Photo credit: Toi Scott, Facebook
S (Scripture): Joshua 22:1 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh. 2 He said to them, “You obeyed everything that Moses the Lord’s servant commanded you. You have also obeyed me in everything that I have commanded you. 3 During these many years, you never once deserted your fellow Israelites. You faithfully obeyed the command of the Lord your God. 4 The Lord your God has now given rest to your fellow Israelites, exactly as he promised them. So turn around and go back home. Go to the land where you hold property, which Moses the Lord’s servant gave you on the other side of the Jordan…”
9 So the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh went back. They left the Israelites at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan. They went to the land of Gilead, to the land that they owned. They had settled there at the Lord’s command given by Moses. 10 They came to the districts of the Jordan that are in the land of Canaan. The people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, an altar that appeared to be immense. 11 Then the Israelites heard a report: “Look. The people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the far edge of the land of Canaan. It lies in the districts of the Jordan on the Israelite side!” 12 When the Israelites heard this, the entire Israelite community assembled at Shiloh to go up to war against them…
21 Then the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh answered the heads of the military units of Israel: 22 “The Lord is God of gods! The Lord is God of gods! He already knows, and now let Israel also know it! If we acted in rebellion or in disrespect against the Lord, don’t spare us today…
24 “No! The truth is we did this out of concern for what might happen. In the future your children might say to our children, ‘What have you got to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has set the Jordan as a border between us and you people of Reuben and Gad. You have no portion in the Lord!’ So your children might make our children stop worshipping the Lord. 26 As a result we said, ‘Let’s protect ourselves by building an altar. It isn’t to be for an entirely burned offering or for sacrifice.’ 27 But it is to be a witness between us and you and between our descendants after us. It witnesses that we too perform the service of the Lord in his presence through our entirely burned offerings, sacrifices, and well-being offerings. So in the future your children could never say to our children, ‘You have no portion in the Lord.’
O (Observation): What a bit of holy confusion! Talk about jumping the gun (almost literally)!
A very smart decision made by Gad and crew to build an altar, since the next few generations might forget they are worshipping the same God as their fellow Israelites.
The Jordan River separated them, so it makes sense that they (as a whole people) might start to veer down down deferent pathways over the next few generations. They would see one another over the holidays…but that might be about it!
As for the majority apart from Gad and crew…they could have been a little less hasty, but then, they did just get done wandering 40 years for a lack of faith in God that looked similar to this. So…thankfully, they agreed to allow the altar – a public display of remembrance.
A (Application): What will our children and grandchildren remember of us? They will see headlines and new stories reminding them of division and war and consumerism. Yes.
But we have a way to combat this: with real, live, personal experiences with REAL people (and not just talking points).
My family and I took part in some of the leadership of “Murfreesboro Loves: a community action against hate,” in October 2017. A group of white supremacists were coming into Murfreesboro to spread their message of the supremacy of the white race. This did not sit well with me or my family.
So, instead of trying to just read the news to see what happened, we took a step out to show that our town is one in which ALL belong, regardless of race, creed, or nationality. Hundreds rallied together in a separate place that day, to celebrate unity.
Part of our ongoing concern in Murfreesboro is the lack of awareness of the history of racism in our town and Rutherford County.
A monument resides on the town square of Murfreesboro. It depicts a sentiment of sympathy for fallen soldiers. (Erected in the early 1900’s.)
Now, we have the chance to erect a new monument, thanks in large part to the Equal Justice Initiative’s fundraising efforts to establish “A National Memorial for Peace and Justice,” in Montgomery, AL.
This April 2018 article states that the memorial: “…features more than 800 steel monuments that bear the names of lynching victims throughout the country. In its creation, organizers discovered the names of 4,400 black people who were lynched or died in racial killings between 1877 and 1950.”
Those monuments were created in duplicates: one to remain in the memorial, the other, to be brought home to the counties in which the lynchings took place.
So, what if we talk to people? What if we recognize the fallen soldiers and the fallen slaves? Both monuments at the county seat of Rutherford County? We’ve already got one for the soldiers. How about one for the slaves who were tortured and killed?
Perhaps then, when a family takes a stroll around the square, or we gather on the square for the next Farmer’s Market, we might see both statues and explain to our children and their children that while our history contains pride and atrocities, we seek a way forward that unites us, rather than divides us.
Let us erect this new monument, as a reminder of where we’ve been. Let us be reminded that TRUTH always comes before reconciliation. (Hat tip to Bryan Stevenson for that last sentence.)
Let us be reminded that we can seek unity in the midst of diversity. Let us remain hopeful.
P (Prayer): Lord, give us humility and strength. Amen.
Photo credit: Jennifer Edwards, Facebook