Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hasty Judgment (Joshua 22:15-20)

Joshua 22

King James Version (KJV)

15 And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying,
16 Thus saith the whole congregation of the Lord, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the Lord?
17 Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the Lord,
18 But that ye must turn away this day from following the Lord? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the Lord, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.
19 Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the Lord, wherein the Lord's tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the Lord, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the Lord our God.
20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

While the tribes of Israel rightfully sought to discuss the matter of the altar with their kinsmen before waging war with them, they still wrongfully assumed their guilt before giving them a hearing.

In civil matters, before judgement is made the accused should be given an opportunity to speak in his own defense (Deuteronomy 1:16, 17; Joshua 20:4; 1 Kings 3:16-28; Proverbs 18:17; John 7:51; Acts 7; 23:1-6; 24:10-21; 25:8-11; 26:1-26; cf. Deuteronomy 25:1). In this situation, the Israelites did in fact go on to allow their kinsmen to speak in their defense (which would clarify matters and show their innocence), but prior to this they judged their brethren prematurely.

In life, what is often the case is that things are not what they initially seem. And so "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17, ESV). How often do unnecessary wars and the punishment of the innocent occur because of a failure to carefully hear what the accused has to say in his defense? "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Proverbs 18:13).