Across The Jordan

When the cloud of the Lord rose up from Mt. Sinai, indicating to Israel that the time to enter the Promise Land had come, the people faithfully departed. But the course turned sour in a matter of days and what was meant to be a two-week journey turned into 40 years of desert-wandering. Tired of manna and ridden with thirst, Israel grumbled and longed for Egypt. Despite the shackles of their past, they would rather go back than endure the risk of trusting YHWH. The Israelites succeeded in following God when it made sense to them, but the moment God’s way didn’t match up with their logic, they cratered. The Israelites wanted to call the shots, but in order to enter the Promise Land, in order to become a holy nation, they had relinquish any illusion they had that they were in control. Following YHWH meant surrender and trust even when it was scary.

The turning point of Israel’s power struggle occurred in Numbers 32 when the tribes of Reuben and Gad approached Moses with a proposition:

“The land that the Lord struck down before the congregation of Israel is a land of livestock and your servants have livestock… if your servants have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession. Do not take us across the Jordan.

What’s happening here? Had God not spoken to Israel time and again about His intentions to take the entire nation to the Promise Land? Had God not proven Himself by delivering Israel in victory over everyone who opposed them? Had God not miraculously provided food, water, and dwelling place at every twist and turn? Why, then, did these tribes come to Moses begging not to be taken across the river Jordan?

The tribes of Reuben and Gad reveal something that is within every human heart: a temperamental illusion that we alone know what’s best for us. The tribes saw land that was good enough, an easier route, a more convenient plan. Over the Jordan lay the point of no return and beyond that point awaited an enemy to fight, a land to conquer, and a promise to fulfill. The risk was too high and the land right in front of them was perfectly fine. The tribes of Reuben and Gad made a decision not to trust the living God. They craved their plan over YHWH’s, not wanting to do hard things. They didn’t think God should call them to do hard things, either. This thinking, this decision, is exactly what disqualified an entire generation from the Promise Land. When fear and pride become our masters, the effects are fatal.

Trusting God can feel perilous. It can and will run counter to our knee-jerk reaction to pursue safety. But we were not made to be safely self-led to our own predetermined destinations. We were made to dive deep into the trenches of surrendered dependence on YHWH. It’s easy to trust God when you agree with Him, but that doesn’t result in growth, it results in a power struggle. Think of Moses who started out as a quivering fugitive but whose decision to trust God made him the leader of God’s own nation. Think of Joshua who came back from spying on Canaa full of faith that God could and would deliver Israel there. His decision to trust made him one of the TWO men from the the Exodus generation who would lay eyes on the Promise Land. Trust is risky but it delivers and it exceeds our wildest dreams and expectations. We were created to live in the danger zone of trust. That’s where God’s work gets accomplished and it’s where we become who were were always meant to be. Let us find out what it looks like to cross the Jordan, to cross into trust, and bravely, definitively say, “God, take us across the Jordan.”