Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Transjordan Tribes (Numbers 32)

Hard thoughts today.

I've been reading Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy recently (riveting, I know...) and tracking the "stiff-necked" Israelites through miles of deserts and not a few catastrophes, brought on, almost entirely, by their complaints about food or by their unbelief. I guess that could be boiled down to two all-too-human sentiments: "God, you're not good enough" and "God, you're not big enough". Tell me those don't sound familiar to you.

Their big, good God finally does bring them to the Promised Land after alotting enough time for a generation to completely die out. You'd think they'd echo Moses' passion to just peak into the Promised Land (which he wasn't allowed to set foot in because of his own disbelief...seems like no one is exempt...):

Moses: "Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan - that fine hill country and Lebanon."
God: "Go up to the top of Pisgah...Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan."

But the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh thought that the land east of Jordan looked OK to them. Logically, it also made sense:

Reuben, Gad & Manasseh: "The land(s)...are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock."

Lots of space, lots of livestock. Handy, but was it God's promise to them? Weren't they giving up their God-given inheritance, the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey, the land promised to their forefathers, for fields just short of Canaan's border? I wonder why? Were they tired of traveling? I could relate to that. Did they think it efficient and prudential to take land outside of Canaan, and therefore "giving" more land to the nine and a half other tribes on the other side? Did the Jordan look too deep to cross? Were they holding on to the fears of their fathers that the Canaanites were "giants" with "walled cities"?

At first Moses reprimanded them strongly:

Moses: "If you turn away from following [the LORD], he will again leave all this people in the desert, and you will be the cause of their destruction."

But finally relents, after he makes them promise to help the other tribes win the Promised Land. Would they have ignored this responsibility if Moses didn't remind them? Is it easier to leave the fighting to others once you have found somewhere suitable, comfortable, logical and comfortable to settle?

I get frustrated with the strong desire to settle in "lands suitable for livestock". Career choices that make sense, marrying for comfort, 5-, 10-, and 20-year goals... Sometimes the promises God has given me (and the instruction to "possess" them which, I suppose, would be disobedience to go against) seem vague, flighty, too amazing to be true ("God, you're not good enough"), and too difficult to attain ("God, you're not big enough"). But if I settle on this side of my Promised Land, without pushing through, I'll never get to see what God had in store for me.

I also discovered that Israel no longer holds the land east of the Jordan River.


Andrew G said...

wow! what a great sermon Sarah!

i also get frustrated with my butt's nature to slow down and want to settle for less than the best... must fight, must run and win the race, right?

Sarah-Aubrey said...

Handy to have all these blogged notes in case I have to teach on "persistance and promise" in a pinch, eh?