Someone among the children of Israel on the west side of the Jordan River noticed that the tribes on the east side had built an altar at the Jordan River frontier. They reported it to Phinehas the priest, who took representatives of all the tribes and arrayed in battle formation to go to war against them, presuming that they had built an altar separate from the rest of Israel in order to offer sacrifices. They approached Reuben, Gad and Mannaseh about this and asked if they were being idolatrous and offering sacrifices on their altar in opposition to the tradition of the nation. They responded by saying that this altar was not for sacrifices, but as a sign of the relationship and covenant between the western and eastern tribes, and a reminder to the eastern tribes to not cease to worship God. It was a witness between them. The saying pleased the priest, and war was averted. They named the altar, Witness.
Joshua, later, addressed Israel as an old man, recounting the powerful deliverance God had given them from the nations in Canaan. He admonished them to continue driving them out, and to refrain from worshipping their gods. He prohibited them allowing their children to intermarry with the heathens. He reminded them that they had power from God to chase a thousand with one man if they remain true to God. However, if they serve and worship false gods, that power will be gone, and the nations will become scourges and thorns to Israel. Joshua recognizes he is near death, and encourages the Israelites to serve God, warning of the anger of the Lord if they do not.
God had brought them from a mighty long way, delivering them from all their oppressors. God asked for faithfulness, just as He asks for faithfulness today. While we live in the covenant of grace acheived through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we still live in blessing when we live according to God’s plan, and we get in trouble when we depart from His plan. It is a simple system of blessing and cursing. There are things that God knows are bad for us. If we do those things in opposition to His instruction, then we will reap the results of our sin. If we live according to His plans, blessings follow. Let God guide you into the powerful blessings of obedience. Just like the title of the old television show, “Father Knows Best,” God knows what is best for us. Follow Him!