GOING FAR TOGETHER
Almighty God, challenge me with what I read in your Word today. Through it, direct me to do what will glorify you.
Read NUMBERS 32
The Transjordan Tribes
32 The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. 2 So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon— 4 the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. 5 If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”
6 Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, “Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? 7 Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them? 8 This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to look over the land. 9 After they went up to the Valley of Eshkol and viewed the land, they discouraged the Israelites from entering the land the Lord had given them. 10 The Lord’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath: 11 ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— 12 not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ 13 The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.
14 “And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel. 15 If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the wilderness, and you will be the cause of their destruction.”
16 Then they came up to him and said, “We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children. 17 But we will arm ourselves for battle[a] and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until each of the Israelites has received their inheritance. 19 We will not receive any inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan, because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan.”
20 Then Moses said to them, “If you will do this—if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for battle 21 and if all of you who are armed cross over the Jordan before the Lord until he has driven his enemies out before him— 22 then when the land is subdued before the Lord, you may return and be free from your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. And this land will be your possession before the Lord.
23 “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. 24 Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.”
25 The Gadites and Reubenites said to Moses, “We your servants will do as our lord commands. 26 Our children and wives, our flocks and herds will remain here in the cities of Gilead. 27 But your servants, every man who is armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the Lord, just as our lord says.”
28 Then Moses gave orders about them to Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun and to the family heads of the Israelite tribes. 29 He said to them, “If the Gadites and Reubenites, every man armed for battle, cross over the Jordan with you before the Lord, then when the land is subdued before you, you must give them the land of Gilead as their possession. 30 But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must accept their possession with you in Canaan.”
31 The Gadites and Reubenites answered, “Your servants will do what the Lord has said. 32 We will cross over before the Lord into Canaan armed, but the property we inherit will be on this side of the Jordan.”
33 Then Moses gave to the Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan—the whole land with its cities and the territory around them.
34 The Gadites built up Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 35 Atroth Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, 36 Beth Nimrah and Beth Haran as fortified cities, and built pens for their flocks. 37 And the Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh and Kiriathaim, 38 as well as Nebo and Baal Meon (these names were changed) and Sibmah. They gave names to the cities they rebuilt.
39 The descendants of Makir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, captured it and drove out the Amorites who were there. 40 So Moses gave Gilead to the Makirites, the descendants of Manasseh, and they settled there. 41 Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, captured their settlements and called them Havvoth Jair.[b] 42 And Nobah captured Kenath and its surrounding settlements and called it Nobah after himself.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’1
The declaration ‘God saw that it was good’2 punctuates the creation narrative. From the very beginning, God desires good for us and defines what’s truly good. When Adam and Eve made choices based on what they ‘saw’3 rather than on what God had said, things started going downhill, not just for themselves but for everyone.
When two of the tribes ‘saw’ that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were favorable for their livestock, they sought to stay there (vs 1–5). However, although business prospects were good, they failed to factor in God’s desire that ‘every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors.’4 In their haste to grab what seemed good for themselves, the Reubenites and Gadites lost sight of God’s promise of a good land and also ignored the common good. Moses confronts their inward-focused selfishness with hard-hitting questions (vs 6,7), the hard lessons of their history (vs 8–13), and a harshly worded warning (vs 14,15). The repeated references to ‘Israelites’ emphasize community over individual identity and call them back to their responsibilities. ‘No man is an island’, and so even inaction by these two tribes had the power to sow discouragement among their fellow Israelites that could ultimately reap defeat for all Israel.
Moses’ timely rebuke halts the downhill slide and ensures that history is not repeated. The African proverb says: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ The two tribes not only agree to fight alongside their fellow-Israelites but pledge to serve on the front lines (v 17) and to remain there until ‘all the Israelites have received their inheritance’ (v 18, TNIV). The battle to conquer self-interest was fought before the battle to possess the land.
Christ wants his church to be ‘built up until we all reach unity in the faith … and become mature.’5 How do you contribute to the growth of fellow believers?
Loving and faithful God, regardless of the cost, help me to go where you want me to go, to do what you want me to do, and to say what you want me to say. Your way is always right.
1 John Donne, The Major Works, OUP, 2009, p344 2 Gen 1:10,12:18,21,25 3 Gen 3:6 4 Num 36:7–9, italics added 5 Eph 4:12,13, italics added
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