Numbers 32 has a great lesson on appealing to leadership. The people of Reuben and Gad were along with Moses on the journey to the Promised Land. They were a people with a lot of livestock – that was their heritage. As they were approaching the Jordan to cross over, they liked the land they were passing through. It was a good fit for their lifestyle and needs. So they came to Moses and said “Do not take us across the Jordan”. Can you imagine that request? They have been on a journey for 40 years to arrive in the Promised Land. The men who began the journey with Moses long before have died, as a result of what happened when the spies went and initially found the land God was giving His people.
Moses had a different plan – his orders were to take all the people into the Promised Land and that was the mission he was leading. He himself wasn’t going to get to enter – that striking of the rock was his downfall – but he was leading them all there. His response: “Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them? 8 Your fathers did this….they discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the Lord had given them”. That had been a bad plan for them. And now Moses has it happening again. Bad memories are coming back.
But the appeal continues. The folks from Reuben and Gad understand the concern Moses has. If people start dropping off along the way to take up their own places to reside, who will be there to help assure every tribe has victory and gets their piece of the Promised Land. So they say “we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place….we will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance”. They understood the concerns, they offered to make sure those were not realized, and they committed to do what needed to be done. That is how to appeal to leadership. Understand the situation and concern, come with a creative alternative, and then be willing to accept the outcome rather than continue to fight for your own path.
It worked. Moses was clear that they had to stay the course. “For if you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all this people”. He certainly knew what the stakes were and made it abundantly clear. But like a good leader, he listened to their appeal and answered “If you will do this….this land shall be your possession; if you will not….sure your sin will find you out”. Moses makes it clear that they have to “do what you have promised”. The Reubenites and Gaddites get it right: “Your servants will do as my lord commands”. They know the rules and the stakes. Good lesson in how to approach leadership when you aren’t completely on their page. Appeal appropriately and leave the result to God.