Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes -

Part XVI: Overcoming The Temptation To "Improve" On God's Program
(Joshua 22:1-34)
  1. Introduction
    1. Many innovative ideas on how to minister in the local church abound in today's Evangelical climate. The word is "creativity" and it is used to "meet contemporary needs". For example, one Christian Education class taught its Bible School students to give communion to children to motivate them to worship!
    2. Is God pleased with such creative changes, or should we be cautious about adopting them? WHY?!
    3. Joshua 22:1-34 offers us insight into answering this question.
  2. Overcoming The Temptation To "Improve" On God's Program, Joshua 22:1-34.
    1. God had arranged for Israel's unity to be built around the convocations of Israel's men every year.
      1. All of the men in Israel were supposed to convene in mass assembly to worship the Lord three times a year: they were to meet at the Feast of Passover (Ex. 23:15), the Feast of Firstfruits (Pentecost) (Ex. 23:16a) and the Feast of Tabernacles, Ex. 23:16b with 23:14,17.
      2. These convocations would solidify the nation's unity, Bible Knowledge Com., O.T., p. 367.
    2. However, the two and one-half transjordan tribes felt they needed to IMPROVE on this Biblical mandate so that the other tribes of Israel would not come to forget or exclude them.
      1. The two and one-half transjordan tribes were separated by a very formidable Jordan River Valley: though the river was just a stream at times, its valley was so hot that it discouraged travel there, and that tended to isolate those livi ng on the East Bank from those on the West Bank, Ibid., p. 365.
      2. Thus, while preparing to go across the Jordan to their isolated homeland, these two and one-half transjordan tribes built an altar beside the Jordan. They hoped that it would remind the other tribes to INCLUDE them though they were ac ross the river, Jos. 22:9 with 22:24-27.
    3. However, this move almost cost them a civil war, and it set a dangerous precedent for apostates to come:
      1. When these tribes built their altar, they did not explain it purpose to the other tribes, Jos. 22:9-11.
      2. Thus, the other tribes thought that they were going into apostasy by setting up a rival altar, 22:11-18!
      3. Fortunately, the two sides talked before fighting one another, and the two and one-half transjordan tribes were able to explain their good intentions to avert war, Jos. 22:21-27, 30-34.
      4. However, this new altar set a dangerous precedent for apostates who came later:
        1. Apostates tended to set up rival altars to compete against the single altar of the Lord, wherever the Lord's dwelling had been. John J. Davis, Conquest and Crisis, p. 87 reports: "When (Israel's) central sanctuary was abandoned as the true place of worship, the tribes then developed independent sanctuaries, thus alienating themselves from other tribes and weakening their military potential ." (Ibid., B.K.C., O.T., p. 367)
        2. Thus, apostates who came later found an atmosphere tolerant of new altars since this sanctioned, extrabiblical altar existed by the Jordan, cf. 1 Kings 12:25-30, Ibid.!
        3. In so doing, it was only a matter of time before the various tribes became disunited and error could creep into the groups as they were left to be "creative" on their own, cf. Judges 17-18.
Lesson: When we add to Scripture or modify it regarding the program that Scripture provides for group ministry, we manipulate what is already perfect to our own risk and inevitable harm, cf. Prov. 30:5-6; 2 Tim. 3:16-17! All of Scripture is comple te for all that an upright person needs at least until the Second Coming of Christ, cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-4:2. Let's follow it even on program format!

Application: (1) When Scripture makes no allowances for program change (as in giving communion ONLY to the spiritually fit, 1 Cor. 11:28-29), we MUST NOT modify the program (to give it to ignorant children), for then God's purpose for the original format is annulled (in this case, restricted use of the elements to escape divine discipline)! (2) We should not use OUR creativity as our ultimate guide on program change, but rely on GOD Who has perfect creativity to show us how the Biblical program is to apply to a specific need in a local assembly!