What’s in an Inheritance?

What’s in an Inheritance?

Continuing moving through the Book of numbers, where chapters 31 and 32 are almost near the end of our series. Today we are looking, as Israel sits across still from the promised land, a victory they have over the nation of Midian, followed by a change in some of the tribes desire for their inheritance. As we look to the reading of God’s Word, if you join me in prayer. Most gracious God, our heavenly father, and you alone dwells all the fullness of light and wisdom. Now we ask that you would enlighten our minds by your Holy Spirit, that we would truly understand your Word, that you would give us grace to receive it reverently and humbly. And may it lead us to put our whole trust in you alone. And this we pray through Jesus our Lord. Amen. Looking first at chapter 32, beginning in Verse 1, Now the people of Reuben and the people of Gad had a very great number of livestock. They saw the land of Nazareth and the land of Gilead, and behold, the place was a place for livestock. So the people of Gad and the people of Rubin came to Moses, to the Eliezerter Priest, and to the chiefs of the congregation.

The land that the Lord struck down before the congregation of Israel is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock. And they said, If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for possession. Do you know do not take us across the Jordan. But Moses said to the people of Gad and the people of Rubin, show your brothers go to war while you sit here. Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them. The word of the Lord, if you’ll please be seated. Two weeks ago on Trinity Sunday, I asked the question, whose Jesus are you to believe in? Because there are many competing versions of Jesus out there other than the Bible. Just a couple of days later, a woman came to the church and she said that the Holy Spirit had directed her to come and speak with me. That never goes well. S he was wanting me to include other faiths in the National Day of prayer. I have no idea why she came to me. I am not a part of the leadership of the National Day of prayer, and it was two months ago.

But she did try and tell me that her view of God was the right view of God. Just coming off from two days ago talking about this thing, I said, Well, you have a particular view of God that claims to transcend everyone else’s view of God that you deny to them. Just like the sermon says, she’s saying all paths lead to God. The only way you could do that is if you could see all paths and transcend all of that. It’s going really well, except she didn’t get any of it. Not tracking. It was the same response that if someone says, absolutely, there are no absolutes. And you’re like, well, can you not… No, they don’t connect the dots. S he didn’t either. So she left with her very particular view of God disappointed in my narrow mindedness for saying that all religions are not basically the same. Real life can be stranger than fiction. Today, we’re confronted again with the problem of that total destruction of a people in Israel’s warfare. No doubt the woman who came to me would simply use that as an example and say, See, this is what I’m talking about.

All your religious faiths are fighting one another and killing one another, and this is the problem. The Bible is an unreliable guide to God. And we’ve heard things like that. And we are faced with to struggle with these types of questions because judgment and destruction, it does chaff against our cultural sentiment. At the same time, we know that unchecked sin in our hearts lead us quickly away from the Lord if we’re not devoted entirely to Him. So how do we bring all this together? How are we to navigate this seeming contradiction of God’s love and His wrath, His judgment? Well, because the Lord remains true to his character, we are called to trust in him even when we encounter mysteries that we struggle to fully understand. In Chapter 31 and 32, they are related because of the conquest that takes place in 31 creates a potential problem of inheritance in 32. It highlights the dilemma of God’s people for being incapable of going very far without falling away from him, even in a victory. They have a victory over their enemy, and this causes some to desire not to go to the promised land, to waffle on the very thing that God has been leading them towards.

Well, looking first at the issue of warfare, you recall earlier the Midianites, along with the Kingdom of Moab, had joined forces to oppose Israel. Chapter 31 takes up where Chapter 25 left off. They had decided under the Prophet Balaam’s advice to use sexual sin to cause Israel into idolatry with their foreign gods. And it worked. Now Chapter 31, catching all that back up, the Lord spoke to Moses saying, Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterwards, you shall be gathered to your people. Moses is about to die. But the last thing he’s doing is take care of the Midianites. And Moses spoke to the people and said, arm your sofa war, that you may go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. So it’s the Lord’s vengeance. And it says, verse 7, They warred against Midian as the Lord commanded and killed every male. They are coming back now and they have all this, this is the spoils of the war that they brought. In Verse 14, Moses said that he was angry with the officers, the commanders. He said to them, Verse 15, Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act against the Lord in the incident of Peor.

So that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. He’s calling back that it was this entire plan through sexual deviancy that brought in false worship to a foreign God. He says, Now, therefore, verse 17, Kill every male among the little ones and kill every woman who has been known by a man while lying with him. Now, we talked about the difficulties of a holy war several weeks ago, but it is good to cover that ground again because one, it’s a major objection that we face from other people outside. But for many of us, it’s also a struggle inside. How do I put this together? What is taking place here? The total destruction that is here, we look at it and go, It sure seems like genocide. Well, first, this didn’t happen in every battle. It was something that was particular to those nations belonging to the promised land. So it wasn’t something that was done all the time. But everyone was put to death in that circumstance. So how are we to think about that? There are several considerations. First, at this time, and only at this time, was Israel a theocracy, a nation divinely directed by the Lord himself.

The time was limited and it is long over. It was the Lord’s judgment, not Israel’s judgment that said there, The Lord’s Vengeance. The Holy War was limited and came after sustained patience by the Lord. We hear that in Genesis 15 when God is speaking with Abraham about what’s to take place in the future. T here he said, Israel shall come back here in the fourth generation, meaning to the promised land, to Cana n. They shall come back in the fourth generation for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. So in that 400 year intervening time, there was patience extended for a repentance to take place, and it doesn’t happen. Deuteronomy 7, it speaks of all the different peoples of Canan. And there the command says, You shall not make a covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them. You shall not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me to serve other gods. And this is exactly what happened. The people of Israel were constantly getting caught up in idolatry and worshiping the gods of the nations that they failed to conquer.

Another consideration, everyone will one day stand before the Lord. All of our days are numbered. This life is not all that there is. We easily focus in on just the here and now and how tragic it is, but it’s like, no, we have an entire eternity before us. This life is not all there is. The Bible constantly directs our gaze to that further horizon. At times, God brings judgment sooner to some and later to others. But no one gets missed. Israel’s entrance into the promised land, it foreshadowed what was to come for all of God’s people. In the same way, God’s judgment upon particular nations foreshadowed what is to come upon all peoples. See, the woman that I spoke with had the belief of all dogs go to heaven. That’s a particular belief. It’s out there. It’s all dogs go to heaven. Everyone is going to go into the light and stand before the Lord, and everyone’s included. That’s a particular view of God, that he has not revealed about himself to us. What God has revealed is not that view. What we see is that without judgment, we are locked into perpetual cycles of violence and retaliation.

If there is no God, then I must take justice into my own hands. And telling people who have been seriously and egregiously wrong, Well, you just need to forgive and forget, is a gross act of injustice when you have been the recipient of terrible crimes. The cross of Christ emphasizes justice by the cost of its payment. No one gets away scotfree. Jesus paid the penalty. That’s the good news. Refuse his payment and you will pay what you owe on your own to the last penny. You might recall from a couple of weeks ago, C. S. Lewis, he said this, There are only two kinds of people, those to say to God, thy will be done. And those to whom God, in the end, says, thy will be done. All that are in hell, choose it. Without that self choice, it wouldn’t be hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. If you want to turn your back on God and live a self centered life, don’t complain if that is what God gives you. No one is compelled. Now, we covered that in chapter 21, but it’s an important issue that resurfaces here, and it’s one that we struggle with.

It also brings up a related question. I put that in your bulletin as well. But the question is, can people with fundamentally different truth claims live together without killing one another? That’s a very important question for us. This is what, in part, that that woman was wanting to ask. Can’t we all get along? I would simply respond by saying that for the most part, we are able to do this. Wars of all kinds exists, certainly, but we are not in a perpetual state of violence with other people. And the reason is that we are all made in the image and the likeness of God. His common grace permeates even the cultures that deny Him. People desire peace and not perpetual and continual warfare. And with that, we recognize there is no theocracy until Jesus returns. So you and I as Christians are called to love God and to love neighbor. That is the calling of God’s people. No doubt, we all struggle with aspects of God dealings with us and with others that we don’t fully understand. Old Testament scholar, Roy Gayne, he put it this way, he says, God has given us plenty of evidence to trust Him, but not enough to penetrate all the mysteries of His ways.

I know enough to trust God, but I don’t know enough to figure out all the mysteries of life. We read in Deuteronomy 29 29, The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that He revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of the law. The secret things belong to God, but what he has revealed, that we are to do. Even in that, we see that God’s chosen people, Israel, with what was revealed to them, failed to do what God intended for them. We look then at this very unique time in Israel’s history to see how God is bringing all the loose threads together in his son. For a covenant people to exist, God would have to fulfill his purposes through himself. Jesus is the true Israel of God, where they failed at every level, he succeeded. That’s the good news. That’s what we see in the culmination of Israel history that it points to. It rushes towards Jesus because of the internal problem of the heart. But even in their victory, they’re waffling. We see that in Chapter 32, that after this great victory, they conquer this entire region.

They get all these spoils of war. It says the people of Gad and the people of Rubin, it also included the half tribe of Manasca, came to Moses and they’re like, This is the land we want. The Lord struck down before the congregation, This land is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock. If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for possession. Do not take us across the Jordan. Moses responds to this request with a no, you got to be kidding me? He’s angry. Verse 6, shall your brothers go to war while you sit here? Will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the Lord has given you? Your fathers did this. And then he goes into recount the whole 10 spy fiasco. And in verse 13, after that he says, The Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel. He made them wander in the wilderness 40 years until all that generation that had done evil in the sight was gone. And behold, you have risen in your father’s place, a brood of sinful men, to increase still more the fierce anger of the Lord against Israel.

That was his response. And he’s been wandering around for 40 years because of that. And it’s like, Oh, my goodness, here we are again. And then so they renegotiate with Moses and they promise to send fighting men into the promised land. And they did. They sent fighting men in to go with the rest of Israel. And because of that in verse 29, Moses said to them, to the people, the people of Gad, the people of Rubin, Every man whose arm to battle before the Lord will pass with you over the Jordan into the land, tell it is subdued before you. Then you shall give them the land of Gilead as a possession. However, conditional, if they will not pass with you armed, they shall have possession among you in the land of Canine. So they either do it and they can have it, or if not, the whole deal is off. That is what took place. Now, on the surface, all this seems okay, but you and I, as we know, are called to be careful readers. But promise land never included that side of the Jordan River. So is it a bonus gift for the first 100 who call in now?

We’ll throw in the whole transjordan. It could be. I mean, it is a blessing of God for them. So he did expand their borders. So in one sense, that is a blessing. But particularly at this time, what was happening? I think we see in the text what we’re to understand. Throughout this chapter, and we heard it already, this tribe speaks of the possessions they have, the livestock emphasized over and over again. They have a lot of livestock, they have a lot of things, cattle and sheep and camels, they’ve just acquired it all. But remember, all of the tribes did the acquiring. It wasn’t just them. Verse 16, They came near to Moses said, We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock and cities for our little ones. N ow, again, this negotiation takes place. N otice verse 24, Moses corrects them. He says, Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep and do what you promised. If you didn’t see the change, the difference, think of it this way. You get that call. It could be from your teenager. You get that call, just got in a car wreck. The first thing that comes out of your mouth, How’s the car?

If that was your response, you pulled a Rubin and a Gad. I mean, are you all right? They put the possessions first. That was their concern. It’s all about the stuff. One writer put it this way, The land of Israel is not a commodity, but a covenantal gift. It’s a gift from God. And they made the secondary thing, their possessions, the main thing. The promised land was a gift to be received. And these tribes decided to take the bird in the hand approach. It’s easier to walk by sight than by faith. What they see before them is better than what they don’t see before them. This is also the heart of idolatry which plagued Israel. The gods of the locals, the gods of the inhabitants were all tangible. They were right there in front of them. You could see what you got and you would go and work your deal and things would happen for your benefit. But YAW is invisible. He cannot be controlled and he cannot be manipulated. To worship him means that your eyes are moved away from serving yourself to him, moved away from the possessions and the things in front of you to walking before him, often into places unknown.

The spirit of gain and acquisition moves the heart from gratitude of God to that of a heart of self assertion that seeks to keep grasping for more. That we’re never satisfied. We want more. See the things that I’ve gotten. Lord bless that. A spirit of acquisition. These tribes think of themselves and not of the rest of Israel who helped them conquer this very land to give them the blessings that they had. They’re just two and a half tribes. Everyone else chipped in. They’re thinking only of themselves. Now, they do agree to send fighting men ahead of them. Moses has this final word to say for them in Verse 23, that if you don’t follow through with your word, your sins will find you out. And we have a proverb says, essentially, the chickens will come home to roost. If you don’t follow through with what you said you would do, you will be found out. This will come back to you and not in a good way. And what we see is that if we do not root out and deal with the things of our heart, that they will return and bite us in the end.

They will find us out. You’ve given this commitment, and if you don’t follow through with what you’ve committed to encourage and to help your brothers and sisters to achieve their inheritance, it will come back to you. It will find you out. Now, what we have been given in a physical picture in this holy war, we also see as a spiritual picture in the holy war of our lives. Paul enables us to make this jump. He tells us in 1 Corinthians that these things, the things that we’ve been reading about, they have been given for us as an example for our lives. They’re not just interesting tidbits of stories. They’re showing us the whole flow of redemptive history. The responses of God’s people then mirror the responses of God’s people throughout history and our own responses. These things have been given for us. And we recognize that if we leave the disease, it spreads. And that was the whole problem. If we don’t root it out, it spreads. And we see we are so easily satisfied with the bird in the hand that we camp out on the way to the promised land. I don’t really want to enter into that area to enter into those difficulties, to enter into those struggles because life is pretty good right here and I’m okay with that.

And we ceased to walk by faith. Hebrews 12 comes to us then as a word of encouragement. There the author says in Hebrews 12, Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, meaning all of God’s people who have gone ahead of us and who by his grace have entered in, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Let us run with perseverance the race marked for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right-hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured sets opposition from sinners, that you will not go weary and lose heart. We’re called then to focus on the one who made it, the promised land. It has been given to us because Jesus is the one who has conquered and gone ahead. And that is good news to us because we’re a people with lots of livestock that needs shelters built that takes the first thought in our mind captive. Think about it this way. I wonder what sociologists will say years and years from now when they uncover the great treasure trophies of our storage units.

That’s a relatively new phenomenon. That’s building sheepfolds, is it not? We have all these cattle and we have to build stuff to hold them, Lord. So much so that people actually have expenditures of monthly payments given to storage lockers full of stuff. I don’t remember that 40 years ago, even 30 years ago. And suddenly now we have vast amounts of real estate given to keeping stuff. That’s a part of our cultural pursuit of acquisition, grasping. We pursue these things. Why? Because we want happiness. We want to be able to have these things that somehow we think will give us joy. And they sit in the back of a locker in the back of a closet, and I speak as one with too much stuff. And it’s more than that. It’s all of those things that take us away from the focus that God has given to us to engage, to go forward and not camp out along the way. I don’t want to cross the Jordan. This looks good enough. And we lose our edge, we lose our vitality. That’s not what God wants for his people. That we would have a renewed focus and interest of pursuing the things of God.

That as God has said to his people, generation upon generation, stop looking, one, at the challenges in front of you. Stop looking at the stuff and look up, see me. Look to Jesus, the author and the perfecter, the pioneer of your faith, who for the joy set before him, despised the cross, the shame of the cross, endured it and went ahead. His calling us to do the same, that we would work against the sin that so easily entangles in the stuff vigorously for that joy given to us. If you want to camp out, it will not bring you life in the end. It will dull your metal. You will have a lack of fervency. That’s not what God intends for us. He’s intended so much more that we would be those who see the promised land as a covenantal gift. In a sense, in the changing of history and what God has done, we then are now called, as it were, to pursue a holy war. But we’re doing it in a different way. Because Jesus has conquered sin and death, because judgment has been dealt with, you and I are now the fragments of life to go into those places and cultures and faith that do not know Him, that we would love them, but lay down our lives for them because of the good news that we have received as a gift that would desire and long to include all those for whom God has called to himself.

That we’re a part of that. Because this isn’t the promised land, people. Time to stop worrying about, and they’re not bad things about where we’re going to get here. But it’s not the focus. Look to Jesus, brothers and sisters. Pull in, tighten up, cut loose the stuff and follow our Savior. Pray with me. Father, indeed, we thank you that you have not left us to our own devices. Lord, that you have not left us on this side of the Jordan. Father, thank you that you have taken us with Jesus to your very throne room. Father, we pray that you would open our eyes, change our hearts, our desires. Lord, that we could let go of the stuff that we would not be entangled by the sin that so easily ensnares us, shackles us. Father, set us free that we would be able to serve you with joy and a heart filled longing for the covenantal gift that you’ve given to us in your son. Father, make us a very hungry people that only you can feed. We pray and ask this all through Jesus our Lord. Amen. Please stand as we sing.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription