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  • Kelly Byrley

Close Enough or Crossed Over

By Kelly Byrley

Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan. Numbers 32:5

The tribes of Gad and Reuben were on the journey to the Promised Land with the rest of the Israelites and Moses.  On their way, just before their destination, they came to some land on the east side of the Jordan River that they thought they needed.  God’s plan was for them to be on the west side, but they inspected this land on the east side and decided that it looked like very impressive land for all of their cattle.  They weren’t concerned with the safety of their families.  They weren’t concerned about the will of God.  They were only concerned at this point with their income which came from their cattle.  

So they went to Moses to ask him for this land instead.  They ridiculously told Moses something like, “Hey, this land is good for cattle, and we have cattle.”  Duh. Everyone had cattle.  Now they may have had more cattle than others, but it’s kind of silly for them to point out that they had cattle.  Did God not know they had cattle?  Did He not have a good place for their cattle on the west side of the Jordan River?  Had God made a mistake?  Was He going to lead them to a place that was bad for their cattle and cause them to suffer financially?  

They should have trusted the Lord to provide them with a land that was perfect for their cattle on the other side.  If the east side had good land, then the west side must have superior land because the Lord had promised them the land would be great.  He promised them a prosperous land, flowing with milk and honey. Why would the Lord leave the best land for the cattle outside of the new home He had in store for them?  He wouldn’t. 

They were simply impatient and rebellious, and they didn’t trust the Lord.

These two tribes took it upon themselves to think they knew better than God.  They saw something they thought was good for them, and it may have been good for some parts of their lives, but it definitely wasn’t good for all parts of their lives.  See, their first mention is of their cattle.  They weren’t concerned with being away from the other tribes.  They weren’t concerned with being away from the house of God.  They weren’t concerned with being open prey for the enemy.  They weren’t concerned about their wives and children being overtaken.  They weren’t concerned with their families learning the ways of the heathen.  They weren’t concerned with trusting that the Lord had something even greater in store for them. 

They were concerned with their money, and they made a decision based upon that.  

At first Moses was upset with them. He compared them to their fathers who had discouraged the people from even trying to go into the Promised Land in the first place.  They said something like, “No, that’s not us.  We just know this is the best land for all of our cows.”  So Moses told them they just wanted an easy way out and that they didn’t want to go to battle on the West side.  So they said something like, “No, we will still go with you over to and fight off the enemy and then we will return.  We will build places for our livestock and some cities for our families and then we will go with you to fight.  Once the battle is won, we will return to our cattle and families.”  Moses then agreed to let them do this. 

I’m not sure why he allowed them to do that, but he did.  God’s plan was for all 12 tribes to stay together.  He wanted all of them together to protect and encourage each other and to serve together.  They weren’t supposed to be separated from each other.  They were supposed to be separated from the world.  Moses tried to remind them of what’s the more important priority by reversing the order of what they wanted to do, so he told them to go build cities for their families and build shelter for their livestock and then head to battle. 

Moses reminded them that their families should come first.

Why was it a mistake for the tribes of Gad and Reuben to settle on the east side and not the west? I mean, they were really close, so what’s the big deal?  The rest of the Israelites were just over the river.  They weren’t that far.  Well, being close to the will of God is not the same as being in the will of God.  God’s will isn’t close.  It’s specific.  

What was wrong with them choosing the land they already knew was good for their livelihood?  It may have been good for their livelihood, but it wasn’t good for their safety, for their spiritual lives, or for their families.  God would have provided them with excellent land for their cattle in the place that He wanted them.  They refused to trust him.  They refused to be patient.  They settled.  They compromised.  They were close, but they were not in their place. 

The devil is a master deceiver. 

He loves to toss things out to us along our journey trying to get us to settle.  He’s okay with us going right up close to the will of God as long as we don’t actually get there.  He knows just what to put in our path, that one thing we think we have to have right now and he puts it just before we cross over to where we are actually supposed to be.  He can get us to question whether God really does have the best in store for us when we’re looking at something that already seems so good.  

The devil has studied us, and he knows our weaknesses.  He knows we are impatient and doubtful and rebellious at heart.  He knows that if we are close to the will of God that we will have a false sense of security that we are still okay.  However, he knows how vulnerable we are when we are still close to the world and just shy of where God actually wants us.

The tribes of Gad and Reuben were far enough away from their church family that the enemy could more easily overtake them. And that’s exactly what happened.  Not only were those two tribes overtaken, but half the tribe of Mannaseh was also overtaken because they decided it was a good idea to settle there as well. None of these tribes realized at the time they settled that their location left them vulnerable to attacks.  Several years later when Assyria attacked, they ended up taking those on the east side captive ten years before the rest of the tribes on the west side were taken.

How did it go from the tribes of Gad and Rebuen to the tribes of Gad and Reuben and half the tribe of Mannaseh?  The Bible doesn’t say, but we know from experience that when someone goes off course in their spiritual life that someone else almost always ends up following.  I believe that’s what happened here.

Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Mannaseh made a critical mistake when they took what they thought they needed over what God knew they needed.  They weren’t supposed to be dwelling in a “place for cattle.” They were supposed to be dwelling in a “land flowing with milk and honey.” 

Their focus was off and they weren’t concerned with obeying.  Their only concern was immediate gratification.  This ended up being a costly mistake years later.  So many times we make decisions based on selfish reasons, never realizing that we are putting ourselves, our families, and those that follow us at risk.  

We can’t lose sight of the end goal when we are on our way through life. 

Our end goal should not be a life filled with things our flesh desires and it definitely should not be a life settled just outside of where God wants us.  God didn’t choose the East side for His people for good reasons.  He chose the West side.  Those tribes couldn’t see down the road many years later when the enemy would snatch them up because they were vulnerable, but God saw.  They should have stayed on the path until the end.  These two and a half tribes may have had pleasure temporarily, but that came at the price of losing it all in the end.  God’s best is always better than good.


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