Discouraging the Hearts of Brethren

Discouraging the Hearts of Our Brethren

Numbers 32


When the spies were sent into the land of Canaan, and ten of them came back with an “evil report”, the result was that the congregation of Israel cried out and wept that night, and they murmured and complained, and they looked for a leader who would take them back to Egypt! Num. 14:1-4


It was 40 years later, on the verge of crossing into Canaan, that another discouragement threatened Israel [Num. 32:1-15].  The children of Reuben and Gad, who raised cattle, found the land east of Jordan desirable for their livelihood.  So they went to Moses and made a request that they receive the eastern lands for their possession, saying “don’t bring us over Jordan”. 


Moses, reminding them of the disheartening influence of the ten spies, raised this question:  “Why do you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which Jehovah has given to them?”


To their everlasting credit, the tribes of Reuben and Gad committed to send their fighting men with the rest of Israel, to complete the work of conquest across Jordan, and then to return to their wives and children and herds on the east side.  And so a great tragedy was averted when a segment of the people stood to their commitment to the whole nation.  They realized, with Moses’ urging, that they had to consider not just their own circumstances and needs.  They were a part of a great nation, members of a body, bound together with a common purpose and God-given mission.  They were to enter Canaan as one people – NOT just as a great crowd of individuals.


There are greatly needed lessons for us in this Old Testament story.  So often Christians feel the need to be associated with God’s people, but they do not want to be accountable for commitment to the cause of God’s people!  They may have the view, “It’s my life and my schedule and my soul, and I will do what I think best for me.”  They are in it for what they can get out of it.  They justify their lack of involvement on the basis of whether it is worth the effort to them


It is true that each one of us will be judged individually.  I will not be judged on someone else’s faithfulness or disobedience.  On the other hand, I may be greatly influenced by my brother’s character and walk.  Paul says that for a Christian “No man lives to himself and no man dies to himself.” When one member is weak, others are affected.  When one is proud and selfish, his brethren are dishonored and hurt.


But in addition to this, we must realize that it is in our relation to the body that we have our new life.   We have all spiritual blessings IN CHRIST [in the body of Christ].  The Spirit of God dwells in his body.  If we partake of his Spirit, we partake because we are by one Spirit baptized into one body.  Do we have the right to snub our responsibility and accountability to his body?  When we shirk our commitment to his body and its work, we discourage the hearts of our brethren. 

Is our allegiance to Christ and his cross, to the Spirit of sacrifice and service, demonstrated when we leave all the work to others, when we neglect opportunities to teach and be taught, when we customarily forsake the assembling together, or when we ignore the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters?


One day Moses may stand before us over there, along with Joshua and Caleb, and ask why we cast our lot with sinful men, and discouraged the hearts of our fellow saints.  And Jesus himself may say “In that you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me.”


Larry Walker

Oct 2008