Way back in Deuteronomy 3 it’s recorded that Moses gave the Reubenites, Gadites & the half-tribe of Manasseh the inheritance they had asked for East of the Jordan river on condition that they would help the other tribes to take possession of the Promised Land.
Now in Joshua 22, these tribes go to Joshua and request that since they have upheld their part of the agreement, they ask Joshua to allow them to go and take possession the land allotted to them East of the Jordan river.
In vs10 of chapter 22 we learn that on returning to this land God had given them, they built a large altar. This action enraged all the other tribes and caused them to gather the whole army of Israel to make war against them. They felt that this was idolatry, worshipping in a wrong way, worshipping false God’s even and so jumped into action to stop them!
The crux of the matter is expressed in vs16-18. The rest of Israel felt this was a breach of the covenant with God (vs16), a turning away from God (vs18) and a rebellion that would cause God’s wrath to burn against the whole people of Israel (vs18).
In vs21 the 2.5 Eastern tribes speak and essentially say; “No, no. no….that’s not it, you’ve not understood our motives!” I paraphrase but they go on essentially saying; “We serve God alone, there is no rebellion here, we did this so that our children would know our heritage, know that although this river divides us we are one people, God’s people!”
Phineas the priest and the leadership of Israel are appeased, they saw their motive and believed the what they had heard and the crisis was averted.
One moment they were sure this was blasphemy and ready to strike them down, the next they now see these actions as worship and there is peace and harmony.
It is all too easy to see someone else’s actions and assume their heart motives.
It is almost impossible to turn off as we are all “meaning makers” but it can get us to totally misread a situation, a person or a group thinking if we assume we know what the heart motives are/have been.
Praise God that in Joshua 22 they spoke before they fought in battle! Otherwise the outcome might have been so different. Let’s learn from this and be slow to attribute to others what we assume their motives are when we see something perplexing, let’s rather ask, let’s invest in our relationships to check what the motives are and let’s believe one another when we share our intentions/motives.