A generation of Israelites had paid the price of faithlessness and disobedience in the wilderness. Now their sons and daughters stood ready to claim God’s promise. The children of Jacob and Abraham began the conquest of the Promised Land by defeating Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, in the lands of Jazer and Gilead east of the Jordan.
The children of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh saw Gilead’s expansive green pastures were ideally suited for their flocks. Here was a place where they could raise their families in peace and prosperity.
By contrast, they knew difficulty and danger lay over the Jordan. Many of their fighting men already had given their lives to conquer this land. Many more would die taking possession of the land across the river.
Their response was natural, predictable and carnal: “May we stay here?”
Moses’ reply was blunt and uncompromising: “You brood of sinners! You’re just like your fathers, who died in the wilderness for their disobedience and lack of faith. God has promised your brothers a land of their own. If you don’t follow God, he will abandon us all and it will be your fault.”
Conscience-stricken, the children of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh pledged to follow God over the river. The Lord parted the waters for them, and they joined the battle for their brothers’ inheritance until the land was taken. Then they returned to their wives and children and flocks in Gilead’s rich pastures.
Joshua praised their integrity: “You have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you.”
God’s Word speaks to every believer: The Lord has blessed you and allowed you to taste your inheritance, but literally billions of God’s lost children still struggle for peace and rest. They fall by the scores at the hands of the Enemy. They are the lost: your families, your neighbors, your co-workers. They are the unreached: the Fulani, the Deccani, the Hui. Will you take your place by their sides and fight for their freedom?
God’s heart aches for his lost children, like any father whose child has been taken captive and pressed into slavery. He knows each child by name and grieves for them one by one. He yearns for their freedom and longs for you to join him in returning them to his arms. When one child shows no concern for another, his displeasure is exceeded only by his disappointment.
Do you think you can enjoy the benefits of salvation while your brothers and sisters have not received the blessing God has promised them? Could anyone rejoice in a good job, fat bank account and fine home while his brother lives in poverty? Like Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, God expects believers to press the battle until all his children have received their inheritance.
Those who do not stand by their brothers will face the same terrible judgment promised the three tribes. Those who do join the battle will hear Joshua’s praise from the lips of their own Commander: “You have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you.”
Make no mistake: The mission is what matters to God, and his people are the ones who give themselves to his mission — whatever the cost — and stay with it until it is completed. A mark of the believer is a godly concern for the lost and unreached and a wholehearted commitment to bringing them back to God.
Spend time with your Father. Seek his heart for the lost and unreached. Make his pain and sorrow yours. Stand in prayer and claim in faith the return of every last one of God’s children to his arms. Then look for the opportunities God will give you to draw others to himself. He’ll part the waters for you too!
We must be faithful to our lost brothers and sisters if we are to be found faithful to our Father.
Cross the river!
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