Header Graphic
Devotions > Altar of Community

13 Jan 2012


Do you remember the altar built by the two and one half tribes that was really not an altar?   We find this account in the twenty second chapter of the Book of Joshua.    Joshua had given the two and one half tribes an honorable discharge and they headed back to the West side of the Jordan River where they had left their wives and children.   However, before they crossed over the Jordan River they built a large and impressive altar.  

When the East side tribes got word of this building project on their land they were very angry and decided that they should go to war against their brothers and annihilate them.  But in a moment of better judgment they decided to send Phinehas the priest along with clan leaders from each of the ten tribes to chastise their brothers for this serious transgression.  Listen to the accusation brought against these builders of another altar:   “If you rebel against the LORD today, He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow.” Those of the ten tribes were extremely angry and their anger had its roots in fear ….. fear of what God would do ….  since they knew something we have forgotten;  we are all in this together!

They knew from past experience when part of the Nation was disobedient, all the Nation would suffer.   They knew that even though these brothers were living on the other side of the river they were still a part of their family.   They knew that to build another altar was an abomination to God and the entire Nation would suffer from the unfaithful rebellion of a few.

We have forgotten that we are all in this together.   We live in a country and among a people who have a protracted perspective of independence.   Me first is our motto and perhaps me second and third as well.   We have come to believe by our ultra-independent perspective that my good is my good and my sin only effects me.    We have not only come to believe these cultural lies but have incorporated them deeply into our personal world view.  The truth however is God’s perspective; if we are in [ the body of Christ ] we are all in this battletogether.   We have believed the lie that we can be in relationship with God and other believers and select the responsibilities we desire and reject those we do not.   We want the relationship without most of the responsibility.

Even the two and one half tribes understood that they were all in this together, in fact the very reason for the “altar” was to provide a witness for future generations that even though they were living on the other side of the river, they were still a part of the family of God.   They were completely cogitate that truth over time tends to totter.    It was critical to them to insure that they were not written out of the family and the worship of the only God and Lord Jehovah.

If we fast forward to the New Testament, we see Jesus making some remarkable predictions regarding future judgment specifically targeted at specific cities.   Here, it seems, He has defined our view of oneness at least in some degree to clear-cut communities.

  Matthew 11:20-24 (AMP)
20 Then He began to censure and reproach the cities in which most of His mighty works had been performed, because they did not repent [and their hearts were not changed].
21 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes [and their hearts would have been changed].
22 I tell you [further], it shall be more endurable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
23 And you, Capernaum, are you to be lifted up to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades [the region of the dead]! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued until today.
24 But I tell you, it shall be more endurable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.

God is certainly the only judge and I confess to not possess an understanding of how precisely His judgment will play out, however it seems obvious from the passage above in some significant sense we are all in this together.     In our current Christian culture our focus and priorities seem to move out from us in this way.   First is me, then my family, then my close Christian friends, then my church.   Do we see our community as a unit where we are all in it together in the eyes of God?   Do we see our Christian brothers or sister churches in need as in any way our responsibility?

Is this important?   Since it is the essence of how we view our community; it has indescribable impact on how we pray.   For example how often do most believers pray specifically for their community schools and the teachers and administrators who have unutterable influence on the children of our community and their future?      How often and with what passion do you pray for other churches in your community, and pastors other than your own? 

Our government is not our savior.   Our government is not our provider.  Our government is not in the eyes of God designed to remove our responsibility to the widow and the poor and disadvantaged among us.  If we are to serve our God faithfully and fully we must think right, pray right and act right.   Will you pray for your local schools?  Will you pray for your community churches and their pastors?   Will you become the hands of Jesus for someone in need?   Will you pray for revival in your community?    We are really all in this together.   Are you all in? 

Jeff Williams