Today's Readings: Joshua 22 | Isaiah 28 | Hebrew 11
Reading 1 - Josh 22:29-33
When the tribes dwelling east of the Jordan River built their own, "outlaw" altar, it so incensed the other tribes that war seemed imminent. But when pressed on the matter, the eastern tribes offered an explanation:
" 'Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.' When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community -- the heads of the clans of the Israelites -- heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, 'Today we know that the LORD is with us, because you have not acted unfaithfully toward the LORD in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the LORD's hand.' Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived" (Josh 22:29-33).
"Even in the days of drastic and summary punishment the approved leaders of Israel were willing to accept explanations of matters they judged to be wrong. When the altar was set up by the two tribes beyond Jordan, the rest of Israel prepared to make war on the apparent infidelity. But they gladly accepted the explanation that the altar was only intended as a witness and was in no sense to be used for worship contrary to God's law. Was the building of this altar entirely justifiable or was it absolutely wrong and the explanation a subterfuge, or was it an act which could not be put in either extreme category? Unwise, indeed, in view of Israel's weakness, but a pardonable error in view of the explanations?
"We might not all agree in judgment on the matter even now, with all the advantage distance lends in freeing the mind from bias and prejudice. It is possible that some in Israel thought the explanation unsatisfactory and lame. They all agreed, however, not to make war on their brethren, and assuredly they were right in that" (Islip Collyer, "Principles and Proverbs").
Reading 2 - Isa 28:24-29
"When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil?" (Isa 28:24).
"The farmer does not go on ploughing every day. It is not a non-stop operation. He does not keep at it all the year round (Isa 57:16; Psa 103:9). Instead, the ploughing finished, he carefully levels and smooths the soil. Then comes sowing time. And according to each crop that he plans there is a different operation, some seed being sown broadcast, and some in drills and rows, some planted individually, and some as marginal catch-crop. And why does He go about things in these diverse ways?...." (HAW, "Isaiah" 291). [This is answered in the next verses.]
"When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cummin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a stick. Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever. Though he drives the wheels of his threshing cart over it, his horses do not grind it. All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom" (Isa 28:25-29).
"So also God does not always deal with the same individual (or nation) in the same way. Each man has his times when care, comfort, or encouragement are what are best for him. There are times also when hard discipline, rough tribulation and suffering are what he needs, but never wants... Even in this matter of discipline God knows better than to treat all men or nations alike. With consummate wisdom he handles each individual according to his need" (HAW, "Isaiah" 292).
Reading 3 - Heb 11:6
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Heb 11:6).
"Faith is honouring to God: and faith requires time for its exercise. God had made 'great and precious promises' to the fathers: and He tried them by not specifying time and causing them to wait long. 'And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise' (Heb 6:15). Let us not weary under a similar test: 'a patient continuance in well doing' is the revealed rule of our acceptance (Rom 2:7), and this means a long time of waiting with nothing to rely on but confidence in the pledged word of Yahweh, that is, faith, 'without which, it is impossible to please Him' (Heb 11:6). By such a process, we shall be prepared for a place among the tried sons of God, with whom we shall be enabled to say at the last, 'Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation' (Isa 25:9)" (Robert Roberts, "Ways of Providence" 35).