Saturday after the Feast of Whitsunday
Scripture: Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27 (NKJV)
1 Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock, 2 the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Shebam, Nebo, and Beon, 4 the country which the LORD defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” 5 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.” 6 And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: “Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?”
16 Then they came near to him and said: “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, 17 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. 18 We will not return to our homes until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance. 19 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.” 20 Then Moses said to them: “If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the LORD for the war, 21 and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the LORD until He has driven out His enemies from before Him, 22 and the land is subdued before the LORD, then afterward you may return and be blameless before the LORD and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD. 23 But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out. 24 Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep, and do what has proceeded out of your mouth.” 25 And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spoke to Moses, saying: “Your servants will do as my lord commands. 26 Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our livestock will be there in the cities of Gilead; 27 but your servants will cross over, every man armed for war, before the LORD to battle, just as my lord says.”
Today’s lesson is one of guarding against earthly distractions from God’s Word and will. The land that was before the people caused covetousness in the hearts of some, because of its perceived value in their earthly pursuits and its proximity. The prospect of material gain motivated the request by Reuben and Gad. Selfish interests prevailed over their sense of unity as the covenant people. They were inclined to shirk their obligation of faithfulness to God.
Moses warns them against allowing immediate temporal gain and the immediacy of earthly pleasures to cloud their faithful following of God’s Word. This is not unlike our constant temptation from the fallen temporal world, our sinful flesh, and the devil. We are easily drawn to covet the things of the world if we do not keep our focus on Jesus Christ. This reality of our sinful nature causes us to fall under the same warning of Moses uttered against Gad and Reuben: your sin will find you out.
In our text the bargain was struck, but not without strong warning of the consequences if the parties failed to live up to their word. We are God’s chosen people, His holy assembly, who have been brought into a holy covenant through grace. Our sins have been washed away by the atoning blood of Christ—but we must never underestimate the power of the world, our flesh, and the devil to draw us back into sin. There is only one sure defense against your sin finding you out: faith in Jesus Christ as your Redeemer from sin.