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 at one time close and loving is then ravaged with either bitter and angry silence, dissension and/or angry debate. God loves the family and He wants it restored to a loving and peaceful relationship.
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 caused a major war among family members.
The Gadites, Reubenites and One-half tribe of Manasseh (which I will refer to as the Trio for brevity) request land East of the Jordan River
In Numbers 32:20 three groups of the Israelites, The Gadites, Reubenites and one half of the tribe of Manasseh, requested of Moses that their inheritance is given on the East side of the Jordan river. They were cattlemen and, although God promised the Israelites Land on the other side of the Jordan, they (the Trio) felt that the land east of Jordan would be best for them because of their cattle. After they firmly promised to help their brothers conquer the land on the other side of the Jordan, Moses granted them their request and blessed them.
The time came to possess the Promised Land on the other side of the Jordan.
Moses died in the 34th chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy and it was a 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 Trio also kept their word and helped their brothers conquer the land west of the Jordan. In Joshua 22:1-4 Joshua commended the trio because they kept their word and fought as they promised. Joshua blessed them and sent them back to their own inheritance, land which was on the east side of the Jordan.
22 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 Trio went back to their land they decided to build an altar. But when their brothers on the other side of the Jordan discovered that the altar was built their assumption was 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 “west-siders” 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. They never intended to leave God. As a matter of fact, the altar was built as a unifying factor between the East-of-Jordan Israelites with the West-of-Jordan Israelites. The Trio were concerned that as the East-of-Jordan children grew up, the West-of-Jordan children might question if they had a part in God. They might think that God had placed the Jordan as a natural barrier between them, thereby causing the East-of-Jordan children to cease to fear and follow 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 pattern of the altar would assure that all who saw it would say that this (east of Jordan) altar was just like the altar before God’s tabernacle (west of the Jordan). 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.