Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Satisfied With What You Got?

The 32nd chapter of the Old Testament Book of Numbers reveals an interesting study of Human nature. We see two tribes of Israel, (the people of Reuben and Gad) who longed to settle down in a comfortable land, before the job was complete. We see the stern counsel of their leader, and the challenge he placed before them. And we see that they eventually did the right thing.

The descendants of the patriarch, Israel (formerly known as Jacob) were coming to a critical place in their forty year journey from slavery in Egypt to the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants – forever. The multitude of refugees were on the east side of the Jordan River knowing that they were next scheduled to cross the river and go in and occupy the land. The problem arose when they recognized that the land of Gilead was a lush, well watered place that was very hospitable to herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. These folks possessed livestock, and were naturally drawn to the verdant fields.

The leaders of the tribes came to their leader, Moses, and told him that the land was good for livestock, and they had lots of livestock. Their request was a simple one. “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession. Do not take us across the Jordan.” It made sense to them at the time, and many of us would have probably felt the same. Basically they were satisfied with what they had.

Moses’ answer was short and to the point. “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.” He likened their request to the paralysis of faith by the previous generation of Israelites nearly 40 years earlier.

Wow! Probably not what they expected to hear.

Moses instructed them that the exodus would not be complete until the children of Israel had crossed the Jordan, and subdued the entire land that God had promised their ancestors. There were still battles to fight… still cities to conquer… still much territory to possess. Moses knew that the task was great before them, and that all the fighting men of Israel would be needed to finish the job.

He bristled at the request of the Rubenites and Gadites to settle down now, while there were still battles to be fought. Should he allow them to bail out before the work was complete, it would be nothing short of sin on their part. “So Moses said to them, “If you will do this, if you will take up arms to go before the Lord for the war, and every armed man of you will pass over the Jordan before the Lord, until he has driven out his enemies from before him and the land is subdued before the Lord; then after that you shall return and be free of obligation to the Lord and to Israel, and this land shall be your possession before the Lord. But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.” (vs. 20-23)

The people of the two tribes agreed that they would build folds and corrals for their livestock and leave their families behind in Gilead, and accompany the other ten tribes across Jordan and fight alongside them until the land was subdued. Then they would be allowed to return to their families and farms on the east side of the river if that is what they chose to do.

I’m sure you know the rest of the story!

Did you ever feel that way in the work of the Lord? Ever feel satisfied with what you’ve got right now? Ever feel that you have really done all you care to do in the work, and want to settle down before the task is complete?

Others seem willing and able to go ahead with the fight and complete the work, but you would just like to forget about that and enjoy the blessings - oblivious to the fact that you are needed in the fight.

Don’t let the other church members shoulder the load alone.

Put on the armor. Leave the comfort zone. Take up the sword and march side by side with your brothers into the fight. You’re needed – more than you know. As Moses told those folks of old, “…if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.”

You can settle down to rest when the job is done, but for now, it is not over! God has some great things in store for His people, but He needs them all on board to complete the job. Let’s get busy. There is something you can do. God has gifted you to be an integral part of the force. Find your place, and let’s get to work!

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