Reading through the Bible together

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

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When the tribes of Reuben and Gad approached Moses about staying on the east side of the Jordan and living there, he assumed they were done fighting and immediately confronted them, saying, “Do you want to stay here while your fellow Israelites go to war? How can you discourage the people of Israel from crossing the Jordan into the land which the Lord has given them?” (Numbers 32:6­7 GNT).


Now, to the credit of these two tribes, that assumption did not appear to be their true intention. Their reply (beginning in verse 16) indicates they were willing to fight with the rest of the tribes to conquer the entire promised land. But before they can verbally defend themselves, Moses goes on to describe the rebellion of the previous generation and how he sees this request from Reuben and Gad in the same light, calling them “a new generation of sinful men” (verse 14 GNT). Moses then concludes by saying that this attitude may indeed result in another 40 years of wilderness wanderings. It is clear from his reaction that Moses was indeed weary—even a bit discouraged- from the constant attitude of rebellion exhibited by the people all through the book of Numbers. He was their father figure and probably viewed this nation as willful and defiant children. But in this instance, Moses had jumped to a conclusion too quickly—a common human tendency.


How often do we assume the worst rather than the best in someone else and their intentions? The Apostle Paul admonishes us that part of love is to assume the best rather than the worst in others, and not to hold their wrongs against them. Love, “doesn’t keep a record of wrongs; love thinks the best.” (1 Cor 13:5 Clear Word).


The next time someone approaches you with a comment, question or request, remember this story of Moses and about how your response may discourage or cheer. In his book Taming Tension, Phillip Keller writes: “It is a solemn thing to realize that we hold another’s happiness in our hands. What have I done this day? What have I said this day? What have I written? Where have I gone? What have my attitudes been in these past twenty­four hours to add to the sum total of happiness for others?”


Perhaps we don’t realize the power of our influence. “Every soul is surrounded by an atmosphere of its own - an­­ atmosphere, it may be, charged with the life­giving power of faith, courage, and hope, and sweet with the fragrance of love. Or it may be heavy and chill with the gloom of discontent and selfishness, or poisonous with the deadly taint of cherished sin. By the atmosphere surrounding us, every person with whom we come in contact is consciously or unconsciously affected” (COL 339). May our lives continually reflect God’s transforming grace so that our influence and our response to others will be overflowing with the fragrance of love.


Fred Knopper

Adventist Media Center