Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Numbers Don't Lie: The Grumble-Free Zone



When Moses completed the second census before entering the promised land, the tribes with the most outspoken rebels had decreased in number from one census to the next. (You can read yesterday's blog post on this topic here.) 

Men from the tribe of Reuben led a rebellion against Moses and brought destruction on the camp. A man from the tribe of Simeon brought a plague on Israel because of his relationship with a Midianite woman. Ruben and Simeon, however, were not the only tribes that had a decrease in numbers. There were five tribes that had a decrease in numbers (Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, and Napthali).

A close look at the Israelite camp suggests there was another factor that may have had an impact on the census loss, as well.

Proximity.

It's clear that the tribes with the greatest rebellion also had the greatest decrease in the census numbers. What's especially troubling is that the tribes closest to them also lost thousands of men.

God had ordered the arrangement of tribal tents around the camp. Ephraim was camped in the southwest corner of the camp. Gad, Simeon, and Reuben were camped along the southern border (in order from west to east). Those four tribes were in greatest proximity to one another.

The tribes of Reuben and Simeon were immediately adjacent to one another in the camp. The rebel grumblers Dathan, Abirim, and On were from the tribe of Reuben and Zimri, the rebel disobeyer, was from the tribe of Simeon. 

Paul wrote, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6), and it appears that's what happened.

The proximity of Reuben and Simeon suggests that the two tribes were more than neighbors. They were likely friends and grumbling companions, but it appears they may have spread their venom to their close neighbors, as well.

Grumbling and complaining may seem insignificant, but they often represent the first fruits of rebellion, a contagion that can spread like wildfire if allowed to continue. 

It looks (to me at least) as if the tribe of Reuben's grumbling and rebellion spread to Simeon, from there to Gad, and from there to Ephraim.

Certainly the decrease in numbers suggests something happened to make that corner of the camp lose men.

When we surround ourselves with grumbling, complaining people, we put ourselves at risk of adopting their attitudes and behavior. We put ourselves at risk of discipline, too.

Scripture is clear. Bad company corrupts good morals. (1 Cor. 15:33)

Ben Franklin said it another way. "If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas."

If we don't want fleas, don't lie down with dogs. If we don't want corrupted morals, don't spend time in bad company.

Let's rid of ourselves of grumbling and the rebellion from which it springs, whether it is in our own hearts or in the companions we choose. They not only demonstrate a dissatisfaction with the gifts of God, but they dishonor God before those who hear us.

My mama said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." 

Let's remember her good advice and make our hearts and our mouths a grumble-free zone.

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