An Altar of Witness
Open Your Bible
Joshua 22:1-34, Psalm 7:8-10, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
After the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh helped the rest of Israel conquer Canaan, Joshua released them to return to their homes across the Jordan. As he sent them off, he blessed them and charged them to maintain their allegiance to God, saying, “Love the LORD your God, walk in all his ways, keep his commands, be loyal to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).
The conversation was between Joshua and those three tribes, but his words are also for us today. As the people of God, He calls us to love Him wholeheartedly and walk in His ways. We pattern our thoughts and actions after His very thoughts and actions expressed in His Word. It’s a lifetime of continuous transformation, as we rely on the power of the Spirit to shape and reorient our values and behaviors to look more and more like Jesus. He gets our full allegiance.
Being loyal to God includes being committed to taking a stand for righteousness, even when it challenges our relationships. Sometimes we do this in quieter ways, and other times we take a more vocal stand—like Israel did when they learned the three tribes had built an altar at the border (Joshua 22:9–12).
Israel’s history included many instances of infidelity and rebellion against God. However, Joshua 22 shows us an Israel whose priority was walking in God’s ways, even to the point of being willing to fight their own countrymen. Here was the generation seeing God’s promises fulfilled, and they were determined to be faithful to Him as He had been to them. This is a lesson for us today: Do we desire God’s holiness and presence to the point of boldly standing against anyone or anything that would threaten our allegiance to Him?
It was also a lesson to seek understanding before taking action. Thankfully, the altar was not a sign of rebellion but a show of solidarity. The Eastern tribes built it to ensure unity and permanently mark their inclusion as the people of God (Joshua 22:24). It was a memorial of remembrance and a visual declaration that the Lord was their God and would always be their God. The action of the three tribes is a model for us. Although we no longer use altars, we can still incorporate rhythms of remembrance into our spiritual practices. What could these periods of reflection look like for us?
When we set aside time to remember God’s faithfulness and the many ways He has worked in our lives, we come away with a renewed sense of wonder for who He is, as well as a deeper awareness of His presence. This awareness fosters joy and a confidence that He will be with us throughout every season of life. This can intensify our commitment to love God without reservation, serving Him with all of our heart and soul (Joshua 22:5).