“Therefore we said, ‘Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering nor for sacrifice, but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your descendants may not say to our descendants in time to come, “You have no part in the Lord.” ’”
The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh chose to separate from the rest of Israel and live east of the Jordan River. Although the Jordan is not a large river, and crossing it during the dry season would not be a difficult endeavor, this division would prove to be very costly. It is clear from the event recorded in Joshua 22, the effects of this separation were felt immediately. Once they returned to their land, they attempted to create a connection with the rest of Israel by erecting an altar that resembled the one in Shiloh. In their minds, this would keep them connected to Israel, even when the Jordan separated them. Their actions were considered to be idolatrous by the other tribes, who pleaded with them, that rather than building an altar, why not cross the Jordan and join the nation. A religious symbol is not the solution for a wandering heart.
Idolatry is strictly forbidden by the Lord, because erecting an image gives us a false sense of the presence of God. When we begin to drift from Jesus, we do not need to get a larger bible or wear a religious symbol around our necks. What we need is to get back to spending time with the Lord in the pages of His word, and putting what we read into practice. Jesus explained that the secret to success for the Christian is to abide in Christ. He said, just as a branch derives its life from being connected to the tree, so the Christian will have a constant source of life, when he remains connected to Him (John 15:5).
It is important we do not let anything, no matter how small it may seem, create separation between us and the Lord. A little bit of compromise can have a large impact on our relationship with God.