March 4 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“But if you fail to [help secure the promised land], you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” ~Numbers 32:23

God’s worshipping community has been through a lot together. They buried family in the desert, went to war, and recommitted to following the Lord. The day of their grand entry into the land of promise has finally arrived. However, two of the twelve tribes have an astounding request. Gad and Reuben want to stay put! Settle in this land that is rich in resources but is not part of God’s promised land. What!?! Moses is (once again) hot and bothered. The leader holds nothing back, sternly reminding the Gadites and Reubenites of the consequences when the rabble in the wilderness had not followed the Lord wholeheartedly (Num. 32:11). The two tribes assure their angry leader that they have every intention of entering the land of promise with the people and fighting to win it. Only then will the men of Gad and Reuben return to their families and possessions on this side of the Jordan.

We can’t be sure why there was such a miscommunication. It’s possible that the tribe leaders hadn’t made their request and plan clear to Moses up front. Or perhaps Moses was so stunned by the request that he needed a moment to process it and compose himself. In either case, Moses accepts the offer, but he entreats the people with a now famous dictum: Be sure your sin will find you out. In other words, follow through on your commitment or the failure will haunt you.

The story is a powerful lesson about the importance of community, a lesson that the modern church desperately needs to hear. Moses was concerned that Gad and Reuben’s choice could discourage the community from doing what God had called it to do (Num. 32:7). The leader had already watched the Israelite’s courage and faith fail when 10 of the 12 spies returned with a bad report 40 years earlier. Had Gad and Reuben stopped where they were, pulling up short of doing everything God had commanded, their influence might cause their brothers and sisters to sin (Num. 32:15).

Have you ever considered how your words and actions affect those in your worshipping community? Are you wholeheartedly following the Lord and encouraging others to do the same? Griping, complaining, rebelling, or failing to show up for worship or to give your time to serving the Lord, all of these can discourage the brothers and sisters around you. If you dishearten those in the Christian community, you sin against them and you sin against God. He will hold you accountable not only for your actions but also for the influence of your words and deeds in the faith community! What a sobering thought!   As the old expression goes, “no man is an island.” Our lives are connected in very real ways, especially in the faith community.

Lectio Divina  is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of  Calvary Church  in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of  A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.