Jumping to Conclusions

Krista Williams

Day: 22 | Plan: Joshua-Judges

Today's Reading: Joshua 22

Joshua 22:11-12 (NIV) “And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.”

Have you ever reacted to a situation before you had all the facts? I have, and more often than not, my quick (and wrong) assumptions led to confusion and conflict. As we near the close of Joshua, a story of nearly disastrous misunderstandings interrupts the description of the allotment of the land.

In the midst of this peaceful and happy conclusion of the conquest period, Israel began infighting. When they heard the Transjordan tribes had built an altar on the border of Canaan, they became suspicious and jumped to conclusions. They assumed this altar was an altar for sacrifice, which was forbidden except at the tabernacle or tent of meeting. (Leviticus 17:8-9; Deuteronomy 12; Joshua 22:29) Instantly, they were ready to go to war against their brothers.

Assembled and ready to do battle, the Israelites accused the Transjordan tribes of wrongdoing and brought up the past. And so the blame and shame game began. (Joshua 22:17-20) When we blame and shame others, animosity grows on the fertile soil of frustration, and that’s what happened here.

Israel accused the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh of turning away from the Lord. Graciously the Transjordan representatives explained their desire to build an altar was not to declare war, but actually to preserve peace! The altar-builders simply wanted future generations to know that though the Jordan separated them, their faith in the God of Israel united them. (Joshua 22:24-25, 27) This altar was not to mark division. It was to promote unity.

The people had drawn conclusions based on hearsay, not on facts. Think of the potential damage and devastation we can cause if we don’t take the time to find out what’s going on. It’s a good reminder that we should have discussions before our declarations to make sure we know the whole truth.

The family of God should be characterized by unity and optimism. This is not trivial or a glass-half-full kind of optimism. This is the kind of hope-filled grace that lets us believe the best about one another before assuming the worst. We must learn to trust and communicate. And when we discover something that concerns us, let us be careful to invite discussion as a way to build community and preserve unity.

Discussion gives us time to reconsider our knee-jerk reactions and faulty assumptions. We may have assumed sin is present, where (as in this case) no offense was intended. Think of what conflicts might be avoided if we were more open and honest in our communication than stewing in and spreading condemnation. Humility and a willingness to have honest discussions can avert unnecessary infighting. 

Prayer: Father, I confess I am sometimes guilty of jumping to conclusions before I have all the facts. Your Word reveals the potential danger of such a rapid response. Help me initiate healthy discussions before I make hasty declarations about another. Grant me the humility, courage and willingness to have conversations with the people directly involved so I can avoid and resolve any potential conflicts. And most of all, may my words and attitudes promote unity and peace among believers. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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