Select Wisdom Brand

Fighting Words

Numbers 32:6-7 &14
But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them? … And behold, you have risen in your fathers’ place, a brood of sinful men, to increase still more the fierce anger of the LORD against Israel!”

You can feel a Sinai-type storm brewing behind Moses’s reply to these Gadites and Reubenites, as if a dark cloud has descended over the landscape, turning what was just a pristine, clear blue sky into a foreboding one. You can hear the rumbling of heaven in Moses’s furrowed brow; you can see the lightening flashing in his gaze downward; you can feel his knuckles whitening around that trusty old staff, and the rocks under his feet bracing themselves for a strike, as if the earth might suddenly be torn apart with one blow of his wrath. ‘What treachery!’, Moses thinks. ‘Like father, like son—the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—you can’t change a leopard’s spots.’

But even at such an old age, even when he knows God is about to deliver him to glory, Moses is still being sanctified. He’s still learning to keep his cool in the assembly, learning that one instant of temporary insanity, one hasty thrust of that staff on an innocent boulder, could lead to great dishonor. It might take every ounce of strength he’s got just to hold back the fire and brimstone burning in his heart, but he succeeds where he failed before. He listens to these men as brothers before condemning them as enemies.

What if these men really aren’t like their fathers at all? What if the thought of sheepishly bunkering down in the foothills while their brothers fight bloody battles hasn’t crossed their minds? What if they truly are genuinely content with the miles of fertile terrain before them, and, at long last, they’ve finally found a home in the will of the Father? What if the pulse of their request isn’t cowardice but contentment?

Even to a saint like Moses, with all he’s learned over many years of discipleship, God’s grace is full of surprises.