Moses asked this question of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, who wanted to claim the land east of the Jordan in which to settle (Numbers 32:6). The reason that they wanted this land was that they had an enormous amount of livestock and they saw that the land of Jazer and Gilead would be a good place for their animals to graze (verse 1). Their mistake was in asking Moses not to "bring" them over the Jordan (verse 5). Moses took this to mean that they did not want to go to war to conquer the promised land. One could not blame Moses for this assumption, for indeed, it did appear as though they did not want to go across the Jordan and that they were perfectly willing to let the rest of Israel fight the Canaanite nations that dwelt there. Therefore Moses properly questioned their motivation by asking, "Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?" It would have been shameful for Reuben and Gad not to arm themselves in a show of solidarity with their countrymen in order to subdue the heathen nations. Moses then told them that by not crossing the Jordan as a unified nation, it would serve to discourage the rest of the nation from crossing and fighting (verse 7). He then reminded them that it was this very reason why they had remained in the wilderness for forty years?that the ten faithless spies had managed to discourage the nation from seizing the land when they had the opportunity. Moses further reminded them that when their fathers whined and complained they were too feeble to go in and take the land, God's anger was aroused and His punishment for them was that they should die in the wilderness and that only Joshua and Caleb should enter in (verses 10-13). Moses then warned that any subsequent signs of wavering would again bring God's wrath and that He would not hesitate to leave them in the wilderness (verse 15). Moses promised these two tribes (later half of the tribe of Manasseh would also dwell east of the Jordan?verses 33, 39-40) that if they would don their armor and go across with their brethren as a nation united, they would be able to come back across and claim that land for themselves (verse 22). Moses then offered this chilling warning, "But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out" (verse 23; emphasis RR). Moses perhaps realized that in a nation of between two and three million people, with over 600,000 men able to fight, that these two tribes could get "lost in the shuffle" and perhaps no one would know whether they were actually there to fight or not. Therefore, in the event these two tribes had any ideas of lagging behind and not following through, Moses wanted them to know for a certainty that God would know whether or not they had joined their brethren; and should they fail to do so, He would bring His wrath upon them. One could certainly make a compelling case that Moses issued these warnings out of love; after all, the New Testament plainly states, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Moses had demonstrated on numerous occasions his desire for his brethren to escape God's wrath (Numbers 14:13ff; 16:22, 46; 21:7).
Today in the Lord's church there are Christians who will allow their brethren to "go to war" while they "sit here." In the area of evangelism some Christians allow their brethren to approach the lost and attempt to persuade them to obey the Truth while doing nothing themselves. They will allow their brethren to teach Bible classes, serve in worship, clean the building, initiate fellowship activities, all the while "sitting here."
Several years ago former United States Senator Phil Gramm of Texas was unjustly accused of wanting to eliminate welfare. Senator Gramm defended his position by stating that it was never his intention to eliminate welfare, but he did say that "it's time for some of the people that have been riding in the wagon to get out and help push the wagon." Could not a statement like that apply to members of the Lord's church as well? Unfortunately, many brethren have convinced themselves that worship attendance is all that is required from them and that as long as they have a good attendance record?that is all that they need to do. Even more unfortunate are those who do not even have a good attendance record, yet nevertheless have convinced themselves that it is not that important.
In the physical realm going to war costs money. The United States has spent billions in our most recent war?the war on terror. Much more will be spent because this foe is not like other foes that we have fought in the past. In the spiritual realm "going to war" also takes money; we need money to maintain our facilities, to pay the preacher, and to help support mission works here and abroad. We have a command to give as God has prospered us (1 Corinthians 16:2) and to do so cheerfully and not begrudgingly (2 Corinthians 9:7). In many instances, we find the same thing holds true?some brethren obey this command and others do not, rather letting those who do foot the bill. Suppose God decided to prosper us as we gave, rather than having us give as we have been prospered? For some brethren this would mean a substantial reduction in their lifestyle. Some have contended that this command is an ambiguous one, since there is not an amount or percentage specified as there was under the law of Moses (10% or tithe?Lev. 27:30). Yet, there is nothing ambiguous about this command. In any dispensation, our first and foremost commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). John records that keeping God's commandments is how Christians demonstrate their love for Him (1 John 5:2-3). Therefore, keeping the commandment to give as we have been prospered is an ideal opportunity to display our love for God. Anything less demonstrates our lack of love for God and our indifference to the success of the local congregation in its effort to do the work of the church?which is to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
Jesus told a parable of two sons; both of whom received instructions from their father to work in his vineyard (Matthew 21:28-32). The first refused?yet later repented and went to work. The second promised to go?and then did not. Even the hypocritical chief priests and elders knew and admitted that the first son did the will of his father because, although he was recalcitrant at first, he did eventually go. Far too many Christians are like the second son, who wanted to be counted as obedient, but did not actually want to do what constituted obedience.
Those from Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh crossed the Jordan with their brethren and together they subdued the land that God promised unto them. As a result they were allowed to go back across the Jordan and dwell in the land east of Jordan (Joshua 22:1-9). The modern day Christian must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) and be willing to stand alongside other soldiers of the cross and do their share. Only then will we eligible to "cross over Jordan." Those who allow their brethren to "go to war," while they "stay here" are at the least trying to get to heaven with the least amount of effort. While they may never be confronted here on earth as to their lack of effort, God will indeed eventually confront them as He renders to all according to their deeds (Romans 2:6) or lack thereof.
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