Settling on the Wrong Side of the River

The late R.C. Sproul once wrote a book entitled The Consequences of Ideas. His premise was that to understand the culture in which we live, you need to be familiar with the ideas that have shaped that culture. So he traces the contours of Western philosophy throughout history and shows exactly how our culture has become what it is today.

It’s a great book and every thoughtful believer ought to read it. Or, you can check out this link https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/1182 and watch the author himself teaching each section of the book. (You will need to set up a free account at Right Now media)

However, that is not the focus of this blog.

I just happened to think of Dr. Sproul’s book while working through my Bible reading passage for today from the book of Numbers. You know the story...

• How God had delivered Moses and the children of Israel from a life of slavery to the Egyptians.
 • How He had provided for them and promised them a new home in their own land.
  • And how He put up with their whining and complaining almost every step of the way.

And how ultimately their fear and unwillingness to trust God and obey Him, would turn a journey which should have taken only a few weeks, into a forty year nightmare leading to the loss of an entire generation of rebellious people. It was not the finest moment for this young nation of Israelites.

But throughout it all, God was always faithful. He said He would deliver them and He did! These people whom God had called to be His very own nation had finally reached the Promised Land. All they needed to do was cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land.

And here is where something unexpected happens. Here is where you see a revealing example of Dr. Sproul’s thesis that “ideas have consequences.”

Three of the twelve tribes decide that they didn’t want to cross the Jordan and settle in the new land. These tribes, named after their ancestors Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, asked for permission to stay right where they were, on the East side. Oh, they didn’t mind sending their men to help the rest of the nation conquer the land, but they were so attracted to the place where they stood they were unwilling to go any further.

And this would end up being a grave mistake.

You see, the Bible tells us their motives were not entirely pure. The land on which they stood was awesome pasture land for their livestock. And the lure of what they could see was stronger than their desire to trust God and step out into what they could not see. In other words, they chose what seemed materially profitable over their spiritual destiny. And, it would not be long before all three of these tribes would fade from the pages of history.

Tragic but true…ideas always have consequences, for good or bad.

There is something very sad when God’s people have little enthusiasm for the lofty goals to which He has called us and instead, we settle for something less that God has willed for us.   

Rather than trusting God and launching into the deep, we would rather linger in the “shallows” of our own ideas and desires.

For a believer to opt for an easier, less demanding way is to be, as they used to say, existing in a backslidden condition.

Has that happened to you? Have you settled on the wrong side of the river? Have you chosen an easier, alternative way when it comes to spiritual things?  Has some other attraction drawn your attention away from your devotion to the Father? Or His Word? Are you in danger of becoming what James 1:8 calls a “double-minded” man (or woman), unstable in all your ways?

If so, I urge you to have a little talk with Jesus. The Bible says, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John1:9)

And that’s one idea with an awesome consequence!


Rick Amerine is the Senior Pastor at Maple Grove.

Rick Amerine

Rick is the Senior Pastor at Maple Grove Christian Church, where he has served for over 25 years.