The family was one of the first institutions that God established after He made man and the enemy has been attempting to destroy it since its inception. Today there are sons and daughters who don’t appropriately communicate with their parents and siblings who argue and scream at each other because of a “falling out”. Often in such situations, the rift is due to the fact that some family member(s) jumped to the wrong conclusion when they misunderstood something that was said or done. Pride then rears its ugly head and no one wants to “give in”. A family that was once close and loving is then ravaged with either bitter and angry silence, open dissension and/or angry debate. God loves the family and He wants it to consist of loving and peaceful relationships.
We can learn wonderful lessons from the Old Testament
So many Scriptures and events from the Old Testament provide good commonsense guidance for us today. Family issues and disputes didn’t just start to happen in our day, they have always been a problem. Let’s take a look at a particular situation in the Old Testament when a simple misunderstanding could have been the cause of a major war among family members.
The Gadites and Reubenites request land East of the Jordan River
In Numbers 32:2 two groups of the Israelites, The Gadites and Reubenites asked Moses to allow them to take land on the east side of the Jordan River as their inheritance, rather than the west side of the Jordan that all the other tribes would receive. They were cattlemen and, although God promised the Israelites that they would inherit land on the Westside, they felt that the Eastside would be best for them because of their cattle. After they firmly promised to help their brothers conquer the Westside, Moses granted them their request and blessed them.
The time came to possess the Promised Land on the west side of the Jordan.
Moses died in the 34th chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy and it was time for the children of Israel to go forth and conquer the Promised Land, west of the Jordan River. They fought and they won. The Gadites and Reubenites kept their word and helped their brothers conquer the land west of the Jordan. In Joshua 22:1-6, Joshua applauded them because they kept their word and fought with their brothers as they promised.
Joshua blessed them and sent them back to their own inheritance, land which was on the east side of the Jordan. One-half of the Tribe of Manasseh was also rewarded land on the East side of the Jordan along with the Reubenites and Gadites.
1 Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh,
2 And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you:
3 Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God.
4 And now the Lord your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side Jordan.
5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
6 So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away: and they went unto their tents.
A huge misunderstanding
And now comes the misunderstanding. When the Reubenites, Gadites and 1/2 tribe of Manasseh (I will call them the Trio for brevity) went back to the Eastside, they decided to build an altar. When their brothers on the Westside discovered that the altar was built they assumed that the Trio had backslidden and that they were planning to serve some god other than the true and living God. They were concerned that God would punish all of the Israelites for what they thought were the misdeeds of the Trio and the Westsiders were not about to allow that to happen. Joshua 22: 11-12 says they were actually preparing to go to war against their family members, the Trio.
Plans to start a war against their brothers
11 And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.
12 And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.
Fortunately for everyone involved, in verse 13, the Israelites decided to send Phineas the Priest and ten princes to talk to the Trio to determine what the altar was all about.
13 And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest,
14 And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one was an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel.
The reason the altar was built
Here’s why the altar was built by the Trio. The Eastsiders never intended to leave God. As a matter of fact, the altar was built as a unifying factor between the Eastsiders and the Westsiders. The Trio were concerned that as the Eastsider children grew up, the Westsider children might question whether the Eastsiders even had a part in God. They might think that God had placed the Jordan as a natural barrier between them, thereby causing the Eastsider children to cease fearing and following the Lord.
24 And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the Lord God of Israel?
25 For the Lord hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the Lord: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the Lord.
The Trio was just thinking ahead. They were making sure that their children would continue to serve God. The patterns on the Eastsider altar would assure that all who saw it would see that the Eastside altar was just like the Westside altar. The altar was simply to be a witness that they were all one family, serving the same True and Living God.
A war among family members was averted.
Phineas, et al. were pleased with the reasoning of the Trio and war was averted. There was simply a misunderstanding about the purpose of the Trio’s altar. Thank God that they had the common sense to talk it out before starting a war. The altar was named Ed by the Trio to honor God.
34 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God.
Practical application of the Lesson for us today
So, from that Old Testament story, we can see the importance of communication among family members. When there is a problem in the family, those members with a cooler head, wiser heart and a love for God should be chosen to intervene in the resolution of family issues. Disputes can be settled and families restored with something as simple as a little communication. It (whatever the It might be) might not be what everyone thinks. The family should just pray about it and talk it out. Kill pride and prayerfully and humbly assemble in love. And, if families will put God at the center of the discussion, it shall be well. May God bless you all.