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Numbers 32:1, 58, 1618, 2024; 33:5153comment (0)

January 5, 2012

By Dale Younce

Related Scripture: Numbers 32:1, 58, 1618, 2024; 33:5153

Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Numbers 32:1, 5–8, 16–18, 20–24; 33:51–53

Looking out for No. 1 is, too often, the motto of today’s adults. Even today’s churches can lag behind in meaningful fellowship because members lose their focus on what God wants them to be and do collectively. Personal goals and plans are not necessarily wrong, but believers need to avoid losing their primary focus on fulfilling God’s purposes.  

This week’s lesson spotlights, on one hand, two Israelite tribes’ request that they settle east of the Jordan River (the territory known as Transjordan) and, on the other, Moses’ demand that they first join the other tribes in taking possession of the promised land.

It’s Not About Just Me and Mine (32:1, 5–8)
The tribes of Reuben and Gad were herdsmen who were especially blessed with large herds of livestock. When they saw that the territory in Transjordan was good for grazing livestock, they requested from Moses permission to settle there. Later half the tribe of Manasseh would join them (Num. 32:33). The territory requested, however, lay outside the borders of the land God expected Israel to conquer (Num. 34:1–12).

Moses feared that the proposal of the Reubenites and Gadites would have a negative effect on the other tribes so that they would not proceed to conquer the land west of the Jordan. This would destroy the 12 tribes’ unity and result in the kind of debacle they had experienced at Kadesh (Num. 14:1–10): failure. Moses warned against discouraging the people.  

This is an excellent example for God’s people today. We can stay aligned with God’s purposes by resisting the temptation to do only what’s good for ourselves, especially when such actions contribute to discouraging others from following the Lord.

It’s About Helping Others, Too (32:16–18)
The tribal leaders of Reuben and Gad assured Moses that they would be at the forefront of helping all the tribes take possession of their allotted lands. They carefully explained that they were willing and ready to enter the land and fight alongside their fellow Israelites until the entire promised land was conquered. Their fighting men would lead the invasion force and not return to Transjordan until the promised land was won. Only after the other tribes had gained their territory would these two tribes (and the half tribe of Manasseh) return to Transjordan to settle down. They wanted it clearly understood that they would join with the other tribes in crossing the Jordan and conquering the Canaanites.

We demonstrate that our focus is on fulfilling God’s purposes when we thoughtfully and wisely take steps to help others know and follow His purposes, too.

It’s About Fulfilling an Obligation (32:20–24)
Moses acknowledged their promise and added a warning. If the Reubenites and the Gadites failed to keep their promise of participating in possessing the promised land, then they would be sinning against God. That sin would be the failure to keep their vow and their unwillingness to assist in the task that God had called them to do. If they did what they promised, then they would fulfill their obligation to the Lord. Moses’ words “Your sins will find you out” mean that God always knows if His people are faithful or not.

Under our heavenly Father’s watchful eye, we show a deep sense of spiritual obligation when we commit to fulfilling God’s purposes above our own wants and plans.

It’s About Living As God’s People (33:51–53)   
These verses are the Lord’s words to Moses, a summary of their journey from Egypt to Canaan. The Lord instructed the Israelites to enter and take possession of the land, driving out the current inhabitants and destroying all their shrines and idols with a view to settling down in the land.

We can stay focused on fulfilling God’s purposes by worshiping only Him and working to make Him known wherever we live.

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