Scripture: Then they came near to him and said, “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place. And our little ones shall live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance.” Numbers 32:16-18 ESV
Observation: Having defeated the Midianites miraculously without losing lives and then dividing the spoils of war among the people with a portion dedicated to God, Israel now turns its sight on the Promised Land. But the fertile land of Jazer and Gilead in which they have encamped attracts the attention of the clan leaders of Reuben and Gad. So they approach Moses and Eleazar (the priest), requesting permission to settle in this land suitable for animal husbandry that adjoins the eastern border of the Jordan.
Moses initially pushes back, assuming they intend to shirk their responsibility in helping seize the territory extended from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, thereby invoking God’s wrath on all his people (vv.1-15). So they counteroffer to build fortified cities for their families and sheepfolds for their livestock while committing all their fighting men to engage in the conquest of Canaan and not return until the other tribes gain their land inheritance (above verses). Moses grants their request and assigns the boundaries of the conquered kingdoms of Sihon (Amorites) and Og (Bashan) to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (v.33).
Takeaway: It’s important to note that God also gifted the Transjordan as part of the conquest: chapter 34 delineates it as part of Israel’s inheritance. But as theologian Ronald Allen contends, this segment of the Promised Land represented the “fringe of the garment.” While it offered rich soil for grazing, it would also distance these two and a half tribes from the epicenter of worship and celebrations. Consequently, they would become the most vulnerable of the tribes to the influence of neighboring pagan nations. On a positive note, this next generation of clan leaders demonstrated wisdom and prudence in understanding the needs of their people and that of Israel as a whole. Thus, they navigated an initial “no” response with a win-win proposal.
The takeaway for us is similar. When encountering resistance from others regarding the aspirations God places on our hearts, we would do well to reflect patiently on the needs of all concerned and seek further direction from the Holy Spirit and the counsel of godly believers for an alternate plan that seeks a middle ground. Otherwise, if the middle ground proves an unacceptable compromise, we wait for the Lord to change hearts (which may include ours).
Secondly, when we seek to relocate, whether ministry or secular workforce opportunities, we need to investigate and consider how the new environment will impact our spiritual life and growth. Will we sacrifice a strong support network that has sustained us in our spiritual growth? Will we face new challenges that could erode our faith? Still, even if the answers are “yes,” this may be God’s will, but we need to march ahead with eyes wide open to the challenges and earnestly seek new means of support.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who considered the needs of all concerned in leaving his spiritual realm to dwell with us and die for us. And we thank you for his example of seeking your support throughout the journey. Would you please help us follow his example when making decisions about the next step, that we would consider the needs of all concerned and weigh the risks and future needs of the transition? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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