Key verse: Joshua 22
Key verse: There is victory in unity.
You have probably never heard a sermon on today's chapter. It is a little bit bizarre. It involves a misunderstanding, an altar that was never used, and a nation on the brink of Civil War. Recall that when Israel came into his land, they conquered the territory east of the Jordan River first. It was given to two and a half tribes, while the other nine and a half would inherit the land on the west side. The warriors of the eastern tribes did not get to enjoy their territory until the work of conquering the remaining land was finished. But as we look at chapter 22, Joshua will soon die and the work is nearly complete. Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manassah were released to go home. There was joy and camraderie: they had worked together as a unified nation and were now resting in the land God had given them.
Surely, they were tired. Surely, they had no more appetite for war. Surely, they had made friends across tribal lines and did not want to see each other hurt. But when the western tribes saw that the eastern tribes had built a large altar, they were ready to go to war. They loved their brothers in arms and they loved peace, but they loved God more. There would be no idolatry in their land, and they were willing to go to war if that is what was needed to tear the altar down.
But before acting rashly, they sent a delegation to talk. It is a model of biblical relationship: they were ready to have an uncomfortable confrontation and they were also willing to listen and be proven wrong. And they were! The eastern tribes explained that the altar they built was not for sacrifice: it was just a replica of the true altar, where God was worshipped as the tabernacle, to serve as a memorial to their kinship with the Israelites on the other side of the Jordan. They took the question with humility, and everyone went home in a unified peace. Victory without war: victory from a united desire to serve God together.
Discussion idea: Why were the people of the OT so quick to build memorials, such as this replica altar or the pile of stones at the Jordan River? What part should reminders of our past play in our lives?
Prayer focus: Lord, help me to be willing to confront sin, willing to listen, and most of all: willing to be corrected. Give me a teachable heart, ever being made more like Yours.
Key verse: Luke 24:27
Big Idea: The Son of Man fulfilled all of history when He conquered death.
There is a little girl in our church who can tell a story for a long time. A. Very. Long. Time. The problem is that the story has neither beginning, nor middle, nor end, nor point. Once you have made eye contact, your only hope is that she will become too worn out or distracted to continue. Kidding aside, it is cute when she does it (the ringlets help). Some adults who similarly tell stories are less so, but it is downright tragic that some people think history itself is such a jumbled mess. With Macbeth, they believe that the whole human experience is “a tale/told by an idiot/full of sound and fury/signifying nothing.” To many of our loved ones, life is either an endless cycle or meaningless chaos, but certainly not a story. The Bible presents a very different picture. Everything which has ever been lies in the hand of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God, who was bringing it all toward the moment when Jesus’ disciples found nothing.
This story has a beginning: God created the world in total perfection and gave it to humanity to govern and enjoy. It has a crisis, where the love of the Creator is rejected, and a rebellion commences. Then there is the climax! And what a finale it is. The Creator becomes a Man to endure the punishment that the rebels deserved, laying His life down and rising from the dead to serve as the bridge back to our Lord. Finally, the conclusion when the risen Savior ends the world’s suffering once and for all, restoring the paradise He always intended.
Like the first time you read or watch a mystery, there are undercurrents and hints you do not notice initially. But once you see them, it is clear that the whole story is working together in perfect harmony. When Jesus rose, He opened the Scriptures (Luke 24:27) and the minds of the disciples (Luke 24:25) so they could see how He was at the center of it all. Everything in the Old Testament - everything in the world - had been working toward that moment. All that was left was for them to respond.
What is true for the universe is true for our individual lives, too. You are not a random collection of events. The pagan philosopher Epictetus, writing in the early second century, had it better than Shakespeare: “Remember that you are an actor in a play, which is as the playwright wants it to be.” God has orchestrated the details of your life in a story that centers on Him. No suffering or pleasure is wasted; it is all according to plan.
Discussion Idea: What is your favorite Old Testament story? How does it point to Jesus?
Prayer Focus: Many in our world are grieving and trapped by fear. Pray for the comfort that only Jesus' life can provide. If you know someone grieving, mention them by name, and pray they will see that Jesus is still the climax of the story.
 Epictetus, Handbook, tr. Nicholas White (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), section 17, p. 16.