Have you ever heard a juicy piece of gossip? One that didn’t sound like gossip, but like the truth? Then you jumped to conclusions about this truth and the person(s) involved. You were ready to march up to the person(s) and confront them.
Maybe you haven’t, but I know I have. This also happened to the Israelites in the book of Joshua. I learned a great lesson from them and the way the leaders handled the upcoming confrontation and the Israelites’ anger.
The whole book of Joshua is the story of the Israelites coming into their promised land. They defeat their enemies. They make some mistakes. They divide the land and are dismissed from fighting to inhabit their areas of the country.
In the opening chapters, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh wanted to remain on the far side of the Jordan River. Joshua agreed as long as they would cross over first and help their brothers conquer the land. Once that was done, they could return over the Jordan and inhabit their cities and tend their herds and crops.
In Joshua 22, Joshua releases these men, thanks them for their help, and cautions them to remain true to the Lord their God. They go back over the Jordan and all should be well.
However, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half-tribe of Manasseh are so thankful to God, they build an altar as a reminder of His goodness. A “great, impressive altar” as stated in Joshua 22:10.
That’s where the trouble starts because “someone” (vs 11) sees that altar, which is on the Israelites side of the river, and runs to report to the Israelites. I found it interesting that the person is not named, meaning this is gossip passed along, and no one knows who started the rumor.
The reaction is intense. All the rest of the Israelites gather to go to war against their brothers. To war. Over a piece of gossip. Has this ever happened? You bet.
The good news is that even though the men were armed and ready to fight, they decided to have a chat first. Let’s look at their chat and think how we can apply these principles to our lives.
C – Confirm: The first step they did was to confirm the validity of the rumor. They didn’t search out the person who started the gossip. Instead, they chose Phinehas, their spiritual leader, and a leader from each of the tribes on the Israelite side of the Jordan, to approach the children of Reuben, the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Granted, these leaders were a little upset, but they took the time to listen and find out why the two and a half tribes built this fancy altar. Joshua 22:13-20 We could take note and remember to check with the source and not trust to gossip or rumor.
H—Hope: I Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV), says love, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Even when they believed the worst about their fellow Israelites, Phinehas and the leaders held out hope. They were willing to meet and to see if they were wrong about their suspicions. They didn’t immediately start a war. Oh, how often we would avoid conflict if we looked at others through the eyes of hope. If we carried that seed of love in our hearts and extended grace to the one we believed had done wrong.
A—Approachable: Even though they were confronted with having committed “treachery” the two and a half tribes were still willing to be heard. They didn’t take offense, but listened and presented their case. In fact, they were horrified that someone might think they were doing wrong against God. Joshua 22:22 (NKJV) says they replied, “The Lord God of gods…He knows, and let Israel itself know—if it is in rebellion, or if in treachery against the Lord, do not save us this day.” Wow, they were serious. They were willing to die if they had been in the wrong against God. That is some serious humility we can learn from if someone questions our actions, even if they are accusing us of something we haven’t done.
T—Talk: The leaders talked with the tribes in question. They listened to what Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh had to say about building this altar. And, they realized the gossip they heard had been a supposition of wrong, not an actual fact. Joshua 22:30 (NKJV) says, “Now when Phinehas the priest and the rulers of the congregation, the heads of the divisions of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the children of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them.” The willingness to talk and listen to one another saved them from needless war and bloodshed.
I like to believe these men approached this situation with plenty of prayer. For me, prayer is key any time gossip and word of mouth brings about conflict or a strong emotional response. I pray that I will be open to C.H.A.T. instead of allowing anger or hurt to rule the day. Perhaps, that upsetting news isn’t truth at all but only a misunderstanding.
Instead of preparing for conflict, let’s C.H.A.T.