Numbers 32 The tribes of Reuben and Gad owned vast numbers of livestock. So when they saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were ideally suited for their flocks and herds, they came to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the other leaders of the community. They said, “Notice the towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sibmah, Nebo, and Beon. The Lord has conquered this whole area for the community of Israel, and it is ideally suited for all our livestock. If we have found favor with you, please let us have this land as our property instead of giving us land across the Jordan River.” “Do you intend to stay here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting?” Moses asked the men of Gad and Reuben. “Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them? Your ancestors did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land”… But they approached Moses and said, “We simply want to build pens for our livestock and fortified towns for our wives and children. Then we will arm ourselves and lead our fellow Israelites into battle until we have brought them safely to their land. Meanwhile, our families will stay in the fortified towns we build here, so they will be safe from any attacks by the local people. We will not return to our homes until all the people of Israel have received their portions of land. But we do not claim any of the land on the other side of the Jordan. We would rather live here on the east side and accept this as our grant of land”… So Moses gave orders to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders of the clans of Israel. He said, “The men of Gad and Reuben who are armed for battle must cross the Jordan with you to fight for the Lord. If they do, give them the land of Gilead as their property when the land is conquered. But if they refuse to arm themselves and cross over with you, then they must accept land with the rest of you in the land of Canaan”… So Moses assigned land to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph. He gave them the territory of King Sihon of the Amorites and the land of King Og of Bashan—the whole land with its cities and surrounding lands.
Is it not wonderful to see how the heads of the tribes of Reuben and Gad wanted to provide for their flocks and families first and yet keep to their commitment of seeing Israel established in the land of Canaan. Why then does Moses tell them off?
Without knowing the full story, it would be hard for us ‘couch historians’ to comment on what is right and wrong in this story. It seems honourable that the leaders of Reuben and Gad were considerate for their families who had travelled 40 years and were tired from road fatigue, homelessness and insecurity and therefore made this decision.
The issue was not their thoughtfulness but their forgetfulness of what they were brought out of slavery for. God promised their fathers and forefathers that although the Israelites would be enslaved, He would rescue them and establish them in their own land and this process was well underway.
God is faithful to His promises but we have no patience for God’s timing and would rather chose our own way rather than wait for the fulfillment of His plans. What was being proposed here by the tribes of Reuben and Gad was that they would disregard God’s plan for them and their families and they would use human wisdom to determine what was best for them.
They liked the lands the Israelites just conquered and because of the lust of their eyes decided that this was best for them rather than waiting some more until they conquered the land of Canaan. To God and to those onside with God’s plan, this is a clear disregard of God’s plan and such is the story of our lives today.
We pray for God’s intervention in our challenging situations and when God starts to help us out, we bail the moment we think the ‘coast is clear’ and we can take charge of things ourselves. Our stubborn streak is not just a hidden trait but a real problem we face because we are willing to trust ourselves before we can trust anyone else, even GOD!
I am reminded of how Lot chose the lands of Sodom and Gomorrah and in so doing was nearly destroyed. Moses’ warning to the tribes of Reuben and Gad applies to you and I today as we consider key decisions that need to be made in our lives. The challenges we face are tests of faith in whom we trust and how implicitly we can place our faith in what we trust.
Are you willing to sell your soul for a bowl of soup like Esau did or can you wait upon a faithful God to take you to the place of His choosing for His glory? God’s plans are perfect and a blessing to those who are a part of it and I pray that you and I are reminded of how key it is that we listen, obey and wait on Him.
In His Loving Service,