up in front of a church and says “Aren’t you glad to be in the house of God today?”   Because we don’t come to the house of God on Sunday.  If we’re there at all, it’s because we live there!


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