Not Over Jordan


Elder Bill Walden (dec) 

 From the Banner of Love, May 2006 

Numbers 32-5, Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.

The Children of Gad and Reuben made a very unusual request of Moses, and when we inquire into their reasoning we can easily see that it was a selfish and discouraging one. It was a request that showed their disregard for the promise of God of a better place, far above the abject bondage of four hundred years in Egypt. What was their reasoning for not wanting to go over Jordan? Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle; (Numbers 32:1).

The land they were passing through was a land good for grazing their cattle. After all the miracles they had been witness to, they had seen the grapes of Eshcol, and among the discouraging report they heard that it was a good land, but now they are looking at the grazing land around them.

In Verse 6, Moses asked them a question: "Shall your brethren go to war and shall ye sit here?" So much can be seen here in a distant recording that is very relative today. When we disregard the statutes and commandments of God, we make unwise and foolish decisions; on our way to Canaan we become distracted by business opportunities to the extent we may forego the promised land. In their minds they thought they would prosper in a place where God had not promised to bless them. Further, Moses reminded them of their fathers returning from the good land with evidence of the fruits that grew there, yet they "discouraged the heart of the children of Israel". The word "discourage" is very informative; it embraces the meaning "to weaken." I don't believe we have to look far to see some who have discouraged their brethren from going to Canaan, our land of rest today, the militant and local body of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some just don't want to cross Jordan.

They take consolation in the Red Sea crossing of His gracious redemption, but to go to Canaan the Jordan must be experienced. Water baptism is our passage into a good land and large, a land where the towers will never all be numbered, where her bulwarks stand firm.

Moses said "why discourage the children of Israel," - why weaken them. They were close to Canaan, and they had loved ones on the way, across Jordan. The children staying on this side thought it was more prosperous to graze their cattle on this side of Jordan (possibly thought they would send money across to help them). They would remember for a while the God their fathers were instructed to worship and take consolation in His mighty works, but they would stay where the grazing was good. I have wondered at some who would not go 'Over because of business or other reasons, or they would not lay aside ties to oath- bound secret orders that became a religion to them, yet they will support the Church financially and defend its doctrine, but Churches have died with money in the bank and not enough members to keep it going.

There are two points I want to mention. One, in Verse 6, "And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?" I have asked myself this many times as I read of the sacrifices of our people and the hardships of our preachers in carrying the gospel in wildernesses in the early days of our country.

A line in a hymn stirs my thoughts on this mater as I reflect on their labors and toils - "shall I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas". There were many future battles they would face, as this life is marked by many battles. In every generation the Church has its challenges, and we are not exempt today. We are sitting and watching many changes through many of our Churches that are affecting all of us, no matter how we may not want to acknowledge it or pretend it is not happening.

Another thing Moses reminded them of in Verses 8-9: "Thus did your fathers, ...they discouraged the hearts of the children of Israel." It can be said here "like father, like son." Much of the father's attitude and outlook is passed on to the children; this is often seen as the parents' casual attitude toward the worship service in the Church is passed on to the children, in many cases, and we know there are exceptions. If parents are not steadfast and constant in their attendance and support of the Church it is easy for the children to follow the same joined the Church and used the excuse saying that their father or mother never joined.

It may sound somewhat strange at first, and it is hard to imagine that a parent would tell a child who has a desire to join the Church not to "go over Jordan", that "they need to know what they are doing first"; and this is good to a point to respect the Church and not want to bring reproach on it. However, It has been said by some that the children "need to sow their wild oats first." Think about that statement: when "wild oats are sown" it brings forth wild oats. The Church is the best institution, other than the home to protect our youth and help them to avoid the wild oats" excuse.

May God help us all not to "sit here" while our brethren carry the load. There is more to the wonderful truths that the Church is blessed to know and propagate than just theory and being able to defend it. The blessings are in the practical application and walking in the commandments of God. There is great joy in the house of God as we walk in gospel obedience as He blesses us to do so.