Bible Study with Jairus – Numbers 32
Faith and obedience to God are the best ways to receive His blessings. In Numbers 32, the people of Gad and the people of Reuben were told to enter the Promised Land with the rest of the Israelites so they could inherit their choice of land on the east side of the Jordan River. If they refused to do this, they would inherit land in the land of Canaan like everyone else (Numbers 32:29-30). They had to trust God’s words and show it through their obedience.
Let’s look at the following verses:
Numbers 32:29-30 “And Moses said to them, “If the people of Gad and the people of Reuben, every man who is armed to battle before the Lord, will pass with you over the Jordan and the Land shall be subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession. However, if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.”
If the Gadites and Reubenites refused to send soldiers to fight with their brothers, they would not be able to possess their preferred land on the East of Jordan river. God commanded them to cross the river and fight with the rest of Israel.
Why did Moses tell the people of Gad and Reuben that if they crossed the Jordan to fight with the rest of Israel, they could get Gilead on the east side of the Jordan as their inheritance, but if they refused to obey, they would receive an inheritance among the Israelites in the land of Canaan? I also wondered about the meaning of verse 30, “If they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.” Did this mean that they could cross the Jordan unarmed and receive the land of Canaan?
When I asked this question during Bible study, one of the men had an inspirational idea. He said, “Crossing the Jordan River unarmed would require more faith. Faith surpasses physical weapons. This is why they would obtain the promised land of Canaan as an inheritance. If they chose to fight with material weapons, they would receive a certain blessing from God—the land east of the Jordan which they had prayed for. But they wouldn’t be able to enter the Promised Land.”
This insight helped me understand Moses’ words. It gave me even more insight into Christian obedience and faith.
Do We Cherish God’s Promises?
When the Gadites and Reubenites saw that the land of Jazer and Gilead east of the Jordon would provide perfect grazing land for their livestock, they asked if they could stay there rather than crossing the Jordon and inheriting land in Canaan. Moses’ first reaction to this request was to scold them for being like their unbelieving ancestors.
Moses longed to enter the Promised Land, but he’d recently found out that God would not allow him to enter. He would only be able to watch from a distance. This may be one reason he was so frustrated with the Gadites and Reubenites. How could they be so close to God’s promises and throw away this opportunity to enter the Promised Land? How could they settle for living on the east of the Jordan River?
Eager to enter the good land but unable to do so himself, Moses was displeased with the people. These tribes had reached the entrance to the Promised Land and were settling for less. Rather than entering in and receiving the inheritance promised by God, they were content with their own inheritance.
Moses rebuked them for not participating in the conquest of the Promised Land. Moses was afraid their apathy would discourage the rest of the Israelites. However, the people of these two tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh promised Moses that they would bring weapons to fight with the Israelites across the Jordan River. Only their women, children and livestock would stay east of Jordan River. After that, Moses changed his attitude. Surprisingly, he granted their request.
Moses mentioned the word “before the Lord” many times in this chapter. For example, “You will take up arms to go before the Lord for the war (verse 20), “Every armed man of you will pass over the Jordan before the Lord” (verse 21), and “The land is subdued before the Lord” (Verse 22). Clearly, Moses knew that these choices were made in the presence of God and that the tribes would be accountable to Him.
However, the text never explicitly mentions the words, “The Lord said to Moses.” This phrase is very common throughout Exodus and Numbers. Because these words are omitted, we wonder if this permission was actually given by God, or if it was only granted by Moses. Because of the Israelites’ hardness of heart, they were allowed to stay across the Jordon. Similarly, when explaining why the Israelites were allowed to divorce their wives, Jesus said that God did not allow this at first, but Moses temporarily allowed the Israelites to divorce their wives because of the hardness of their hearts. (Matthew 19:8, Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
I think this is a reasonable way to interpret Numbers 32 as well. In God’s perfect will, He wanted all Israelites to enter the Promised Land. The Israelites’ ancestors died in the wilderness because of their unbelief and rebellion. The Gadites and Reubenites also reached the border of the Promised Land, but did not want to enter. Like their ancestors, they despised the promise of God. Although the degree of contempt was different, they still despised God’s promise. I believe that Moses gave permission to stay east of the Jordon as an expression of God’s permissive will. Though it wasn’t God’s perfect will for them to stay outside of Canaan, it was God’s permissive will for them to do so.
Moses told the other Israelites that if Gad and Reuben took their weapons across the Jordan River to fight alongside their brothers, they could inherit Gilead, east of the Jordan River. If they did not carry weapons and accompany the rest of the Israelites, perhaps it meant they had abandoned their desire for the land of Gilead and had decided to cherish God’s promise. They would receive an inheritance in the land of Canaan instead. I hoped these tribes would not send soldiers to fight with their brothers, but that they would all go into the Promised Land together with the other tribes. But this was not the case.
How many Christians today are fighting desperately for their worldly desires, when God just wants them to rest in him? They would get much farther faster by resting in the Lord with faith. The Bible says, “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling” (Isaiah 30:15). We should not fight desperately for what we already can see, but look in faith beyond what we can see with our eyes. Trusting has better results than struggling and striving.
The lesson of obedience and faith for individual Christians
In the wilderness, God was training the Israelites in faith and obedience. Hebrews 3:7-12 tells us that the Israelites tested God in the wilderness and were disciplined by God. Hebrews reminds us not to harden our hearts and forsake God in disbelief. Numbers 14:22-23 tells us that the Israelites could not enter the Promised land because of disobedience and rebellion.
What is obedience? Obedience is knowing and doing the will of God. When God’s will and our own free will come into conflict, we face a choice. Will we obey or disobey? God’s ways are higher than our ways and God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Mentally, we can recognize that we should always obey God’s wise commands. It should be very easy for us to obey, but it often is not. Ignoring the fact that God’s ways are higher, we continue to do things in our own way. God sometimes must use circumstances and suffering to discipline us and help us submit to his will.
What is faith? Faith is knowing God Himself. Faith is seeing the sun through the dark clouds. The sun is always there, always shining behind the clouds. God sometimes allows difficult circumstances to cover the “sun” of his love, but we must remember he is always there. His goodness is always shining like the sun. Satan, like a dark cloud, tries to obscure and distort our understanding of God’s goodness. He tries to convince us that the sun is dark or nonexistent. When a person lives under dark clouds or darkness for too long, he will believe such lies. We must not allow the dark clouds of suffering to twist our basic understanding that “God is light.” Trials are a test of our faith. Will we pass the test?
During my season of infertility, I experienced ten years of difficulty and trial. This suffering helped me learn lessons of obedience and faith. At first, I didn’t submit to the people and circumstances arranged by God. Later, I discovered that God’s hand was disciplining me so I could learn lessons of obedience. After I surrendered to God, these sufferings became my blessings.
As I continued learning these lessons, I began to pray and look to God. Not only did I get the miracle baby I had prayed for, but my faith in God also increased dramatically. I learned to see the hand of God working in my circumstances, even when they looked bleak. God is good, he will always take care of us. Those who believe in Him will not be put to shame (Romans 10:11).
Jesus also learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). If Jesus needed suffering to learn obedience, then this is especially true for us too. We must follow his example and learn obedience through suffering. Today, many Christians are unwilling to talk about suffering. They only want to talk about blessings. This is unbiblical.
God also highly values our faith. If we want to enter the spiritual Promised Land, we also need to learn faith. No matter what kind of suffering comes our way, we will not be separated from God’s love. God promises that all things work together for the benefit of those who love God (Romans 8). Suffering helps us learn to obey. It also helps increase our faith.
The lessons of obedience and faith for humanity and the church as a whole
In my opinion, the Covid-19 pandemic is God’s way of disciplining the human race as a whole. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God often sends plagues as a part of his judgment. The majority of the human race does not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and are under his judgment. But some object that Christians have also become infected and died of the virus. How can COVID-19 be a judgment from God? Some Christians say that since the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, this plague comes from the enemy, not from God (John 10:10). Others say that all circumstances are under the sovereignty of God. Not even one sparrow falls apart from the Father’s will (Matthew 10:29). They say that since God allowed this to happen, it must be God’s judgment.
I understand that all the bad things come from the enemy, but I also believe that God can achieve His purposes though this attack from the enemy. He allowed it to happen. We need to allow this crisis to teach lessons of obedience and faith. Again, obedience is knowing God’s will and faith is knowing God himself.
You may ask, “How can we obey God and have faith in God in such a difficult situation?”
First, we must repent and obey God. No matter how we look at this issue, we can be sure of one thing. Trouble should motivate us to turn to God, pray, and examine our lives. It’s important to ask ourselves whether there are any areas in us that are disobedient or displeasing to God. Many Christians testify that illness or trouble was the catalyst to their spiritual renewal and repentance.
Similarly, the purpose of this collective human suffering is to motivate us to turn to God. If the human race refuses to recognize that this is God’s discipline, we won’t be able to achieve God’s purpose. If we use human methods (science and medicine) to solve the problem, we won’t get to the spiritual root of the problem. I am not against science, but I am saying that we should not overlook the spiritual root causes of this pandemic.
Some Christians say that God would never send disease to test and discipline people, but this opinion does not align with God’s word. God clearly told the Israelites that if they disobeyed, “Every other malady and affliction, even though not recorded in the book of this law, the Lord will inflict on you until you are destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 28:61)
You may say, “That was in the Old Testament, and this is the New Testament.” Then how can you explain the plagues recorded in Revelation? It is never God’s perfect will to have His people sick or experiencing plagues, but sometimes He allows bad things to happen to motivate us to repent and turn back to him. He disciplines us so we won’t lose our eternal reward.
We must change our mindset and begin to reflect on our lives before God. If we attribute this trial to demons or human agency, we may end up losing our opportunity to repent. We must balance the grace of God with the righteousness of God. In God’s righteousness, He does judge and discipline His people, along with the world He created.
Second, we must have faith in God. It may seem like God is not listening to our prayers for healing from the pandemic. Many people are dying, powerless to save themselves. Controversies about vaccines, political parties, and elections are raging in the United States. Darkness is rampant. It seems that God doesn’t care about it. How can we have faith in God?
Such tests of faith are common throughout the Bible. Peter told us, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). Paul also mentioned the judgment and discipline of God: “Our earthly fathers disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but the Father of Spirits disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.” (Hebrews 12:10-12). When tests of faith come, believers often begin to doubt the existence of God or the goodness of God. Instead, we can strengthen our weak and drooping hands and move forward towards the great future God has for us.
A great revival is coming. The coming of this great revival has incited all-out opposition from the enemy. The darkness you see comes from the anger of the enemy. However, the enemy’s wrath cannot stop the coming of this great revival.
At the same time, in order to prepare for the coming of this great revival, God must cleanse the church and prepare us as clean vessels that are capable of receiving the coming outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Just like Jesus overturned the tables of money changers in the temple, God is cleansing his “temple” now.
Our current suffering should not make us lose faith in God. Instead, it should strengthen our faith. The process of labor and delivery is painful. But once the child is born, the previous pain will be forgotten because of the joy that the child brings. (John 16:21). In the same way, we can endure the “childbirth” that the church is experiencing. During this painful time, our church should be full of hope. As the saying goes, “Small child, small push; big child, big push.” This great revival is a “big child,” so we have to use great force to give birth. We must endure temporary pain in anticipation of the great revival that is coming soon.
Conclusion and blessings
God spoke to me in a dream on May 12, 2016 that my wife would be pregnant with a child within a month. After this dream, Satan began to attack me violently.
Satan’s attack caused discord between my wife and me. We did not speak for two weeks. However, on May 28th, my wife discovered that she was pregnant, after ten years of infertility. We were able to reconcile. I have learned from my personal experience that each time God releases a heavenly blessing in our lives, Satan launches a counterattack. We must endure these battles before we can receive these blessings.
Personal spiritual experience confirms this principle, which we are currently seeing played out in the church and in humanity as a whole. God is preparing a great blessing, a great revival. On many occasions, God has told me about this great revival through prophetic dreams. However, Satan has mobilized all hell in an attempt to prevent the coming of this great revival. But we know that Satan is doomed to fail. If we persevere to the end, we will win.
In time, we will see these promises come true. Meanwhile, let us learn the lessons of obedience and faith that God wants to teach us. Remember, obedience is knowing God’s will and faith is knowing God himself. We must align our will with God’s will and place our faith in God’s goodness.