Resolving Misunderstanding

Scripture Focus: Joshua 22.21-23
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.

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This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Resolving Misunderstanding
By Sylvester Ngonga

This chapter’s plotline is captivating and full of suspense. In the backdrop of a concluded military victory, the tribes to the east of river Jordan built a memorial altar even though they knew of Moses’ command to only offer sacrifices at the altar at Shiloh (Leviticus 17.8-9). Fears of betrayal motivate the tribes to the west to attack but not before sending a high-level inquiry delegation to allow the eastern tribes to explain their actions. Will this delicate misunderstanding escalate to a full-blown civil war, or will it be resolved?

Feeling isolated, the eastern tribes intended the altar as a symbol of unity. Unfortunately, the western tribes misinterpreted it as disloyalty. Today, we may not be separated from our brethren by the river Jordan but we are separated by divisive political and religious ideologies which breed fears of betrayal. These fears propel us often to the precipice of civil wars and religious conflicts.

In our isolation, the ever-lurking impulse is to build culturally compliant monuments to express our faith. The divisive nature of competing scriptural interpretations fuels misunderstandings in our perception of God and each other. The eastern tribes, when confronted to explain themselves, appealed to God confidently about their action. Can we do so? Have we simply built memorials or are they altars to the gods of our man-made ideologies?

The gospel should bind us together. Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, was offered up for us once and for all (2 Corinthians 5.21). In our reasonable service, all that is required is to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12.1). Sadly, many today want to hear God without listening to him. We want to worship God in any way that pleases us rather than in unity, spirit and truth (John 4.24). 

This truth of God’s word should help us confront and respond to each other lovingly about misunderstandings regarding God’s holiness. Whenever there is a misunderstanding, our first appeal should be to God, not popular opinion. Understanding our accuser’s perspective helps to shape our reaction.

Both sides were assuming the worst of each other. The eastern tribes assumed that they would be excluded and the rest of Israel assumed that they were rebellious. We must seek  clarification lovingly rather than impute evil motives on others. Our unity in diversity is a tapestry of beauty, and God is pleased when we dwell in harmony (Psalm 133.1)!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name for evermore. — Psalm 86.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Joshua 22 (Listen – 6:16)
Acts 2 (Listen – 6:35)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Read more about Good and Pleasant Unity?
In such a divisive and cynical time, words like “unity” raise eyebrows, hackles, and suspicion.

Too Much to Hold

Acts 2.24
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Reflection: Too Much to Hold
By John Tillman

Jesus is more than death can hold. It tried. Death can hold worlds, countries, and unnumbered masses. But Christ could not be contained or held back. It was his purpose to defeat death, the last enemy, and to bring forth in freedom death’s hostages, and restore back to us what the great monster has taken.

Death for the Christian is similar to death for Christ. It is painful. It is the worst of suffering imaginable. It is unjust. It is to be mourned. It is to be wept for.

But it is not permanent.

Even a “good death,” the kind we wish for because we would prefer not to face death’s reality, is an event of great sorrow and injustice. Death is not truly softened by its circumstances. He is still a thief, our enemy. But for the Christian, there is one who comes to reclaim and restore what is stolen. 

Too Much To Hold
In Adam, we are sold and chained
To sin and death were given
Our bodies made to walk with God
Betray us short of Heaven

More than victims of this crime
But perpetrators too
The sin of Adam in our line
We aptly join his queue

Sin is the sting of death’s attack
The poison in his bite
It paralyzes. Terrorized,
We sink beyond the light

Like Jonah sunk, beneath the earth
A dark and hopeless pit
Into that pit our savior slides
His mission: open it

Death’s jaws, snake-like, that swallow worlds
Cannot contain their maker
Christ is too sweet to see decay
The monster gets no supper

In Christ, we’re made to be like him
Too much for Death to hold
Grasped by him for a moment
But he cannot hold our souls

Defeated flesh will be restored
It will not stay enslaved
Transformed and made eternal
Not abandoned in the grave

Adam sold his kin to death
Creation gave over to sin
New Adam brings the children back
Eve’s seed, crushing death, freedom wins

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
For with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light. — Psalm 36.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 22 (Listen – 6:16)
Acts 2 (Listen – 6:35

Thank You!
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Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at

Read more about Stealing Death’s Sting
God is glorified through Christ’s sacrifice. Sin is defeated by his death, and death is defeated in his resurrection. Christ conquers sin, stealing death’s sting and the grave’s victory.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He sinks, He digs, He slides, Prostrates. Below our sin…Below Hell’s gates
And then he lifts…