Ask Before You Assume (Joshua 22:10-34)

Earlier this week I got on my daughter’s case about taking a 30 minute shower. Clean water and the money to pay for it, both slipping out of my hands and into the drain of wasted resources to never return… ugh. I was perturbed enough about it that I literally went onto Amazon that same evening and ordered a waterproof timer/alarm to put in the kids’ bathroom.

“She’s taking too long because she’s either making up stories in her mind and trying to act them out, she’s performing a concert of songs that each require an encore performance, or she’s just straight up slow at taking showers,” I assumed.

These were the things running through my head as my wife and I both bolted up the stairs ready to make our daughter feel as bad as possible for all of the water she was wasting. Joking aside (about making her feel bad), these were the actual theories I had about why she was taking so long.

Assuming the worst about her simply being careless with water, we come to find out that she was having trouble getting the shampoo out of the bottle because the pump was broken. She was trying to do something good by fixing the pump, and she could’ve used our help instead of either of us rebuking her. But instead of first gathering the facts as to why her shower was taking so long, my mind had immediately jumped to the assumption that she was just being negligent and wasteful.

In Joshua chapter 22, Joshua calls the eastern tribes of the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to bless them for faithfully fulfilling their duties before sending them back home. But these tribes ended up doing something that didn’t sit well with the leaders of Israel:

“When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan and Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.” (Joshua 22:10-12)

Pinehas the priest, son of Eleazar, was sent with a delegation of ten chiefs, one from each of the tribes of Israel, to figure out what was going on and why they had built an altar for themselves.

“The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now?'” (Joshua 22:16)

Pinehas initially assumed the worst of their intent, and jumped to the conclusion that they had turned against the Lord and were setting up an altar for their own idols. But we find out on the contrary that the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had actually built the altar to pattern after the altar of the Lord, as a way to show their future generations that there was unity under the God of Israel between the tribes on both sides of the Jordan. In other words, their intent was upright and honorable to their nation and to the Lord.

Fortunately, Pinehas did a good job in leading the investigation. Instead of reacting by waging war as an act of God’s judgment on the abomination of idolatry, he asked, listened to their full story, and gathered all of the facts before making any rash decisions. He followed the command of the Lord to “inquire, probe, and investigate [the accusations] thoroughly” (Deut. 13:12-18) before attacking.

We would likewise do well to not react to anything without having all of the facts and knowing the full story from all sides first. I’ve seen this painfully unfold too many times at home, at work, and out of all places, at church; where assuming the worst about someone else’s intent, only leads to trouble accompanied by a side of harm, hurt, and heartache. Our goal should always be to communicate in transparency and in fullness, and to respond in love, grace, and mercy.

Israel was able to avoid civil war and bloodshed by being wise and patient to communicate, listen, and gather facts around the eastern tribes intent before reacting; and ultimately God was glorified and the whole nation was blessed by doing so:

“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.

And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us that the Lord is God.” (Joshua 22:33-34)

As for my daughter’s situation, my wife and I were also able to listen and learn our daughter’s intent, leading us to respond in love without further scolding her. It became a joy and blessing to fix the shampoo pump with her, while also providing some valuable coaching on how to address one problem while not simultaneously causing another (broken pump vs. running water). 😅

If we want to resolve conflicts the way the Lord calls us to, we must be willing to openly communicate, to not assume the worst about someone’s intentions, and to not jump to conclusions without having the full story.  In doing so, our actions will be a reflection of the Holy Spirit and heart of Christ within us.

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