1. ACROSS THE MIGHTY RIVER
a. The children of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh were all situated on the east side of Jordan. What problems were associated with having such a distant location from the sanctuary? Joshua 22:10.
“[These tribes] were now to dwell at a distance from the sanctuary of the Lord, and it was with an anxious heart that Joshua witnessed their departure, knowing how strong would be the temptations, in their isolated and wandering life, to fall into the customs of the heathen tribes that dwelt upon their borders.
“While the minds of Joshua and other leaders were still oppressed with anxious forebodings, strange tidings reached them. Beside the Jordan, near the place of Israel’s miraculous passage of the river, the two and a half tribes had erected a great altar, similar to the altar of burnt offering at Shiloh.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 518.
b. How did the remaining tribes react? Why? Joshua 22:11, 12.
“The law of God prohibited, on pain of death, the establishment of another worship than that at the sanctuary. If such was the object of this altar, it would, if permitted to remain, lead the people away from the true faith.”—Ibid.
2. COOLING DOWN THE FURY
a. When the two and a half tribes east of Jordan built an altar, what calm approach cooled down the initial reaction of the others? Joshua 22:13, 14.
“The representatives of the people assembled at Shiloh, and in the heat of their excitement and indignation proposed to make war at once upon the offenders. Through the influence of the more cautious, however, it was decided to send first a delegation to obtain from the two and a half tribes an explanation of their conduct. Ten princes, one from each tribe, were chosen. At their head was Phinehas, who had distinguished himself by his zeal in the matter of Peor.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 518.
b. Explain the appeal that was made to the eastern tribes. Joshua 22:15–18.
“The two and a half tribes had been at fault in entering, without explanation, upon an act open to such grave suspicions. The ambassadors, taking it for granted that their brethren were guilty, met them with sharp rebuke. They accused them of rebelling against the Lord, and bade them remember how judgments had been visited upon Israel for joining themselves to Baalpeor.”—Ibid.
c. To what experience was Phinehas referring? Numbers 25:1–9. What should we learn from the spirit he manifested toward his brethren? Joshua 22:19.
“In behalf of all Israel, Phinehas stated to the children of Gad and Reuben that if they were unwilling to abide in that land without an altar for sacrifice, they would be welcome to a share in the possessions and privileges of their brethren on the other side.”—Ibid., pp.518, 519.
“We need good, heart religion and divine wisdom to deal with human minds, that we shall not only reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine, but we shall take the erring in our arms of faith and bear them to the cross of Christ.”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, p. 339.
3. REASONING TOGETHER
a. How serious a comparison did the tribes on the western side of Jordan make regarding the altar built on the east side of Jordan? Joshua 22:20. What can we learn from their mistaken zeal for the right?
“Care should be exercised by all Christians, to shun the two extremes, of laxness in dealing with sin on the one hand, and harsh judgment and groundless suspicion on the other. The Israelites who manifested so much zeal against the men of Gad and Reuben remembered how, in Achan’s case, God had rebuked the lack of vigilance to discover the sins existing among them. Then they resolved to act promptly and earnestly in the future; but in seeking to do this they went to the opposite extreme. Instead of meeting their brethren with censure, they should first have made courteous inquiry to learn all the facts in the case.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 2, p. 999.
b. How did the children of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh explain their reason for the altar on the east side of Jordan? Joshua 22:21–29.
“The accused explained that their altar was not intended for sacrifice, but simply as a witness that, although separated by the river, they were of the same faith as their brethren in Canaan. They had feared that in future years their children might be excluded from the tabernacle, as having no part in Israel. Then this altar, erected after the pattern of the altar of the Lord at Shiloh, would be a witness that its builders were also worshipers of the living God.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 519.
c. How did the reasoning approach prove to be successful? Joshua 22:30, 31.
“With great joy the ambassadors accepted this explanation, and immediately carried back the tidings to those who sent them. All thoughts of war were dismissed, and the people united in rejoicing, and praise to God.”—Ibid.
4. WISDOM IN CALMNESS
a. To reveal that their intentions were honorable in having an altar east of Jordan, what did the children of Gad and Reuben do? Joshua 22:34.
“The children of Gad and Reuben now placed upon their altar an inscription pointing out the purpose for which it was erected; and they said, ‘It shall be a witness between us that Jehovah is God.’ Thus they endeavored to prevent future misapprehension and to remove what might be a cause of temptation.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 519.
b. What wise lessons are we to learn from this experience among the tribes? Proverbs 14:17, 29; James 1:19.
“How often serious difficulties arise from a simple misunderstanding, even among those who are actuated by the worthiest motives; and without the exercise of courtesy and forbearance, what serious and even fatal results may follow. . . .
“While very sensitive to the least blame in regard to their own course, many are too severe in dealing with those whom they suppose to be in error.”—Ibid.
“The powers of darkness will assault every soul, but let us not join with the evil one in his work, and deal with severity to discourage and dishearten the weak and erring. Let us be pitiful, compassionate one to another, and let an influence go out from us to heal, to bind up, to establish, rather than to wound and to uproot. There is altogether too much haste . . . and often that which we think is justice, the Lord writes in his book as oppression. . . . Let us love one another, be kind and courteous.”—The Review and Herald, October 24, 1893.
c. What other principles should we keep in mind when dealing with our brethren? 1 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 4:32.
“In all your transactions with your fellow men never forget that you are dealing with God’s property. Be kind; be pitiful; be courteous. Respect God’s purchased possession. Treat one another with tenderness and courtesy.”—My Life Today, p. 235.
5. WHEN FALSELY ACCUSED
a. What should we remember when we are falsely accused? What attitude should we have? 1 Peter 2:19–24; 4:14–16.
“The wisdom displayed by the Reubenites and their companions is worthy of imitation. While honestly seeking to promote the cause of true religion, they were misjudged and severely censured; yet they manifested no resentment. They listened with courtesy and patience to the charges of their brethren before attempting to make their defense, and then fully explained their motives and showed their innocence. Thus the difficulty which had threatened such serious consequences was amicably settled.
“Even under false accusation those who are in the right can afford to be calm and considerate. God is acquainted with all that is misunderstood and misinterpreted by men, and we can safely leave our case in His hands. He will as surely vindicate the cause of those who put their trust in Him as He searched out the guilt of Achan. Those who are actuated by the spirit of Christ will possess that charity which suffers long and is kind.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 520.
“How much of evil would be averted, if all, when falsely accused, would avoid recrimination, and in its stead employ mild, conciliating words. And at the same time, those who in their zeal to oppose sin have indulged unjust suspicions, should ever seek to take the most favorable view of their brethren, and should rejoice when they are found guiltless.”—The Signs of the Times, May 12, 1881.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. To what perils are isolated members of the church especially exposed?
2. What examples do I recall when a calmer approach may have yielded better results in dealing with others?
3. Why does honest, open interaction in the spirit of Christ always pay off?
4. With what attitude should I approach those who I think are in error?
5. If I feel that I am falsely accused, what knowledge will lead me to leave my case in God’s hands? How will this affect my frame of mind?