Earlier in the wilderness journey, the tribes of Gad, Rueben, and Manassah had negotiated a deal with Moses concerning what part of the Promised Land they would settle. These two tribes had large herds so they proposed that the lands on this side of the Jordan (opposite the land they were to possess) would be better suited for all their flocks. Moses conceded their request, with a requirement. First they had to help the rest of Israel conquer Canaan, then later they could return to their own inheritance on the opposite of the Jordan. We could call them the “Lone Ranger”(LR) tribes.
In the concession, there are some important contrasts. There is the contrast of the land God promised vs. what Moses promised. This could also be seen as God’s PERFECT will vs. God’s PERMISSIVE WILL. God gave them all the land. Moses allowed their request of “settling” for less than ideal. They were still in God’s will, but less than realizing their full destiny. Sometimes, we’re in the same situation. We’re just making a living, instead of making a life…the abundant life Jesus came to grant us!
There were consequences to their decision. After the conquest was over, Shiloh became the religious center of Israel and the place where the Ark resided. Therefore, being a great distance from Shiloh, and cut-off by the barrier of the Jordan River, the LR tribes built their own place of worship. This act was not perceived well by the other tribes, and civil war almost developed as a result. Actually, through this situation and others, they never enjoyed a good relationship with the other tribes. Eventually they neglected worship at their separate altar and began to fall into idolatry. Being on the opposite side of the Jordan, they were exposed to their enemies. They continually had to deal with being absorbed by their enemies because they chose the live outside of God’s protective boundaries.
Where is your Shiloh (central place of worship)? First, it should be in your heart, and also in a corporate environment, such as your local assembly. Are you walking in unison with the other (tribes) in your assembly, possessing your inheritance and “taking the land” together?
Lone Rangers operate in pride, independence, and compromise. The LR tribes of Joshua’s day saw only that the land would be good for THEIR herds, but could not see the bigger and better plans God had for them! Did they actually think God forgot they had herds to support? Their short-sightedness also hurt the other tribes. Each tribe had their role and to take a few out would make the whole somewhat incomplete.
Do you understand your calling and the boundaries God has placed in effect for your own protection? Are you submitted to the spiritual leadership God has placed in your life? If we are not careful, we can get too focused on what WE get from our relationship with Christ, but never be willing to help our brothers KEEP possession of the land. It’s the consumer mentality that has pervaded the modern Church!
The two and a half tribes who decided to settle on the wrong side of the Jordan and paid a heavy price for their compromise. Sure, they helped the other tribes conquer Canaan initially, but their motivation was self-centered. Victorious christian living is not a one-time moment or event, but a process that demands daily discipline, accountability, and unity. Any other choice is settling for second best, when God has promised so much more!