A few years ago I was touring an American Air Force base where they have housed nuclear missiles and B-52 bombers for many years. Along the way, the briefing officer told me something that made me very happy that the Cold War between us and the Soviet Union is history. Because it turns out that the Cold War almost got a whole lot hotter. My host told me about a couple of instances during the 1970s when our planes thought the U.S. was about to be under nuclear attack. In one case, the tracking seemed to prove that, so our pilots scrambled into their bombers, armed with nuclear weapons, and took off to retaliate against the Soviet Union. Obviously, that never happened, but the planes were actually in the air. The problem was in a little computer chip that had created an error in communications. It's pretty scary. There could have been bombs dropped, based on erroneous information.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Premature Bombs."
Thank God, the nuclear bombs have never been used. But my concern today is on a far more personal scale - verbal bombs - we all too often drop on people and on their reputations. Those bombs have been used, way to much. And sometimes we're bombing even before we have all the information. If we did, we might very well call back the bombs.
That's what happened with God's ancient people back in our word for today from the Word of God, Joshua 22. The bombers were in the air. The Jews were beginning to settle into the Promised Land, with most of the 12 tribes of Israel settling west of the Jordan River, as in West Bank that we hear so much about today. But 2 ½ tribes had been given their share of land on the east side of the river. Before long, the east-siders had built an altar on their side. Now the official altar for the Jews was on the west side. And all those tribes thought this was an act of rebellion against God.
Begin with verse 11: "When the Israelites heard that they had built an altar on the border of Canaan...the whole assembly of Israel gathered...to go to war against them." In verse 16, they asked the altar-builders, "How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against Him now?"
The east-siders responded that this was not rebellion, it was a precaution in case there ever came a day when the west-siders would exclude them from worshipping at the real altar. An act of devotion had been misinterpreted as an act of rebellion. It's a good thing they talked before the bombs flew! Here's how close they came - verse 33: "They talked no more about going to war against them to devastate" their country. Like those planes that were ready to bomb because they had the wrong information, devastating results were narrowly avoided.
There's an important lesson for us in both the ancient and modern examples of bombs that were almost dropped prematurely. If you're going to criticize or attack someone, will you talk with them first? Have you taken time to ask them why they're doing what they're doing, understand their reasons, or do you just start dropping bombs? Have you heard their heart first? You may be totally misinterpreting their motives, their actions! At home, at church, at work - we tend to shoot first and ask questions later. That single mistake has destroyed marriages, parent-child relationships, churches, ministries, friendships. And it doesn't have to be.
Oswald Chambers, the author of "My Utmost for His Highest," said that one of his personal rules was, "I refuse to criticize." Then he would quote 1 Corinthians 4:5 - "Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes...He will expose the motives of men's hearts."
There are so many craters, so many wounded people where someone has dropped a bomb that never should have been dropped. A disaster can be averted when we check our information before the bombers are in the air.