Joshua 22:19 – Nevertheless, if the land of your possession is unclean, then cross over to the land of the possession of the Lord, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and take possession among us; but do not rebel against the Lord, nor rebel against us, by building yourselves an altar besides the altar of the Lord our God. (NKJV)
The Israelites, under Joshua’s leadership, had taken possession of the lands and God had given them rest.
Now Joshua calls the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who had stayed back to help settle their brothers, blesses them and permits them to return to their assigned land, on the other side of the Jordan. So they return to Gilead, the land of their possession. When they get to the region of Jordan, these returning tribes build an impressive altar, on the children of Israel’s side.
An altar is a structure upon which offerings, sacrifices are made for religious purposes.
When the children of Israel hear of this, the whole congregation gathers at Shiloh to go to war against them. The leaders of the tribes of Israel, led by Phinehas the priest, confront the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, asking them why they would rebel against the Lord by building an altar for themselves. They thought that the altar at Jordon represented a rival place of sacrifice and worship, to compete with God’s tabernacle.
However, they are quick to reassure Phinehas and the leaders of the tribes of Israel that they did not build the altar to turn away from the Lord God. Rather they built the altar as a memorial between them (Joshua 22:24-29). And thus, the misunderstanding was resolved.
To rebel is to rise in opposition.
The allegation against the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh was that they had built an altar beside the altar of the Lord God at Shiloh, and the Bible says that was rebellion.
Today we may not have physical altars and sacrifices like in the Old Testament. But we rebel when we do not prioritize and worship God above all else in our lives, not giving Him our first and our best. Anything that takes precedes over God and our worship of Him represents a rival god and reflects a rebellious heart.
What are the things, people, or relationships that we prioritise and build altars to, over and above our devotion to God, causing us to rebel against Him?
Lord forgive me for the many times I rebel against you when I do not prioritise you in my life. Please help me to daily, choose you above all else.