To have a claim to the Lord
Then the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the heads of the clans of Israel: “The Lord, the Mighty One, is God! The Lord, the Mighty One, is God! He knows the truth, and may Israel know it, too! We have not built the altar in treacherous rebellion against the Lord. If we have done so, do not spare our lives this day. If we have built an altar for ourselves to turn away from the Lord or to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings, may the Lord himself punish us. “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? Joshua 22:21-24
War was averted between the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh and the ten tribes of Israel. The three tribes explained to Phinehas that the altar was built not for offering sacrifices and burnt offerings but will provide as a memorial of God’s favor to the people and that they too belong to the Lord. In their appeal, the three tribes used the name of God and that He alone knows what is in their hearts. They claim that God can see through their hearts that they are telling Phinehas the truth and that they are willing to be punished by God if ever they are not truthful in their assertion. “The Lord, the Mighty One, is God” (v. 22). The three tribes want their children to grow up realizing that every time they see the altar, they too are a people of God and have a claim to the God of Israel. This section of this chapter provides for us another sober warning. Just because we claim that “God knows the truth” as if we are saying ”God knows my heart,” we can be guilty of taking God’s name carelessly or in vain if we claim we belong to God yet the way we live says otherwise. The integrity of our claim as people of God should be manifested in the way we live. It is true that the Lord knows our heart and when we take an oath that “God knows our heart” and yet such claim is contrary to what God sees in us, we are deceiving ourselves. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). The desire of these three tribes to see their children grow up realizing that they too belong to God when they see the altar will not come into fruition if they will not let the fruits of their relationship with God be manifested in their zeal to live for the glory of God. Our claim that we belong to God when examined should prove our sincerity, for our actions will reveal that we are living for Him. “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide...For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due” (1 Corinthians 4:4-5).