Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had pushed just a little bit harder.
What friendships and relationships would I have if I had continued to be aggressively open to new people in college, even after I had my core group of friends?
How healthy would I be if I had kept doing my best at treating my body right, instead of dwindling down to my half-best (and then my not best)?
What accomplishments would I have achieved if I had pushed against the limits of my comfort zone in school, work, and ministry?
What have I missed out on?
All thoughts of missing out or slowing down must have been far from the Israelites’ minds in this chapter. The plans for allocation of the Promised Land amongst the tribes of Israel has begun in earnest. It must have been exciting. The possibilities for their new homes and communities must have felt endless.
And they were. Until they weren’t.
How did a nation of people rich with promises from the God of the universe end up falling short?
We don’t get the full story here. But a couple of verses hint at the tragedy ahead for the nation of Israel.
In verse 13, after having described the land inheritance that the tribe of Gad, the tribe of Reuben, and half of the tribe of Manasseh get, the Bible adds a quick sidebar.
“But the Israelites did not drive out the people of Geshur and Maakah, so they continue to live among the Israelites to this day.”verse 13
Maybe it sounds courteous, but it was actually disobedience. Remember, God had commanded the Israelites to drive out the other nations in Canaan, not to be mean, but because these nations had done some really messed up things. They represented sin.
God didn’t want His people to be rubbing elbows with the kind of people who burned their children alive. He didn’t want them tolerating sin so close to them.
But it wasn’t just about the other nations. It was about the Israelites, too. After all, if God tells you to do something, and you only do half of it, have you obeyed? Or have you gotten lazy? Prideful? Fearful? Distrusting?
And it wasn’t just these two and half tribes who had a problem. The chapter begins with a list of all the land still remaining in Canaan – the sin the Israelites still needed to drive out, the amazing things God still wanted to do for them.
It’s a lot of foreign names and descriptions, but five names might stand out to you: Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. At the time described in this chapter, these cities belonged to the Philistines. Years later, in 1 Samuel chapters 5-6, they’re still Philistine territory.
What happened? We’ll trace the ups and downs of the story of the Israelites for many chapters to come, but the bottom line is that the Israelites disobeyed. They stayed put. They didn’t keep going, keep pushing, keep walking with God.
And it would cost them – their inheritance, their freedom, their safety, and their joy.
They probably didn’t realize at the time what was at stake. I don’t think we do either, today.
Especially those of us who are Christians.
We might have some blessings and joys. We may have walked a little way with God so far. We might have won victories with Jesus. We might have seen our life begin to change. We might be in a much better place than we were months, years ago.
But somewhere along the line, we decided to stop and rest a while. We decided to set up camp and settle down.
We decided that where we are is good enough.
It’s not just a sin thing. Maybe we think our witness and ministry is “good enough”. Maybe our mental health is “good enough”. Maybe our relationships are “good enough”.
Meanwhile, God wants to do more. He commanded us to climb mountains, and we’re only halfway up. He wants to show us miracles we couldn’t even dream of, and we’ve decided that our own dreams are plenty.
We’re missing out on our inheritance.
We’re missing out on the impossible.
We’re missing out on the incredible things God will do in our life if we choose to keep growing with Him, to keep surrendering to Him, to keep allowing Him to change our lives.
Change may be painful, but “good enough” is even worse.
“The plans I have for you are immeasurably more than anything you could ask or think.”
The only problem with “good enough” is that we define it. It means we have taken over from God.
We have decided how far we want to go and where we want to stop. We have decided how “Christian” we want to be, how much space God can take up in our lives.
And it just doesn’t work that way.
Not because we don’t have free will or agency, because clearly we do. It’s just that there’s nothing more illogical than deciding that we know more than God, or even that we know better than He does what will make us happy.
We started our walk with God in the first place because we believed He loved us and that He was strong and safe. We believed that He was our Friend.
And those things haven’t changed. In fact, they are the few things in this world that will never change.
So no matter how scary it might be to keep walking into God’s unknown plans, or how uncomfortable it might be to relinquish our control to God, let’s not miss out.
Let’s keep going with God. Let’s let Him keep changing us and teaching us.
Let’s get our inheritance – all of it.
What do you think? Why do you think the Israelites stopped conquering the land God had promised them?