As the people of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh returned to settle in the land allotted to them on the east of the river Jordan, they thought to build a copy of the alter used for making offerings to their God in the tabernacle. The first reaction of the rest of the tribes of Israel was outrage. They assumed this meant that these eastern tribes were negating Gods first and most important command: to worship him and him alone. After only a very little explanation, however, it became clear that the intention was actually to reinforce their commitment and right to worship their God as members God’s chosen people. For a long while, growing up I was confused about the apparent contradiction of bowing and kneeling to the golden cross on the high alter in the cathedral when I thought we weren’t supposed to bow to any idol made by human hand. Now I can understand that it is not intended as an alternative God or Idol. It is a memorial that we can see, and so always remember the meaning of our salvation.
Joshua 22:24-29 NLT
“The truth is, we have built this altar because we fear that in the future your descendants will say to ours, ‘What right do you have to worship the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and you people of Reuben and Gad. You have no claim to the Lord.’ So your descendants may prevent our descendants from worshiping the Lord. “So we decided to build the altar, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as a memorial. It will remind our descendants and your descendants that we, too, have the right to worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices, and peace offerings. Then your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no claim to the Lord.’ “If they say this, our descendants can reply, ‘Look at this copy of the Lord’s altar that our ancestors made. It is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices; it is a reminder of the relationship both of us have with the Lord.’ Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord or turn away from him by building our own altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings, or sacrifices. Only the altar of the Lord our God that stands in front of the Tabernacle may be used for that purpose.”
I have begun a journey of faith and discipleship which I very much hope will last for the rest of my life. But every now and then I find myself doubting the whole foundation of my faith. When this happens, I turn to God’s ultimate memorial, his book of holy scripture. There I always find reassurance that my faith is real. It also occurs to me that this series of devotionals is in some way my own memorial to my new faith. I hope in years to come I will be able to read through these thoughts in times of doubt or worry, and remember what I found when I first knew the Lord.
Joshua 22:21-23:16, Luke 20:27-47, Psalms 89:14-37,Proverbs 13:17-19