“Therefore they said, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.’ And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: ‘Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them?’ ” (Numbers 32:5-7).
As a Christian, how essential is it that I discover and carry out my particular ministry in the Lord’s Church? Is it “good enough” that I simply attend worship services and praise God or must I also honor God by my service to Him and others by my works through ministry?
As Moses continues leading the Israelites through their 40 years journey through the wilderness, God has already blessed them with some victories in war. They had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 21:23-25; 33-35). Moreover, they had now come fresh off a victory of the Midianites (Numbers 31:1-11).
It is at this point that Moses is approached by leaders of the tribes of Reuben and Gad. As the opening verses indicate, it appears they did not want to cross over the Jordan to take the rest of the Promised Land (Numbers 32:5). They were content to just dwell on the east side of the Jordan in the land which had already been conquered from Sihon and Og.
Moses was very concerned about this. He knew if he allowed them to do this it would “discourage the heart of the children of Israel” from conquering the rest of the Promised Land which was west of the Jordan River (Numbers 32:6-7). Previously, in his leadership experience with God’s people, Moses had seen what happens when the morale of the army plummets (cf. Numbers 32:8-13; 13:26-14:10). As a leader, Moses knew it was essential to keep the heart of the people encouraged to carry out the task God had set before them to go in and conquer the Promised Land.
After his rebuke of them, the leaders of the two tribes come up with a better plan: “Then they came near to him and said: ‘We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be armed, ready to go before the children of Israel until we have brought them to their place; and our little ones will dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance. For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this eastern side of the Jordan’ "(Numbers 32:16-19). They would go and fight with their brethren. They would not be a source of discouragement to the heart of their brethren!
The Christian life is described as a warfare (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; Ephesians 6:11-18). Jesus has called all of us to find our particular ministry and to serve: “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28). The apostle Paul describes the church as a body in which each member “does its share” (Ephesians 4:16). I realize others can get discouraged if I refuse to support my brethren by going to war with them in the spiritual warfare to which we have been called. I want support my fellow Christians, discover my unique ministry, and do my share in serving others. Today, my brethren shall not go to war while I sit here!
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).