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A Second Impression

Numbers 32:16-18
Then they came near to him and said, “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place. … We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance.”

How Moses’ fingers must loosen on his staff as he hears these words. How his furrowed brow, hovering like hurricane clouds over storm-filled eyes, must soften in an instant, as if the LORD Himself has just called out to the storm of his countenance, “Peace, be still!” Only a moment ago, Moses was certain that these men had come in bad faith. He knew for a fact that they’d intended not only to undermine God’s good will but also to dampen the optimism of the readied pilgrims. And that’s the thing about godly men: they don’t mind being wrong where God is glorified.

I think of the council of apostles and elders in Acts who felt aggrieved when they heard rumors that Peter had seemingly orchestrated a Pentecost with Gentiles. But instead of listening to their baser impulses, they listened to the voice of the Spirit in their hearts and let Peter explain himself. I wonder how many marriages might be restored today, how many friendships might be redeemed, how many churches might be blessed beyond measure if fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, pasters and deacons, choir members and ministry leaders would stop following their own fickle hearts and instead abide by the Proverb, “Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”

“We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance.” What a vow that is! It means these shepherds may not return home at all. It means they’ll actually be the last of their kin to enjoy their inheritance, not the first, because while their brothers are settling in to the Promised Land on one side of the Jordan, they’ll be packing their bags and journeying to the other. But it also means something far more to Moses, I believe. It means that the generation rising up to take his place and advance where he cannot might be a generation of mighty men after all.