Numbers 31-33…Vengeance on the Midianites, the Transjordan tribes, and stages in Israel’s journey.
God waged war on the Midianites, and used Israel explicitly for that purpose. He enabled them to conquer by miracles, and the war was just and right. Their war was initiated and carried on expressly by Divine direction, and they were enabled to conquer by God’s hand. Waging war is not as clear today, as there are no theocratic nations selected by God to carry out His purposes like Israel in the Old Testament. There is nothing special about the actual nation of Israel today, nor is the United States “set apart” to carry out God’s purposes in the world in a peculiar way like we see in Numbers 31.
In Numbers 32, the Reubenites and Gadites wanted possession of the land before crossing the Jordan with the rest of Israel. There is much to learn from their selfishness. They consulted their own private convenience more than the public good. We see this in our churches today, as individualism has seeped in and pushed out living as a community. Many Christians go years without any consideration of the other members of their church. Sadly, many Christians go years without joining a church, and try to live out the Christian life on their own.
The people were about to enter the promised land. Now that they were close to getting what had been promised, they entered again into temptation to follow idols. They were warned if they spared either the idols or the idolaters, their sin would certainly be their punishment. This is also the result of local churches who aren’t careful about membership. When the church looks no different than the world, she lies about what Christ is like. Her corporate witness is diminished, and the message of the gospel loses power.