Ed Cole used to say, “If you’re going to straddle the fence, it’s gonna hurt when you fall off.” Ouch! (He also said, “A Christian’s purpose is to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” But I’ll save that for another message)
But those of us who choose to live on the “middle ground” share certain characteristics! They are the same traits that can be seen in two and a half tribes of Israel (Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh). You can also find these conditions in anyone who refuses to pulverize their idols and die to the world. Look at the Hebrew names, of those two and a half tribes. They will help you to understand those tribes!
Reuben means, “A son who sees!” He was Jacob’s firstborn, but he lost his birthright because he was driven by lust. Jacob described his son Reuben as “. . . unstable and boiling over like water, you will not excel and have the preeminence of the firstborn . . .” Reuben later went into his father’s concubine, and Jacob, in his dying hour, said of him: “Reuben . . . you slept with my wife and disgraced my bed. So you no longer deserve the place of honor . . .” (see Genesis 49:4).
Reuben had eyes only for this world and its lusts, its things, its pleasures. He was unstable because his heart was always divided, and this spirit was passed on to his posterity. Here was an entire tribe attached to the world and bent on having their own way.
Gad means, “Fortune or troop.” Simply put, this means soldiers of fortune or mercenaries. Moses said of Gad, “He took one look and grabbed the best place for himself, the portion just made for someone in charge (Deuteronomy 33:21) And, by the way, and contrary to our modern way of thinking, that wasn’t a compliment! This tribe was outwardly obedient, “executing the justice of the Lord,” but the overriding characteristic was self-interest. Gad was consumed with its own problems and the need to “make it.”
Isn’t that what we hear all the motivational speakers telling us to do? You see, Gad’s philosophy was, “I will fight with the Lord’s army; I’ll be obedient and do everything God expects of me . . . But first . . . I’ve got to get a stake in life. I need to get myself and my family set up and then I’ll be free to do more for the Lord!” Didn’t Jesus address this attitude when he said, “‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
Manasseh means, “To forget, to neglect.” This was Joseph’s firstborn son and he should have received the birthright. But even in his childhood, there was a sad trait developing and Jacob saw it in the Spirit. Manasseh would one day forget the ways of his father Joseph and neglect the commandment of the Lord.
Consider each of the traits of believers who choose to walk down the middle of the road: Unstable as water in spiritual convictions; never excelling in the things of God; lukewarm, weak with lust; ruled by selfish needs; neglecting the Word; not taking the Lord’s commandments seriously; making their own choices instead of trusting God; forgetting past blessings and dealings; unwilling to let go of certain idols; justifying their own decisions; not willing to die to all that would seduce them back to middle ground!
This morning I am encouraging you to seek the Lord’s fullness. Our Father’s desire is for each of us to enter into a place of rest, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. That requires us to follow Him “with all the heart, all the strength.”
Father, I admit that many times I have wasted so much time and energy on my own plans and desires. I have often become overwhelmed with my own passions. Forgive me, Lord. I receive now the inflow of your Spirit who awakens the joy inside of me. With the Psalmist I cry out: “I will always praise you. With all my heart, I will continue to praise you. Whenever I feel helpless, I will listen and be glad. I will celebrate your great name.
I asked you for help, and you saved me from all my fears. I keep my eyes on you and I shine like the sun and never blush with shame. I was a nobody, but I prayed, and you saved me from all my troubles.
I know that if I continue to honor you, your angel will protect me. You promised in your Word that no one who honors you will ever be in need.
Maybe young lions may go hungry or even starve, but when I trust you, I will never miss out on anything good. I know that whenever I pray for help, you listen and rescue me from their troubles.
You are here to rescue me if I ever become discouraged and lose any hope. I recognize that there may be times when I might suffer but you will always bring me safely through those times.
Father, you declared in your Word that you save the lives of your servants. I will always run to you for protection, and I know I won’t be punished. (Psalm 34)
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