Posts Tagged ‘ways we teach our kids’

Joshua 22:10-34

The Eastern Tribes Build an Altar

What are your family religious traditions? A lot of mine revolve around Christmas and the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


The first family tradition was that, from as early as I can remember, my dad, a minister in the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, always held a Christmas Eve communion event at whatever church he was serving. It was always held between 11pm and midnight on Christmas Eve. It was not a formal service. It was just that the church was open for families to come take communion after all their family get-togethers on Christmas Eve. The church was always darkened and lit only by candlelight and if there was light on it was turned down very low. Families would come down to the altar and my dad would recite portions of the Methodist liturgy concerning communion over the family and then he would give them the bread saying a personal word over the family members as he presented the bread before them. He would then arise and take the wine and speak from the liturgy again. Again, he would then say a personal word over each family member as they took the wine and drank it. He would then speak a benediction over the family and they, then, would quietly exit the church. It was pretty cool I always thought. Because to me, the sanctuary was always of place of preaching and singing. But on this night it was quiet and somber and almost dark except for the low lighting. The low lighting had a symbolism to dad and he said that it represented that Jesus was the light of the world in a world of darkness and sin. As the evening ended, my mom, my brother and I would go over to the church and dad would administer communion to us, his family. It was always a cool moment, a family moment, a moment that reminded us that we were a family and our family business was the church. Those Christmas Eve communion moments reminded us how special our little family was. We traveled the state from town to town over the years as a pastor’s family. We knew we had Jesus and we had each other. Nothing made that more clear to me than those moments on Christmas Eve night when we had communion together.


The second tradition that has been part of my life is the one that I started in my own family. Sure, my family unit is not as traditional as my parents where they were married for 53 years when mom passed away. I have been married, divorced, remarried, divorced again, and now remarried again for 7 years. However, after my salvation in December 2001, the following years since then beginning with Christmas 2002, whatever my family unit looked like at the time, we have read the Christmas passages from the Isaiah and the Gospels. Even now, with no children at home on Christmas Eve as they are all grown, I read the passages concerning the prophecies of the Messiah’s birth in the Old Testament and the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. This is a family tradition that I hope to pass along to Ralyn, my granddaughter who will be one year old on July 25th. It is my prayer that both her parents and we as her paternal grandparents will raise her up right to see that Christmas is more than presents. We must teach her that the birth of Jesus Christ is a celebration of the Savior of the World breaking into human history and THAT is why we give each other gifts at Christmas, as Jesus is a gift to us that we did not earn or merit.


It is those family traditions that strengthen why we believe what we believe in Christ that are important ways that we pass down our faith through the generations. That is what I thought of this morning when I read through Joshua 22:10-34 where the eastern tribes wanted to plant down a reminder to all that both the eastern and western tribes worshiped the same, one and only God:


10 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. 11 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, 12 the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.


13 So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 14 With him they sent ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.


15 When they went to Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh—they said to them: 16 “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? 17 Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! 18 And are you now turning away from the Lord?


“‘If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. 19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things,[a] did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”


21 Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account.


24 “No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.


26 “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ 27 On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’


28 “And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the Lord’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’


29 “Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle.”


30 When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. 31 And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is with us, because you have not been unfaithful to the Lord in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s hand.”


32 Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. 33 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.


34 And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us—that the Lord is God.


Here in this passage, we see that the eastern tribes concerned that, without some visible sign of unity between the tribes on the two sides of the Jordan, future generations might see conflict between them. The altar, patterned after the altar of the Lord, was to remind these people that they all worship the same God. Often, we need to be reminded of the faith of our fathers, of generations past. What actions do you and I take to demonstrate to future generations of our family our reliance on God and remind them of what God has done in us? We must take time to establish family traditions that will help your children remember. What will be the legacy that we pass on to our children of our faith?


What is it that you pass on to your children about your faith? Do they even know you are a believer? Do they notice a difference in you because of your relationship with Jesus Christ? How are you passing on your faith to your children? It is an given fact that we as parents are the greatest influence on the relationship our children have with the Christian faith. If we are lackadaisical about our faith, it is a pretty sure bet that our kids will grow up the same way. If we keep our faith in a box on a shelf and pull it down on Sundays only or on holidays only, what message does that send to your children. We must live out our faith in front of our children. Not hide it. We must actively engage our children about our faith and not say that they will pick it up through osmosis. We must establish traditions when they are young to remind them that we love and obey our Father in heaven. Kids love structure and routine so if we establish traditions for them when they are young, it provides opportunities to share our faith. Doing Bible devotionals at the dinner table is one way and there are a myriad of other ways to establish that faith is the central core of our families. It is our responsibilities as parents. Nobody else is going to do it for us!


Amen and Amen.