Now the people of Reuben and the people of Gad had a very great number of livestock. And they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, and behold, the place was a place for livestock. So the people of Gad and the people of Reuben came and said to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the chiefs of the congregation, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, the land that the Lord struck down before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” 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 32:1-5, ESV
In the chapters before today’s passage, God commanded Moses to lead the people in battle against the Midianites. Moses obeyed and the people won a great victory. In chapter 32 we read of how, looking at the land they had just conquered, the tribes of Reuben and Gad see an opportunity. This land is good enough for them and their livestock. Maybe they can stay here and not bother with the whole Promised Land conquering thing.
In what follows, Moses rebukes these two tribes, comparing their desire to stay behind to the bad report of the spies who were afraid to enter the Promised Land. Reuben and Gad then propose to settle their families in this newly conquered land east of the Jordan but first send their troops to assist their fellow Israelites in conquering the Promised Land. They would have the land they desired, but only after fulfilling their commitment to the plan of God for His people.
The mindset of Rueben and Gad is a temptation for all of us. Here, on this side of the river, short of our eternal Promised Land, we see much that is good, much that lures us to linger where we are and enjoy. I believe God’s response to our desire would be much like His answer to the two tribes—something like, “You are indeed welcome to enjoy the blessings that come from living in the here and now, enjoying the victories I have given you in this life, but you must first commit to My plan for My people.”
God’s plan today is being worked out through His church as she goes into the world and makes Jesus-followers, brings them into the fold, and teaches them to follow Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20). The lure of the good things in this life is strong, but we must prioritize our commitment to this plan. Making disciples must come before enjoying the fruits of temporal victory. Similarly, we are called to do the good works God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10) and love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39).
I pray that you will know many of the blessings of victory in this life. I also pray that you are resolved in your commitment, as were Rueben and Gad, to the work of God for the people of God.