“The LORD was furious with Israel and made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the whole generation that sinned against him had died. But here you are, a brood of sinners, doing exactly the same thing! You are making the LORD even angrier with Israel. If you turn away from him like this and he abandons them again in the wilderness, you will be responsible for destroying this entire nation!” - Numbers 32:13-15
There comes a time in life when we are called to “fish or cut bait,” when we are required to “put up or shut up.” Such a time had arrived for God’s wilderness-weary people. With their wilderness wanderings at last behind them, the children of Israel were rapidly approaching the time when they would enter the Promised Land. The time had come to show that they believed God and were committed to his purposes. They would cross the Jordan, overcome the inhabitants, and divide up the land as it was apportioned to them. Then they would receive their inheritance. This was no time for vacillation or spinelessness. It was time for wholehearted commitment!
We can, therefore, understand Moses’ disappointment and disgust when the tribes of Reuben and Gad asked if they might be allowed to settle east of Jordan, since they preferred the land there to the land that lay on the other side. Moses’ reaction was violent! He raged at them for their apparent lack of commitment; he paralleled their attitude to that of the previous generation, which had chosen not to cross the Jordan, thus resulting in forty years in the wilderness; and he accused them of destroying the morale of the people and jeopardizing the whole venture. Then he pointedly remarked that, of the whole previous generation, only Joshua and Caleb would enter the land, because “they have wholeheartedly followed the Lord” (32:12).
After Moses had cooled off a little, the delegation was able to assure him that they were not opting out of their responsibilities to the rest of the people. They would fulfill all their military obligations and only then return to their homes. So Moses granted them their request on this basis.
Moses was surely right in recognizing the potential dangers inherent in halfheartedness. He knew that divided loyalties make for halfhearted commitments, which in turn produce shallow convictions and eventually can lead to compromise and defeat. They were entering an era when men made of sterner material were needed.
Our days are similar, and our needs are the same. This is the time for modern-day Calebs and Joshuas to step forward and show the way to the wavering, to strengthen the knees of the feeble, and to lead the uncertain away from the broad paths of compromise into the narrow lanes of commitment. This is the time for wholehearted commitment.
For Further Study: Numbers 32:1-42
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