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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES FOR THIS SERMON:

Numbers 31:25-32:32

31:25 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 26 “You and Eleazar the priest, and all the family leaders of the community, take the sum of the plunder that was captured, both people and animals. 27 Divide the plunder into two parts, one for those who took part in the war – who went out to battle – and the other for all the community.

28 “You must exact a tribute for the Lord from the fighting men who went out to battle: one life out of five hundred, from the people, the cattle, and from the donkeys and the sheep. 29 You are to take it from their half-share and give it to Eleazar the priest for a raised offering to the Lord. 30 From the Israelites’ half-share you are to take one portion out of fifty of the people, the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep – from every kind of animal – and you are to give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.”

31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses. 32 The spoil that remained of the plunder which the fighting men had gathered was 675,000 sheep, 33 72,000 cattle, 34 61,000 donkeys, 35 and 32,000 young women who had not experienced a man’s bed.

36 The half-portion of those who went to war numbered 337,500 sheep; 37 the Lord’s tribute from the sheep was 675. 38 The cattle numbered 36,000; the Lord’s tribute was 72. 39 The donkeys were 30,500, of which the Lord’s tribute was 61. 40 The people were 16,000, of which the Lord’s tribute was 32 people.

41 So Moses gave the tribute, which was the Lord’s raised offering, to Eleazar the priest, as the Lord commanded Moses.

42 From the Israelites’ half-share that Moses had separated from the fighting men, 43 there were 337,500 sheep from the portion belonging to the community, 44 36,000 cattle, 45 30,500 donkeys, 46 and 16,000 people.

47 From the Israelites’ share Moses took one of every fifty people and animals and gave them to the Levites who were responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle, just as the Lord commanded Moses.

48 Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the commanders over thousands and the commanders over hundreds, approached Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have taken a count of the men who were in the battle, who were under our authority, and not one is missing. 50 So we have brought as an offering for the Lord what each man found: gold ornaments, armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and necklaces, to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord.” 51 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from them, all of it in the form of ornaments. 52 All the gold of the offering they offered up to the Lord from the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds weighed 16,750 shekels. 53 Each soldier had taken plunder for himself. 54 So Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds and brought it into the tent of meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord.

32:1 Now the Reubenites and the Gadites possessed a very large number of cattle. When they saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were ideal for cattle, 2 the Gadites and the Reubenites came and addressed Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the leaders of the community. They said, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, 4 the land that the Lord subdued before the community of Israel, is ideal for cattle, and your servants have cattle.” 5 So they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for our inheritance. Do not have us cross the Jordan River.”

6 Moses said to the Gadites and the Reubenites, “Must your brothers go to war while you remain here? 7 Why do you frustrate the intent of the Israelites to cross over into the land which the Lord has given them? 8 Your fathers did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to see the land. 9 When they went up to the Eshcol Valley and saw the land, they frustrated the intent of the Israelites so that they did not enter the land that the Lord had given them. 10 So the anger of the Lord was kindled that day, and he swore, 11 ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old and upward who came from Egypt will see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 12 except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ 13 So the Lord’s anger was kindled against the Israelites, and he made them wander in the wilderness for forty years, until all that generation that had done wickedly before the Lord was finished. 14 Now look, you are standing in your fathers’ place, a brood of sinners, to increase still further the fierce wrath of the Lord against the Israelites. 15 For if you turn away from following him, he will once again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will be the reason for their destruction.”

16 Then they came very close to him and said, “We will build sheep folds here for our flocks and cities for our families, 17 but we will maintain ourselves in armed readiness and go before the Israelites until whenever we have brought them to their place. Our descendants will be living in fortified towns as a protection against the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has his inheritance. 19 For we will not accept any inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River and beyond, because our inheritance has come to us on this eastern side of the Jordan.”

20 Then Moses replied, “If you will do this thing, and if you will arm yourselves for battle before the Lord, 21 and if all your armed men cross the Jordan before the Lord until he drives out his enemies from his presence 22 and the land is subdued before the Lord, then afterward you may return and be free of your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. This land will then be your possession in the Lord’s sight.

23 “But if you do not do this, then look, you will have sinned against the Lord. And know that your sin will find you out. 24 So build cities for your descendants and pens for your sheep, but do what you have said you would do.”

25 So the Gadites and the Reubenites replied to Moses, “Your servants will do as my lord commands. 26 Our children, our wives, our flocks, and all our livestock will be there in the cities of Gilead, 27 but your servants will cross over, every man armed for war, to do battle in the Lord’s presence, just as my lord says.”

28 So Moses gave orders about them to Eleazar the priest, to Joshua son of Nun, and to the heads of the families of the Israelite tribes. 29 Moses said to them: “If the Gadites and the Reubenites cross the Jordan with you, each one equipped for battle in the Lord’s presence, and you conquer the land, then you must allot them the territory of Gilead as their possession. 30 But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must receive possessions among you in Canaan.” 31 Then the Gadites and the Reubenites answered, “Your servants will do what the Lord has spoken. 32 We will cross armed in the Lord’s presence into the land of Canaan, and then the possession of our inheritance that we inherit will be ours on this side of the Jordan River.”