We discover in Joshua 22 a potential internal conflict between the main body of the Israelites and the 2 ½ tribes that were permitted to break off and go their own way. As those people left, they had the foresight to build an altar to God at the place where they would cross Jordan. They even named the altar Ed.
When the Israelites heard of this construction, they were extremely concerned so much that they were prepared to do battle with her own kinsman. However, they inquired of the smaller group for the reason to construct this altar.
The reason they gave in building the altar was for it to be a witness between the two groups of people for the future. It was to confirm that even though the smaller group was on the other side of Jordan, they were still part of the main body in spirit. They did not want the children of the future to say to their children of the future that they had no part among themselves.
This admirable effort was also to confirm as a witness that the Lord was their God, too. This effort presents a lesson to us. There is great danger in making assumptions.
Immediately they assumed that the smaller group chose to become unfaithful to the nation and to God. On the contrary, it was their intent to keep their promises and to be faithful to the nation and to God. There was a mighty contrast between the assumptions and the facts! Had the building of the altar not been confirmed for its purpose, there would have been all out war between the two groups of God’s people.
The smaller group had good intentions all along, but their effort appeared as a contradiction for their purpose. Probably it never entered their minds that their activity would be misconstrued into something negative and sinful. They just built the altar as a witness between the two groups and were satisfied with their intentions.
However, the main body of Israel did not take into consideration their good intentions were the reason for the building of the altar. They immediately thought bad of their brothers. It is a curiosity to me that so often we are willing to think bad of people first.
It was an automatic assumption to think ill of the smaller group. They did not approach them out of curiosity. They did not give them the benefit of the doubt. They were prepared to go to such great links as to kill their own kind. It is not a mystery for how so much damage has been done in relationships simply because someone jumped to the wrong conclusion.
The Israelites were ready to hurt and kill the smaller body. Many people for many wrong reasons have suffered because others seemed eager to hurt their reputation, their position, and their efforts. At first thought, it did not matter that this altar was a powerful witness of unity among the people. Sometimes this eagerness can bring hurt that cannot be repaired . Sometimes it can create damage so great that both parties are not bringing glory to God. Sometimes the subject of the matter is more about self than service.
When you are tempted to make assumptions without all the facts, keep this Scripture example in mind. Tread lightly until you find out all the information and give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Let kindness rule until you are certain that you must act against another should they have bad intentions. Even if they have bad intentions, direct conversation can shed light on what needs to be done to bring healing in the relationship. Make sure that you are guided by God and not by your assumptions.