The first time I made it through the entire Bible was 2009, the year after Nick passed away.
I remember reaching these particular chapters in Numbers and finding myself upset.
I didn’t know what to do with God’s command to annihilate the Midianites.
I remember walking into a college Bible professor’s office in search of answers,
distraught with the thought of a God who required such violence from His people.
The answer I received wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear,
but I knew this professor had studied the Bible for many, many years
and loved God with all his heart…..
and I also knew what he told me that day was true.
“It’s not up to us to understand the ‘why’ behind every one of God’s commands.
It’s just up to us to trust He knows best and always has a plan.”
It’s difficult for me to imagine how evil these people were and just how much they hated God,
but I have to believe God knew their influence would destroy His plan for redeeming the world.
This is my eleventh year to read through these difficult chapters,
and it’s my eleventh year to stumble through them……..
They still don’t make sense to me,
and I still don’t love what I read.
But choosing to walk away from the One who has carried me through chapters of my own that I haven’t loved doesn’t make sense either.
Life is hard.
God is good.
And evil is not tolerated.
End of story.
I move on in today’s reading and find myself wondering how the tribes of Reuben and Gad, after seeing God’s anger so many times in the wilderness, could have gotten up the nerve to approach Moses and ask if they can stay east of the Jordan…….
settling their families near the Promised Land but not quite in it???
To travel so far then choose to stop….just short of the goal….doesn’t make sense to me either.
Moses is angry at first, but chooses to grant their request if they promise to at least help the other tribes claim the land God has promised to them.
What in the world is this part of Bible history all about?
I did some research and discovered that generations before, Jacob had prophesied that Reuben’s family would fall short.
In Genesis 49:3-4, Jacob had said,
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power. Unstable as water, you shall not excel, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it.”
Fast forward to the years in the wilderness where Reuben’s tribe is told to camp on the south side of the tabernacle with Gad’s tribe.
The bond formed between these tribes was strong.
Strong enough for Gad’s family to be pulled into Reuben’s shortcoming………………
seeing land that looked “good enough” and “wanting it now” rather than waiting for what was best on the other side of the Jordan.
If we peek into the future, we find out this decision ends up being a bad one.
In II Kings we will learn that the land they settled in is eventually taken captive by the King of Assyria and the tribes of Reuben and Gad will find themselves living in what will then be named Ninevah.
So what do I do with all of this information??
The Midiianites are dead.
And the Reubenites and Gadites are doomed.
I refuse to close my Bible and move on with my day without something to carry with me.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching……“
(II Tim. 3:16)
So there’s something here.
Something I need to know.
So I sit and think.
Lord, teach me.
I keep going back to the fact that God knows how easily evil would spread if the Midianites were allowed to influence the Israelites.
And how the Reubenites and Gadites had become like-minded as shepherding tribes who spent all their time together,
eventually wanting the first good land they saw,
even if that meant missing life in the Promised Land.
I’m hearing a phrase in my mind I’ve heard all my life,
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
I guess shepherds who think alike “flock” together too.
And that’s what God is saying in these chapters.
Choose your company wisely.
And do not settle where you don’t want to stay.
Even if the ones you love choose to get comfy,
buying into “good enough” when “best” is just within reach.
Stay far away from all hints of evil and never stop pursuing all God has planned for you.
That’s what I’m hearing this morning in Numbers 29-32.
I’d love to know what these chapters say to you.