A casual reading of Numbers 32 could lead one to think that the tribes of Reuben and Gad were either selfish, lazy, or chicken. It seems, initially at least, that they’re trying to get out of crossing the Jordan and fighting the Canaanites; they’d be just as happy to stay on the east side and tend their flocks. So they ask permission of the appointed leaders of the people. Moses’s initial response sounds like what mine would’ve been. He did what I’m inclined to do—make some unwarranted assumptions (vv. 6-7), draw some unwelcome analogies (vv. 8-13), and arrive at some unwise conclusions (vv. 14-15).
Fortunately, the leaders of the two tribes didn’t get angry and stomp out because they didn’t get their way. Instead, they took the time to correct the assumptions and clarify their intentions: they will cross the river, help the other ten tribes defeat the Canaanites, and even lead in the charge (vv. 16-19). His concerns satisfied, Moses agrees to the plan.
The two tribes who requested this choice property are to be commended for their consideration of their brothers. Rather than just charging off, insisting on their rights, and rebelling against the God-appointed leadership, they graciously honored their leaders and did what was best for the nation as a whole. Would that Christians in local churches today could be so considerate! Without giving much thought at all to the needs and concerns of the church family, many simply do what they want, sometimes forsaking the regular services, sometimes even leaving the church altogether for “greener pastures.”
Did you notice how a major rift was averted as these people simply communicated with each other? Here, too, is a lesson we can learn. Sharing our desires with trusted spiritual leaders may open our eyes to some facets of the decision we hadn’t thought about. Harmful results can be avoided, and general harmony has an opportunity to hold God’s people together.