Then they came up to him and said, “We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children. But we will arm ourselves for battle and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until each of the Israelites has received their inheritance. We will not receive any inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan, because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan. – Numbers 32:16-19
What a contrast this account is to the crossing of the Red Sea. Fortified cities for protection…What happened to trusting God for protection? These Israelites are giving up their inheritance, which in this case is covenant and relationship with God. They are satisfied with the inheritance that has come to them on east side of the Jordan. They are settling for the secure and safe at the expense of the Kingdom of God.
My sense is that even at the time of this passage God would have welcomed these Israelites back if they had chosen to cross the Jordan with God. Their choosing to accept a substitute for God is the latest in a series of God-substitutions both in the past and those to come. Including one of the most amazing substitutions during the time of Jesus when the jewish leaders chose to release a criminal rather than Jesus when they were given a clear chance to “cross over the Jordan”.
So now it is time for some hard reflection…are there ways that I am holed up in my “fortified cities” accepting my “inheritance” on the wrong side of the Jordan? What parts of my life am I holding on to that are keeping me from following God where He needs me to go. I think my “fortifications” are mostly related to my pride and my “inheritance” is tied up with how I am viewed by others. I sometimes trade obedience for security.
Prayer: God help me to see those areas of my life that are keeping me from trusting you more deeply.