“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.’”
The request of Reuben and Gad to remain on the East side of the Jordan, outside the land of promise, was as shocking to Moses as it is to us. When he first heard it, Moses was reminded of the events almost forty years earlier, when the ten spies refused to enter the land, and discouraged the hearts of the people. After thirty-eight years of circling the desert, watching countless numbers of his friends and loved ones die, Moses wanted nothing to do with part time commitments or compromise. The tribal leaders assured Moses their request had nothing to do with compromise; they would accompany Israel into the land to further the work of God. While they ardently declared they were as committed as the rest of the tribes, the evidence tells another story.
It was not long before their compromise affected the other tribes. When the chapter begins, we read of two tribes wanting to settle East of the Jordan. By the end, we read of a third tribe splitting, and half of the people joining with Reuben and Gad. Compromise, like commitment always seems to bear children. When a person will stand confidently for the Lord, and step into service, he will find there are others whose faith is stirred to join him. Likewise, when someone decides to sit, discouraged, on the sidelines, he will see others join his camp.
Later, we read this compromise put a division between these three tribes and the rest of the nation. When the book of Joshua comes to a close, the three Eastern tribes are building icons to remind them of their part with Israel. This was the first step, in a long road, that introduced idolatry to the nation. Compromise has a way of fueling more compromise and creating distance between us, the Lord, and other believers.
Finally, it is important to remember when Israel was attacked by their enemies, it was almost always these Eastern tribes who were first to fall. As time goes on, they faced many attacks God never intended for them to experience; all because they refused to press on in following the Lord.
Instead of part time commitments and compromise, let’s be like those who gave their all to following Jesus. When trying to convince these tribes, Moses contrasted them with Joshua and Caleb who “wholly followed the Lord.”