Ask Us: Question #1

Any changes in how you view the world in your study of Joshua so far?

Phares Gilchrist Answers: I have been mulling over the “2 1/2 tribes” who appealed to Moses to allow them to stay on the wilderness side of the Jordan. It seemed like such a reasonable request. They had carved out a part of the countryside that was good for raising livestock. They had fallen into a comfortable lifestyle, with people they had much in common, and were raising their families productively.

Not only that, but the men agreed to join the other men in subduing the land across the Jordan. They would fight for Israel to become a nation, but Moses was disappointed in them. He allowed them to stay, and was glad to have them in the battle, but it was less than what he expected from them.

At first glance I am sympathetic with the “remainers.” I have to work to see it from Moses’ perspective. Then I consider today’s Christian culture, and it does make perfect sense. There was a plan. It was God’s plan. He was creating a new culture out of whole cloth. It required commitment to the plan for it to work. In other words, choosing comfort over the larger task is to undermine the plan. It encourages others to do the same. It makes the plan look negotiable. It softens commitment to the plan. It erodes character from within.

It’s the same today. While allowing for different stages in maturity in our walks with Christ, and differences in calling and gifting, one doesn’t have to look very far to see how the attitude of the 2 1/2 tribes affects God’s plan today. An inch at a time, we choose material comfort over the plan. Today’s plan is the Great Commission, to go into the world and preach the gospel. It requires sacrifice of time and treasure. And comfort. And diligence. 

These tribes had endured the wilderness and found a corner to be productive. Life is hard. They wanted to continue as they had been. I get it. Me, too. Saying yes to that comfort starts to lull us into complacency and eventually a distant relationship with God and His plan. The first generation may stay committed and engaged with the plan, but what about the next? If they aren’t on the front lines with the rest, are they going to get it? Will they care? Do they see it as negotiable?

The challenge is not to judge others. It’s to judge myself. How am I like these tribes? Does my attitude encourage a diluting of the general commitment to the plan? Do I unintentionally communicate that to those younger than I, encouraging malaise?

In the end, Moses blessed the two tribes. He prayed God’s blessings for them. Eventually, both those on the east and west lost their focus and their commitment to God’s plan waned. The result was to be either assimilated or taken into slavery. 

Metaphorically, it’s the same today. How many formerly committed Christian families have been lulled into secular society and its belief system? I need to examine my own heart.

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