“And the people of Gad and the people of Reuben answered, ‘What the Lord has said to your servants, we will do. We will pass over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us beyond the Jordan'” (Numbers 32:31-32, ESV).
In Numbers 32 the Israelites are preparing for the conquest of the promised land. The people of the tribes of Reuben and Gad requested that Moses allow them to settle in lands on the east side of the Jordan River, which was not within the boundaries of the promised land. They wanted to settle east of the Jordan because they owned large herds of livestock and there was good grazing land there.
At first Moses resisted their request pointing out that they were disobeying God just like their fathers who died during their forty-year wandering in the wilderness because they rebelled against the plan to possess the land God had promised.
So, the tribes of Reuben and Gad struck a deal with Moses that they would settle their families and livestock on the east side of the Jordan but their fighting men would take up arms and lead in the battles against the inhabitants of the land until all the people groups in the land of Canaan were subdued. If they stayed until the war in Canaan was over, then the lands on the east side of the Jordan would be their inheritance.
Moses warned the Gaddites and Reubenites what the penalty would be if they did not arm themselves and go to war and then keep fighting until the war was over. In verses 31 and 32 they agree to the terms Moses proposed.
There’s an object lesson in this story from Numbers 32 that is quite relevant for Christians today: We’ve settled into our inheritance before the war is over!
Today’s Christians are enjoying the blessings of redeemed life, often with little or no concern for the spiritual war that’s waging all around us.
We’re unarmed! We’ve let our guard down and laid down our weapons.
We’ve become complacent. We’ve retreated back across the Jordan before the war is over.
We’re more interested in living the good life than in fighting for lost souls.
Redeemed humanity is called to serve as soldiers in a holy war–men and women of peace carrying swords of truth. You have been commissioned by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey everything God has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
So, the war in which God’s people engage is not a war of physical violence but a war fought in the spiritual realm using spiritual weapons: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, ESV).
Christians are holy warriors who must always be prepared to battle against the kingdom of darkness. This battle is a spiritual conflict: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:12-13, ESV).
Like the ancient Israelites preparing for the conquest of the promised land, today’s Christians must also be armed and dangerous–armed by the Word of God and dangerous to the spiritual forces of evil inhabiting this world by proclaiming the truth of God’s Kingdom.
Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” (Joel 3:9-10, ESV).
(Some parts of this post are from Steve’s book, The Kingdom Order: Living for the Future in the Present. The book can be purchased online at http://facebook.com/kingdomorderbook/)