Be sure your sin will find you out! This is one of the most misunderstood statements in all God's Word. Moses is speaking of one particular sin, that being a stubborn refusal to wholly follow the Lord! There are many sins that go unexposed here on earth and will be revealed only at the Judgment. Paul said, "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel" (Romans 2:16). The Greek word used here for secrets is, "that which is hidden, concealed, covered up."
The adulterer may hide his sin until judgment day. The thief may cover up his crimes and not get caught in this life. Wicked hearts, evil thoughts — may remain unexposed before men. Hypocrisy may be hidden for years under a pretense of piety. But the sin of half-heartedness will always find you out — here and now! For the sake of this message I have called it — middle ground!
God commanded Israel: "Ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God giveth you, and ye shall posses it, and dwell therein" (Deuteronomy 11:31). Their inheritance was on the other side of Jordan. It was over Jordan where God would choose a place to set up His tabernacle and that was Shiloh. There the Ark of the Covenant would rest, a symbol of the Lord's presence among them.
Two crossings were necessary! Crossing the Red Sea was a type of leaving the world and all its idols and lust behind — a clear type of conversion. The second crossing was the Jordan, which represents dying to self and going on into the fullness of Christ. Jordan in Hebrew means, "going down, subdued, laid low." Actually, it represents death! Death to all that is unlike Christ — all ambition, idolatry, self.
The Jordan was a stream of death!
Between the two crossings was the territory of Gilead and Jazer — which bordered the Jordan and the Land of Fullness. This is Middle Ground, a place of half surrender and it was totally indefensible. It was a most dangerous place to live, surrounded by heathen enemies, and it speaks of falling short of God's ultimate place and purpose for His children.
Two and a half tribes — Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh felt most comfortable with this middle ground! They said, in essence, "This is as far as we go! This suits our lifestyle just fine! We've come a long way — we're tired — give us Gilead Jazer. Let the rest go on — we are going to settle here!"
"For we will not inherit with them on yonder side of Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us this side of Jordan…" (Numbers 32:19). "...Let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan" (Numbers 32:5).
This is not simply a history lesson about the struggles of Israel. These lessons "serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things..." (Hebrews 8:5). Paul said, "...these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they lusted" (1 Corinthians 10:6). "Now all these things happened unto them for examples; and they are for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). In other words, this is history with a voice — speaking to us!
This example of settling for middle ground speaks clearly to the lukewarmness and compromise in the church today. God is showing us in this tragic story, the terrible consequences of partial obedience. We see them in the first stages of starting out right, then just when death to everything of this world stares them in the face, they recoil. Adaptability became their way of life!
The Scriptures show us vividly how their sin of settling on middle ground found them out. You will see these two and a half tribes eventually being overcome by the enemy; you will see them returning to idolatry — ending up more wicked than when in Egypt.
Characteristics of those on middle ground
Those who live on middle ground share certain characteristics! The characteristics of these two and a half tribes can also be found today in those who refuse to pulverize their idols and die to the world. Their Hebrew names expose them!
Reuben means — a son who sees! He was Jacob's firstborn, but he lost his birthright because he was driven by lust. He went into his father's concubine, and Jacob, in his dying hour said of him: "Reuben…thou defilest…he went up to my couch..." (Genesis 49:4). Jacob described his son Rueben as one "...unstable as water...thou shalt not excel..." (Genesis 49:3).
Moses recognized these same weaknesses. His final prayer for Reuben was "...Let Reuben live, and not die..." (Deuteronomy 33:6). Moses was speaking prophetically, hoping and praying that the worldly spirit in this tribe would not one day bring them to ruin.
Reuben had eyes only for this world — 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 — troop! Or, soldiers of fortune — mercenaries! Moses said of Gad — "He provided the first part for himself..." (Deuteronomy 33:21). 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 – the need to make it!
Gad's philisophy is —"I'll 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 family set up — Then I'll be free to give and do more for the Lord!"
Here is the Christian who thinks — "God expects me to take care of my family first — I've got to pay the bills. As soon as I see some daylight — get ahead a little — I'll give the Lord more time." Rebellion is the root of this kind of attitude. There is no burning desire to please only the Lord, to do His will absolutely and only. The Gad tribe is preoccupied with self-will, self-improvement, self-interests.
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.
"And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hand deliberately; for Manasseh was the firstborn...And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it...his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it...and he set Ephraim before Manasseh..." (Genesis 48:14,17,18-21).
How close to God Israel (Jacob) must have been — how clearly directed by the Holy Spirit he was. He foresaw the coming of a spirit of division to this posterity! It was to become a tribe only half consecrated to the fullness of God!
Ironically, this tribe carried with them a constant reminder to go all the way with God. They carried Joseph's casket, with his bones – to be buried beyond Jordan. "And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry my bones from hence..." (Genesis 50:25). "And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him..." (Exodus 13:19).
For years that casket reminded Manasseh — "Go all the way with God — cross the Jordan — into fullness..." The bones go in — half of Manasseh does not!
Consider these combined traits of middle ground Christians: 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 His 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!
Middle ground Christians become stubborn and self-willed
Middle ground people develop a very stubborn self-will, one that even a Moses can't change! They said — "This is a place for cattle — and thy servants have cattle..." (Numbers 32:1,4). God's will — God's word, was not even considered! They looked at those green pastures, at their herds of cattle, and said — "This is ours! We go no further!"
Moses was indignant — "Ye are going to discourage others..Ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, descendants of evil men, to augment the anger of the Lord toward Israel" (Numbers 32:7,14).
Their answer — "You just don't understand!" What they were actually saying was this, "We love the fellowship — we are not going back to our old sins. We plan to walk in obedience to the Lord — we will stand with you and fight the Devil — but we don't want to live like that. We have our own ideas about serving God." Moses could reprove them as hard as he chose — as long as he did not try to change their minds! "We will pass over armed before the Lord into the Land of Canaan, that the possession of our inheritance on this side of Jordan may be ours!" (Numbers 32:32).
They were saying — "We still want to walk with you but we have decided to do things our way." You see that same spirit today among those who refuse the way of the Cross. "I don't criticize Christians who want to live like saints, giving up things, living so strict, denying themselves — but that is just not for me. I'm just as good — I may not show it, or act it, but I'm no sinner. I've got my own ideas about holiness and walking with God!"
They were putting career ahead of Christ! Family ahead of God! "We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones...our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land" (Numbers 32:16,17). "Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gilead" (Numbers 32:26).
Should they be commended for providing so well for their children and wives? No! They were keeping their families on middle ground — robbing them of their true inheritance. They should have taken them all over Jordan. That was where the spiritual authority was — under Joshua who was led by the captain of the Lord's hosts. It was over Jordan where the Ark was, representing the presence of the Lord.
They should have been there to see the walls of Jericho fall. They should have tasted the grapes of Eschol, the honey of the land. They should have been taken on into the fullness of the Lord.
These misguided middle ground fathers thought that love, protection, and no privations would hold their children and family together! So they built high fences to keep them secure — gave them all they needed and assured them they were loved. But they underestimated their danger!
Here is the great tragedy of those who won't go all the way with God. They destroy their loved ones — grandparents, mates, children! Jesus warned, "...ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering, ye hindered..." (Luke 11:52).
Here is where their sin found them out! Love was not enough. Overprotecting them from the enemy was not enough. Having all they needed was not enough. They doomed their families by settling on middle ground. Middle ground people are the first to be judged! These defenseless people were overrun by the enemy. "In those days the Lord began to cut Israel short; and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; from Jordan eastward — all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, the Reubenites, and the Manassites…" (2 Kings 10:32,33). Their children became idol worshippers. Their wives were prostituted and became heathen in all their ways. All spiritual desire was lost and they became morally and physically devastated.
Let me warn parents to cross the Jordan and be crucified to this world and all its things. If you refuse to go on in God and instead permit compromise in your life or home, settling down on some middle ground of lukewarmness — you will live to see the day your sin will be visited upon your family!
You will lose God's anointing in your own life and the devil will plunder your household. Your children and family will fall into the temptations of the world. You will have sorrow upon sorrow — trouble upon trouble — because you settled on unholy ground!
Giving up the presence of God
Those who settle on middle ground give up the presence of God for a mere confession of faith. The battles were now over, and "...the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he swore to give to their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt there" (Joshua 21:43). It was time for the two and a half tribes to go back to where their heart was.
We come now to one of the saddest episodes of this story. "And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel, out of Shiloh, which is in Canaan, to go into the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession..." (Joshua 22:9).
Here is the cause of all division — going back to middle ground! Who caused this division? Not those who went on with God — not those who followed the Ark of His presence — not those who obeyed God wholly. It was caused by those who were "sensual, separating themselves, having not the Spirit!..." (Jude 19).
Division is caused by those "who went out from us because they were not with us...." Paul said, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world...." Worldliness causes the division. Those going back cause it! All present day division is caused by those who refuse to hold to Christ the head, by those who turn away from the demands of the cross, who reject the self-denial and obedience of the narrow way.
Those who settle for middle ground must build an altar to contrived unity — called Ed! "And when they came to the borders of Jordan...they...built there a great altar to see to...at the passage of the children of Israel...and called the altar Ed: For it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God" (Joshua 22:10,11,34).
This altar represented their cry for unity. It was a positive confession from a whole class of middle ground Christians seeking to keep their identity with those who were already walking in unity on God's side of the Jordan.
What doctrinal and spiritual confusion it caused! What division it created — almost ending in a full scale war among God's people. All created by middle ground Christians.
All Israel gathered at Shiloh "to go up to war against them..." (Joshua 22:12). Eleazar, the priest, with ten princes approached the altar of contrived unity. They said to the middle ground people, "..if your possession be unclean, then pass over unto the land of the possession of the Lord, wherein the Lord's tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us...but don't rebel against the Lord or us" (Joshua 22:19).
The message was clear. "If you fear there is division among us — come back over Jordan. We are united. God's presence unites us. Come into the fullness and dwell with us in peace but why another altar? Why Ed? There is only one altar of unity — the tabernacle of His holiness."
Beloved — those who move on into the blessed fullness and holiness of Christ know nothing of division. There are no Baptists or Assemblies of God or schism in His holy presence. No middle wall, no barriers! All is Christ and His holiness.
They needed visible proof of unity with God's chosen. It was an altar built by fear — fear of not being a part of God's movement! There was a sense in them that they were going to be left out of the Lord's eternal purpose for His people. "We have done it for fear of this thing...in time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, what have ye to do with the Lord God of Israel...ye have no part in the Lord..." (Joshua 22:24,27).
What a sad commentary! They must have foreseen a time coming when the only evidence left that God was with them, or that they were united with Him — was a pile of stones — a mere confession. Their children could see the altar Ed and confess — "By this I know I am one of them!"
Wherever there is departure from God's plan — wherever men settle for the earthly and sensual — wherever Christians are no longer in one place, in one accord, in the upper room of separation with Christ — there is contrived unity — there is empty, stone-cold confession.
If you are among believers who are going on — "wholly set on the Lord" — you will feel left out if you are on middle ground. You will accuse others of being "holier-than-thou!" You will accuse them of being cliquish. You can try as you will to be one of them but it won't work! You are the cause! You removed yourself from God's ordained place of victory, unity and spiritual power.
Caleb went on into fullness
Caleb is our type of one who goes all the way! His name means forcible — fortitude! Joshua was a type of Christ. Caleb was inseparable from Joshua, representing one who continually walks with the Lord.
Caleb had been over Jordan with the spies. While there the Holy Spirit drew him to Hebron — "the place of death." With awe he climbed that hallowed mountain and faith flooded his soul. Abraham and Sarah were buried here, as were Isaac and Jacob and the patriarchs. Years later, David's kingdom would begin here. Caleb prized that hollowed place! From that time on he wanted Hebron for his possession.
It was said of him, that he "wholly followed the Lord" (Numbers 14:24). He never wavered to the very end. Solomon wavered in his later years and "he went not fully after the Lord." But at 85 years of age Caleb could testify: "As yet I am as strong as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in" (Joshua 14:11).
At 85 he waged his greatest battle! "Now therefore give me this mountain (Hebron)..." (Joshua 14:12). "And Joshua belssed him, and gave Caleb...Hebron for an inheritance..." (Joshua 14:13). "Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb...because he wholly followed the Lord" (Joshua 14:14).
The message is glorious! It is this: It is not enough to have died to sin — to have entered fullness sometime in the past. The need is to grow in the Lord to the end! To keep your spiritual power and strength — to not waver. To "wholly follow the Lord" — even in old age! It should be an ever increasing faith.
Hebron — Caleb's inheritance, means — a company associated! With what? With death! Not only the death in Jordan to sin — but living in a place of death. Living with a company who are associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! "Give me this mountain" – he had asked. In other words — "Give me this walk of death to self!" It was here Abraham had built an altar to sacrifice his son. It is here that Caleb and his tribe will live — constantly associated with that altar of living sacrifice.
Caleb's wholeheartedness for the Lord produced a holy fire for God in his children. While the children of the two and a half tribes turn away and embrace the world and its idolatry, Caleb's family is growing stronger in the Lord!
Caleb had challenged — "He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife" (Joshua 15:16). Othniel took it and married Caleb's daughter. He went on in the Lord and became the first judge in Israel.
But Caleb's daughter had the fiery zeal of her father. The land was not enough — she wanted "springs of water" She jumps off her donkey and boldly makes her request known — "Give me a blessing, for thou hast given me a south land — give me also springs of water. And he gave her its upper springs, and the nether (lower) springs" (Joshua 15:19).
Every believer should know what the springs of water mean. She wanted the very fountains of living water! No dry ground for her! No barren wasteland of spiritual famine. She would have a well-watered place in the Lord.
I want to see that in all my children and grandchildren, that determined going after the things of God! That zeal — that thirst for His word.
Be sure your sin will find you out
The sin of slothfulness and half-heartedness will surely find you out — even in this lifetime. Enemies will arise and harass on all sides — there will not be strength or discernment to deal with overpowering onslaughts of Satan. There will be a loss of joy and peace with God. Spiritual life will degenerate day by day. The presence of the Lord will be lost, and hopelessness will set in.
How much better, how much safer — to go on with those who want the Lord's fullness. God's desire for all of us is to enter a place of rest, joy and peace in the Holy Ghost. That requires following Him "with all the heart, all the strength."