eye glasses sitting on a document March 12 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Numbers 32, 33

Keeping Commitments

What does it take to keep a commitment - an oath or promise, resolve, allocation of people and other resources, sacrifice, or perseverance? All these things are helpful and often necessary. There are two commitments in today's Bible reading, the commitment of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, and the commitment of the LORD. One more thing is needed to keep a commitment – faithfulness.

Personal and Corporate Commitments

After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, God finally brings the second generation Israelites to the brink of inheriting the Promised Land, the land of Canaan promised to their ancestor Abraham. Three tribes of Israel - the Reubenites, Gadites, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, however, make a controversial proposal to Moses. Since the east side of the Jordan River is good land for livestock, these tribes want to take their spoils from the recent war with the Midianites and settle there (Numbers 32:1-15.). They will consider that land as their inheritance from the LORD. At first this is not well received by Moses. It is perceived as a rebellion like that of the first generation of Israelites out of Egypt, in which they had refused to enter the Promised Land because they were afraid of the giant inhabitants. We might infer Moses' thoughts to be, “Oh no, here we go again - more trouble! These tribes are going to discourage the rest of the tribes from going into the land, and again, we will suffer under God's wrath.”

The Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, however, offer a compromise. The three tribes will arm themselves, go before the Israelites into battle and win the war over the Canaanites, before settling into their own inheritance east of the Jordan (Numbers 32:16-19). This proposal is accepted by Moses and the Israelites. In faith that they will keep their word, Moses assigns territory to them for their inheritance. If they fail to keep their end of the bargain, however, they will lose their inheritance east of the Jordan and have to accept their inheritance west of the Jordan with the rest of the tribes. Then Moses communicates this agreement to Joshua and the high priest, Eleazar, because God tells Moses that he will soon die. The commitment of these three tribes involves risk and sacrifice, as the men have to provide secure dwellings for their families, cattle and flocks, but then trust that the LORD will take care of them while their armies are away a long time fighting battles in Canaan. Commitments involve risk and sacrifice. Therefore, count the cost before you make them.

The Commitment of the LORD

Numbers 33 recounts the journey of Israel through the wilderness over a forty year time span. From this we see that God is with them all the way. The character of God is faithful, holy, just and longsuffering. Though He could not let the first generation inherit the Promised Land because of their rebellion and idolatry, in His grace He will bring the second generation Israelites into the land. God is also gracious to us. Even after we mess up and suffer for it, He forgives and gives us another chance to obey Him.

In addition to the record of their journey through the wilderness, God gives the Israelites a warning for the day when they enter the land. This admonition teaches us a principle. God says,

Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them,” (Numbers 33:51-52, 55-56, NIV).

As true believers in God and His Son, we are delivered from our sins through the blood of Christ (more...). By faith we are made righteous children of God, set apart to Him. We have a sure hope of heaven as the Israelites had of Canaan. In our daily lives, however, we will be tempted and tested by many people and situations. If we compromise morally or fail to do God's will completely, it may ruin our lives, our blessings from God, and bring His discipline upon us. We must therefore be careful, as stated in our last lesson, to eradicate personal evil from our lives and live in the fear (reverence) of the LORD. We must become more and more set apart from the sinful practices of the world and more and more set apart to God (this is called sanctification). God wants us to live an abundant life, free from the trappings of sin. Where is our commitment - to the world and its empty pleasures - or to God and the abundant life we can have through Him? Please take a few minutes to look at these verses and consider them: John 17:17; 1Corinthians 6:9-11; 1Thessalonians 5:21-24; 1Peter 1:15-19; James 4:8; Colossians 3:1-17.

Lessons to live by:

  • God offers us peace, forgiveness and deliverance from our sins (more...). God wants us to be separated from the ways of the world and be totally committed to Him.
  • Faithfulness is required to keep commitments.
  • Commitments involve risk and sacrifice. Therefore, count the cost before you make them.
  • God is often gracious to us, forgiving us and giving us another chance to obey Him.
  • God wants us to live an abundant life, free from the trappings of sin.

Today's Bible memory verses:

1Thessalonians 5:21-24 (NIV)

Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

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