November 18, 2016
Numbers 32:1, 2, 4, 5
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
If I was to give this blog a subtitle, it would be, Missing the Best by accepting the Good! For two tribes of Israel, Reuben and Gad, viewed the land east of the Jordan River that Israel had just conquered – the territory of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan – and they said, “Hey, this is great for us! Let’s stay here!” To expand upon what happened, let’s consider Numbers 32:1, 2, 4, and 5:
Now the children of Reuben and…Gad had a very great multitude of live-
stock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and…Gilead, that indeed the
region was a place for livestock…[they] came and spoke to Moses…to
Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying… “The
country which the LORD defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a
land for livestock….If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be
given to your servants as a possession, and do not take us over the Jordan.”
You see, the people of these two tribes – Reuben and Gad – were promised with the rest of the children of Israel the land of Canaan, called by God Himself, “…a good and large land…a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:8). And the LORD further described the Promised Land in the following ways:
• Deuteronomy 6:10 and 11– “…when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers…to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant…you shall eat and be full….”
• Deuteronomy 8:7 through 10 – “…the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs…a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates…of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”
• Deuteronomy 11:11 and 12 – “…the land…is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning…to the very end of the year.”
God had chosen the best for His people! But the people of the tribes of Reuben and Gad (plus half of the tribe of Manasseh) saw the land east of the Jordan – and it was good for grazing and pasture for their large flocks – and they chose the good, even before they had seen the best! So they missed the best because they had decided to settle for the good! Why was this important? Generations later, the natural boundary of the Jordan River cut them off from fully participating in the dedicated life God intended for all Jews to live! They sinned by not fully dedicating themselves to Jehovah God! In judgment against their sins, that trans-Jordan area was the first to feel foreign attacks, first by Syria, then by Assyria (see II Kings 10:32, 33; 17:5, 6). By the time Jesus walked in Palestine, that area was occupied mostly by Gentiles (non-Jews).
How many times in our lives do we settle for the good but miss the best? And sometimes ‘the good’ does not turn out to be very good! I have been a Baptist minister for 44 years. But I have too often kicked and struggled against that calling! I left the ministry four times because I found something else ‘good’ to do – something ‘better’ than the ministry! Three of those four times were working in sales – more money and being my own boss. Once was working as a drug counselor. They were good professions to pursue – and after the hard work of getting things started, I did well in sales! – not so well as a drug counselor. But I found out that for me the ministry was the best – and God kept steering me back into it! When I have followed my Lord’s leading, I have found that I have the best, and I have never gone wrong pursuing God’s leading! He has gifted me to be a pastor/teacher, and I am most fulfilled by following that course.
I have a friend who has now retired from a productive career in the Pennsylvania correctional system. He made a good living and now has a comfortable retirement. But he has confided to me that he should have followed God’s leading into the ministry! He feels that would have been the best choice – better than the good choices he made!
I have often counseled couples who were struggling with their relationship – marriage or pre-marriage. Too often I have heard the story of what looked like a good match, but did not turn out so well in the end. And I have heard it said by the Christians in such struggles, “I should have waited for God’s choice for me!”
I know a man in his 30’s who bought his first house a few years back. It was a good house by his estimation, but he rather bucked God’s leading not to pursue this particular house. The situation has turned out to be a headache for him and his family in a lot of ways!
God desires the best for His children! And He gives us good directions to procure His best in every instance! The directions are found in Psalm 37:3 through 7:
Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His
faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you
the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in
Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteous-
ness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the LORD,
and wait patiently for Him….
If you practice these directions, you will never find yourself in the predicaments that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh experienced. You will never be settling for something good, and missing the best!