Wednesday, May 09, 2012

120509 - Numbers 32 - Falling Short of the Promised Land

Wednesday SOAP: How many "reasonable," honorable and well-intentioned deals that we make with ourselves keep us outside God's will for our lives? In Numbers 32, such a deal is struck, without seeking counsel of the Lord, which results in apostasy. While it might be presumptuous of me to say I would have done better, I have the benefit of (and resultant responsibility) of seeing the ultimate outcome and learning from it. (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11)


S: But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them? Your fathers did this, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land.

(Numbers 32:6-8)

O: The tribes of Ruben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh asked, and ultimately received, permission from Moses to settle outside the Promised Land. Yet Moses is shocked at their request, and rightly so. Why did they make this request? Is the Lord really pleased? And how does it turn out for them?

A: In yesterday's SOAP, I was moved to consider whether we may step so badly out of God's will on impulse that we can be taken out of the game. I want to be appropriately zealous for God's glory, power and wisdom, but also maintain appropriate fear of the LORD and skepticism about the depravity of human beings.

Today, we have a situation which isn't an impulse, but a carefully considered decision. I would argue that it's a decision that is against God's revealed will. It involves Moses and two and a half of Israel's tribes, and it has far-reaching effects.

Here a deal is brokered, and it seems honorable on human terms. But Moses does not seek counsel of the LORD. (See Joshua 9:14) Ultimately their sad outcome is summarized in 1 Chronicles 5:23-26

The members of the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land. They were very numerous from Bashan to Baal-hermon, Senir, and Mount Hermon. These were the heads of their fathers' houses: Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah, and Jahdiel, mighty warriors, famous men, heads of their fathers' houses. But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.

There's a rich lesson to be learned here, I think. We're very good at rationalizing things so that the outcome is comfortable. Even to the point of fooling ourselves. Symbolically, these tribes were distracted from God's promise by the need to secure their earthly possessions, and failed to enter into the Promised Land as a result. Initially, they may have remained faithful to their deal. But this footnote to their story proves that Moses was prophetic when he said:

"...be sure your sin will find you out." (Numbers 32:23)

What good were the lush pasturelands to the children of Ruben, Gad and Manasseh if they lost their souls? (Matthew 16:26)

P: Lord, I am so good at finding reasons to be comfortable in this earth, which is not my home. Please keep me, and my children, from being brought under the power of things lawful but not expedient for me.

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