GOD OR CATTLE? (EXCERPT OF KINGDOM INSTRUCTION FROM THE BOOK OF JOSHUA)
From: Kingdom Instruction From the Book of Joshua
Copyright © 1995 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Multitudes of the Lord’s people are satisfied with their spiritual development. They are ready to settle down and make a little nest in the world, enjoying what they think they have attained in Christ to this point. They do not seem to have in them the fierce gladness of the victorious saint, the joy of seeking the Lord and of pressing on to the fullness of the possession of God in Christ.
And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh Joshua spoke, saying,
“Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.’ (Joshua 1:12,13)
Joshua here is reminding the two and a half tribes that Moses had yielded to their request and had promised to them land on the east side of the Jordan River, while the rest of Israel was to go across the Jordan and occupy the territory on the west side.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad were wealthy in cattle, and there were plains on the east side of the Jordan River that were well suited to raising animals. Therefore Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh desired to remain on the east side of Jordan and receive their inheritance there.
Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock, (Numbers 32:1)
Moses, after expressing the greatest displeasure over their request, agreed to give them the lands east of the Jordan that had been ruled by Sihon and Og—two kings that the Israelites had defeated in battle. But the men of these two and a half cattle-loving tribes were required to cross over the Jordan River and fight alongside the rest of the tribes until the land of Canaan (on the west side of the Jordan) had been subdued.
Speaking to Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, Joshua commanded:
“Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them, (Joshua 1:14)
Even though they had received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan River they were required to cross over the Jordan and help the rest of the tribes enter their respective inheritances.
The problem with remaining on the east side of Jordan was that Reuben, Gad, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh were separated by the Jordan River from Jerusalem, from Zion, from the Tabernacle of the Congregation, from the Altar of Burnt Offering, from the priesthood, from the Ark of the Covenant, and from the manifestation of the Glory of God Himself.
The request of the two and a half tribes was denounced vigorously by Moses who perceived immediately the error of their hearts.
Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh cared more for their cattle than they did for God. It was of little interest to Reuben, Gad, and the half of Manasseh whether or not they were close to the Presence of God, who manifestly was in the midst of Israel and who was moving forward with the Ark of the Covenant; whether or not they would be present to see the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel; whether or not the other tribes would be successful in obtaining their own inheritances.
Their hearts were with their cattle.
The two and a half tribes did not have a fervent desire to follow God and come to know God. God was not in all their thoughts. Their hearts and minds were fixed on settling down with their families and their cattle.
They were not married to the Lord of Israel, they were married to their livestock.
Reuben, Gad, and part of Manasseh had managed to make it difficult for themselves to enjoy the most precious aspect of belonging to the nation of Israel—closeness to the Presence of the Lord.
How disappointing to God is such an attitude!
How would you feel if the people whom you loved most were preoccupied with the gifts that you had given them and did not care whether they were close to you or separated from you?—they did not care for you, only for what you could do for them?
What would your response be? Would you begin to look for others who would care about you and not just about what you could give them?
This is the case today. Multitudes of the Lord’s people are satisfied with their own spiritual development. They are ready to settle down and make a little nest in the world, enjoying what they think they have attained in Christ to this point. They do not seem to have in them the fierce gladness of the victorious saint, the joy of seeking the Lord and of pressing on to the fullness of the possession of God in Christ.
They do not love God. They do not have a heart to press into marriage to Jesus. They may love the things of God or the things of the churches or what God has done for them. They may desire to go to Heaven to “live in a mansion,” and they are afraid of Hell. But they do not love God Himself. They do not love Christ.
Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh did not love God. It is as simple as that. Their cattle were of greater importance. Being close to God’s Glory was not as important as their animals.
Many believers are willing to remain at the thirtyfold or the sixtyfold level of fruit bearing. The prospect of pressing further into the death and resurrection of Christ and of helping other people enter the rest of God (for deeper consecration leads naturally to increased service to others) does not appeal to them.
They are “saved” according to the current formula. They are willing to lead a relatively decent moral life and to attend some church meetings. Why not be content with what has been gained thus far?
The love of Christ does not abound in such. The cries of the people who have never heard the name of Jesus fall in vain on their ears.
The infinitely greater tragedy is they do not love the Son of God. They take little pleasure in waiting hopefully and patiently for the precious voice of the Bridegroom. The idea of cleaving in total union to the Lord Jesus, forsaking all others for Him alone, is foreign to them.
Although Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh were permitted to settle with their families and cattle on the east side of the Jordan River, they were required, nevertheless, to endure the hardships and dangers of the invasion and occupation of Canaan.
The contented believers of our day must fight anyway. Even though they are satisfied with coming short of the fullness of the Glory of God, remaining selfishly wrapped up in their own house and yard, they still are required to fight alongside their fellow members of the Body of Christ who are attempting to enter their own inheritance in the Lord and also are trying to bring the Good News to those who never have heard.
While we are in the world we must fight. It is impossible to find a comfortable niche and there worship God, leaving the rest of the believers (and the unsaved) to gain their own place of safety and contentment.
The inheritance of Christ and of the coheirs with Him is the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth (Psalm 2:8). Satan still is in control of Christ’s inheritance. Christ’s enemies have not as yet been subdued under His feet.
Every member of the Body of Christ is obligated to put on the whole armor of God and to participate in the conflict of the ages, as the Spirit of God directs him.
Several countries of the world are safe and comfortable for the Christian believer. He or she can find a home, work, raise a family, and attend church.
Other parts of the earth are not safe and comfortable for the believers in Christ. The Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, sometimes tortured and put to death.
Numerous Christians of today, especially those who live in the safe and comfortable areas of the world, are “at ease in Zion.” They suppose that by living somewhat decently and attending church on a regular basis they are fulfilling the requirements of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh felt that their request was perfectly proper and in Divine order. It is likely they were amazed at the furious indignation of Moses.
The true Christian of today is spending and being spent for the Gospel of the Kingdom. Every moment of his time, every dollar of his money, is on the altar of God. He is dedicated totally to using the talents the Lord has given to him in order that the work of the Kingdom may be accomplished; that the enemy may be driven out of Christ’s inheritance and utterly crushed.
How do you think God regards these two different kinds of believers? The one group is living to themselves with their families and “cattle.” The other group is entering faithfully and courageously into Kingdom warfare. Is it true that the first group loves its blessings and the second group loves the Lord?
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the LORD, ‘Curse its inhabitants bitterly, because they did not come to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.’ (Judges 5:23)
The curse invoked on Meroz by the angel of the Lord was not because of moral sin, it was because of the unwillingness of the Israelites who lived in Meroz to participate in the warfare of the Lord. They did not come to the aid of the King, the Lord of Armies.
It is not enough to keep ourselves from sin. We must take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ into service in the Kingdom of God.
One of the strongest denunciations of human conduct to be found in the Scriptures is that which appears in the parable of the talents.
To the servant who had done no wrong other than that of hiding his talent, the Lord said:
“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. (Matthew 25:26)
‘And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:30)
The curse of the angel of the Lord falls on disinterest, laziness, and an unwillingness to participate in the rigors of Kingdom warfare.
Queen Esther is a type of the Bride of the Lamb. Esther had attained the luxuries of the queen of a vast empire. But there came a day when the lives of her fellow Jews were in danger.
For Esther to intercede before King Ahasuerus could very well have cost her life. She may have been tempted to forget about the troubles of her countrymen.
But Mordecai, her close relative who had raised her, warned her concerning her responsibility to her people, Israel:
And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews.
“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13,14)
No Christian has been called by the Lord Jesus to sit at home, raise a family, and live happily and contentedly in this present world. Two spiritual kings are at war—Christ against Antichrist. Every Christian has “come to the kingdom” in order that he or she may play a necessary and substantial part in the establishing of the Kingdom of God in the earth.
Notice the question that Moses asked the tribes that desired to settle down before they arrived in Canaan, before they came to the fullness of the inheritance that had been promised to them when they left Egypt:
And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: “Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? (Numbers 32:6)
That very question could be asked of unnumbered Christian people of our day: “Shall your brothers go to war, and shall you sit here?”
Every member of the Body of Christ is a part of every other member. It is not appropriate or scriptural that some Christian people are giving their lives for the Gospel while others are following the ordinary pursuits of mankind; that some believers in Christ are in prison for their faith while others are building bigger houses, buying more expensive automobiles, and worrying about their bank account and the color of the bedroom walls.
The Body of Christ is one body. When one member suffers we all suffer. Not one member of the Body is allowed to settle back at ease in the world until every other member has obtained his inheritance in God. How can we occupy ourselves with material comforts when our brothers and sisters in Christ are being tortured and imprisoned for the Gospel? Shall we not be held accountable for such treachery?
Moses was concerned with the effect the request of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh would have on the remainder of the Israelites.
“Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD has given them? (Numbers 32:7)
It requires every bit of dedication we can summon in order to keep pressing forward in the pursuit of the Kingdom of God. Whenever a believer chooses to be content with a partial entrance into the Kingdom of God, he influences those around him to also become content with a partial entrance into the Kingdom of God.
When we keep on giving ourselves wholly to the things of Christ, many people around us are encouraged and strengthened. If they see us grow careless their determination is weakened. The righteous are as a light that will increase in brightness until the fullness of the Day of the Lord is here. But one sinner destroys much good.
No fully dedicated saint marches alone. A great train of people are inspired to march along with him.
The fearfulness and unbelief of the ten spies who were sent from Kadesh-Barnea infected the entire camp of Israel. All became fearful and unbelieving and the judgment of God fell on the congregation as a result.
The attitude of living for ourselves without intense commitment to the worldwide work of the Kingdom of God affects everyone with whom we come in contact. Those who are striving to take the Kingdom are not supported by our attitude, while the careless and lukewarm take pleasure in knowing they are not the only ones who are taking their ease in the world.
Speaking to these cattle lovers Moses exclaimed:
“And look! 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. (Numbers 32:14)
We may have found exactly what we think we want in the Lord. But if we do not leave it for now and enter with a whole heart into the work of the Kingdom, into the battles of the Lord, we are committing sin, and our sin of rebellion against the Lord will be revealed in the Day of Christ.
“and the land is subdued before the LORD, then afterward you may return and be blameless before the LORD and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD.
“But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:22-23)
One of the greatest sins any Christian can commit is the sin of neglecting to press into the inheritance, into the rest of God. If we neglect our salvation, if we are busy with marrying and buying and selling when the King needs us for His business, then we surely will be punished severely in the Day of the Lord.
how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, (Hebrews 2:3)
“How shall we escape?”
The Hebrew Christians had made an excellent start in the Lord. They had suffered persecution because they had associated themselves with the Apostles (Hebrews 10:32-34).
Now they were losing interest and were not pressing forward into the fullness of the inheritance. Evidently their “cattle” were demanding their attention.
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)
The sin of neglect is one of the greatest of the spiritual problems that affect Christians in our time.
Christ has called us to the intense, consistent, lifelong seeking of the Kingdom of God. What is our response?
“But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’
“And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’
“Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ (Luke 14:18-20)
“Please excuse me, Lord. I must take care of my ground, my oxen, and my wife.”
The master of the house did not accept these excuses. Like Moses he became very angry. And well he should have!
God always will help us provide properly for our ground, our oxen, and our wife. But He expects us to place the seeking of His Person and will as the number one priority and interest of our life.
When the King invites us to participate in some aspect of the work of His Kingdom we are not to make excuses. No excuse will be accepted. Either we love Him above all or else we love our “cattle.” Where is our heart?
The sin of fornication is a great contemporary evil. Lying, stealing, and drunkenness are on the rise in many nations.
But not entering spiritual warfare and not pressing toward the mark of total union with the Bridegroom also are great sins in the sight of the Lord.
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:
“They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26,27)
It was “business as usual” until the last minute.
“but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone [burning sulfur] from heaven and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:29)
The Christian who keeps himself morally clean but who does not take up his cross each day and follow Christ into the Kingdom is guilty of sin in the sight of God. He or she has “sinned against the Lord” by neglecting to serve the Lord fervently. We can be sure the sin of neglect will be judged in the Day of the Lord, if not before. That individual will not prosper in spiritual riches.
If we are willing to go forth and help all the members of the Body of Christ as they struggle to enter their own inheritances, they then will be able to enter the rest of the Lord’s perfect will that we ourselves have found. But if we are not willing to be ground in the mill of Divine service we will lose our own position with the Lord.
As soon as each saint has gained his inheritance, then we can all return together to our own inheritance and enjoy it for eternity.
Then Moses said to them: “If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the LORD for the war,
“and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the LORD until He has driven out His enemies from before Him,
“and the land is subdued before the LORD, then afterward you may return and be blameless before the LORD and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD.
“But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:20-23)
(“God or Cattle?”, 3951-1)