THEME: Dealing with Conflict
This week’s lessons remind us of the need to live for God in all the circumstances of life.
But there’s something else. The war that looked like it was on the verge of starting did not begin at once. Rash people might have simply rushed to the Jordan and attacked the other people; but these Israelites didn’t do that. They were willing to fight for the Lord’s honor, but they were also willing to talk about the situation. So instead of just rushing off to the battle, they elected Phinehas, the son of Eliezer the priest, and ten of the chief men of Israel (one from each tribe) as a delegation. They dispatched this delegation to go down and meet with the others to see if it might not be possible to work to get some kind of peaceful resolution to this terrible error, as they assumed it to be.
Now notice what happened, because this is really significant. The first thing we notice about this delegation is that they were utterly forthright in expressing the thing that concerned them. They call it for what it is. Notice verses 16 through 18: “The whole assembly of the Lord says, ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against Him? Now, wasn’t the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day, we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord. And are you now turning away from the Lord? If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow He will be angry with the whole community of Israel.’”
You see, that’s really telling it as it is. They were willing to call apostasy “apostasy.” They called turning from the Lord “turning from the Lord.” Now as it turns out in the story, they were mistaken. This is not what the 2½ tribes were doing. But the rest of Israel thought this was happening, and it concerned them, and they expressed it openly.
There’s another thing that is significant. Not only were they utterly forthright in expressing what it was that concerned them but, at the same time even as they expressed their concern, they indicated that they were willing to pay whatever price might be necessary to bring about a reconciliation. You find it in verse 19: “If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us.” Do you see what that means? They had divided up the land for each of the tribes. By now people might have even known in what particular cities they were going to dwell. But those living on the west side of the Jordan said to these 2½ tribes, “Look, if it’s the land that you’re living in that’s causing the problem, if for some reason there are false gods in that land and you feel that if you live in that land, you have to obey those false gods, then don’t live in that land. Look, if necessary, leave that and come over into our land. We’ll give you some of our cities. Only don’t rebel against the Lord.”
You see what that is? That’s costly love. They’re not only concerned, on the one hand, for the honor and holiness of God, which is so essential. They are, on the other hand, equally concerned to manifest the love of God, which is also part of God’s character. And that’s what wins people. In our time, generally speaking, we probably fail on both counts. We don’t care a whole lot about the love of God; and we don’t care a whole lot about the holiness of God. So we compromise truth, and then we fail to demonstrate the love of God even over small things that aren’t altogether essential. But it’s when we’re willing to pay the price to demonstrate our love, when we are willing to be hurt ourselves in order to show forth the character of God, that people are really won over. That, of course, is the way God Almighty deals with us. God has His standards, and we have broken His law. Yet in response to our sin, God sent His Son at great personal cost to die for us. And we read in Scripture that it’s on the basis of the death of Jesus Christ that God commends His love to us. We have an example of that here because that’s what these people did.
What did the western tribes do to try to correctly handle the situation?
Upon their arrival, what is the first thing they said to the eastern tribes? From the lesson, what principle did they apply?
What was the second principle they demonstrated? What offer did they make to achieve it?
How might God be calling you to demonstrate costly love to someone else as a proper response to how God showed costly love to you in the death of his Son?
But it’s when we’re willing to pay the price to demonstrate our love, when we are willing to be hurt ourselves in order to show forth the character of God, that people are really won over. That, of course, is the way God Almighty deals with us. God has His standards, and we have broken His law. Yet in response to our sin, God sent His Son at great personal cost to die for us.