DISREGARDING God’s ‘BOUNDARIES’ will lead us to DEFEAT & CAPTIVITY
April 23 Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles Chapters 4-6
"And they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He carried the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh into captivity. He took them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river of Gozan to this day." (1 Chron. 5:25-26)
The fifth chapter of 1 Chronicles gives us a brief description of what finally happened to the trans-Jordanian tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. When the Israelites had arrived after their exhaustive travel from Egypt to the land border of Canaan (“The Promised Land”), the leaders of these two and half tribes had requested Moses to allow them to settle down in the land east of the River Jordan, which was outside the periphery of the land that God had planned to settle them. They had disregarded God’s boundaries for their future settlement!
The following verses describe how these two and half tribes had arrived at this crucial decision: "Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock, the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, '...the country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.' Therefore they said, 'If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan'" (Num. 32:1-5). Moses had consented to their request at that time and he "…had given the inheritance of the two tribes and the half-tribe on the other side of the Jordan" (Josh. 14:3).
Later on, when Joshua (Moses’ successor) divided the land of Canaan and settled each of the tribes in the land allotted to them, he allowed these two and half tribes to return to the land of their choice with these words: "...return and go to your tents and to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Josh. 22:4-5).
In fact, Joshua had even prophesied against them that ‘disregarding God’s boundaries would lead them to defeat and captivity’, when he told them the following words: "When you have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land which He has given you" (Josh 23:16).
Joshua’s words sadly became true, and these two and half tribes were among the first to go into defeat and captivity (5:26). Having disregarded God’s boundaries of separation from these heathen neighbors, they were constantly exposed to the idolatrous nations around them. It is not surprising that they soon committed harlotry through involvement with prostitution in pagan worship rituals, and started worshiping the false gods of the peoples of the land whom God had destroyed before them (5:25). They turned to the gods who could not save the Ishmaelites, and forsook the one true God in whose strength they had conquered. So God gave them into the hand of the Assyrian king and they were carried away into captivity!
The idolatry of these two and half tribes resulted in divine punishment by defeat, captivity and Assyrian exile in 733 B.C. (see 2 Kings 15:29), and that was exactly what Moses had warned would happen to them earlier while he was their leader (see Deut. 28:15–68, 20). Because they rejected God, God also rejected them and used His servant Tiglath-Pileser as a tool to carry out His punishment of Israel. What a tragic ending to God’s own people who went into defeat and captivity for disregarding God’s boundaries!
God has placed similar boundaries for us as well, and we have been warned not to walk "in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful" (Psalms 1:1). We have also been instructed to "ponder the path of our feet, and not turn to the right or the left but remove our feet from evil" (Prov. 4:26-27). Let’s keep ourselves within the boundaries mandated by our heavenly Father, each and every day of our lives in all our thoughts, words, and action; otherwise it will surely spell disaster for us in the future.