A land flowing with milk and honey--that's what God promised His people while they wandered in the wilderness for decades. And just as they were on the cusp of crossing over into it, a contingency rose up and asked to stay in nearby cities east of the Jordan because they were beneficial for their flocks.
Instead of moving into their new Promised Land, they opted for ease and peace in the border land. What they saw was enough for them rather than the unknown goodness that God had assured.
God says step out of that comfort zone.
Self says: stay nice and safe.
God says: venture on in faith.
Self says: this looks good to me...think I'll camp out right here.
And they said, “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.” Numbers 32:5.
Members of the tribe of Reuben and Gab approached Moses to ask to stay put. Do not take across the Jordan they demanded. They preferred prized pasture land over the Promised Land.
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. For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the Lord had given them. Deuteronomy 32: 6-9.
The two tribes assured Moses that they intended to help the rest fight for the Promised Land, but then they would return to their wives, children and livestock in the cities just beyond the land God had given to them.
Instead of taking hold of what God had designed specifically for them, the tribes of Reuben and Gad decided that they knew best and instead opted for the land east of the Jordan River (the outskirts) of what rightfully belonged to them. Their personal comfort discouraged them from moving forward and threatened to dishearten the rest of the tribes.
Sounds absurd doesn't it? Who wouldn't want all that God has for them? While I berate these tribes in my mind while reading those verses, I recognize myself in them. Settling for good enough is easier than fighting for God's best. And sometimes we fight in prayer for what is ours, but then return to what looks fine for now. When we do this, we scoot God off of the throne and attempt to put the crown on as we navigate life with little foresight. God is sovereign. We are not. So we often make decisions with our finite understanding and miss out on the milk and honey of our promises.
It is interesting to note that the tribes of Reuben and Gad (along with the half tribe of Manasseh) were the first taken into captivity by the King of Assyria (1 Chronicles 5:26). They were the first ones to put down roots and the first ones to get the boot.
They desired the best of the land (remember Lot?) but didn't take into consideration that those pristine pastures were the most exposed to enemies. Our promised lands don't come cheap. They are going to cost us in prevailing prayer, in fighting with the sword of the Spirit and denying ourselves.
We may have to conquer the hard rocky terrain of a rough marriage with fasting. Praying for that prodigal child will include tears and prayer. Walking in faith towards God for the ministry call on our lives won't be a cake walk. But it will be worth it, if we stop letting self run the show and hand the reigns back over to God.
In what ways have you put self where God should be?