Pastor Randy Roberts, lead pastor at the Loma Linda University Church, recently said, Communication is what happens when meaning is understood.
Numbers, chapter 32 speaks about the Settling of the Tribes of Israel East of the Jordan. Here we find an illustration that helps us learn three things to watch for when we attempt to communicate.
Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that the region was a place for livestock, the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying,
“ … the country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.”
Therefore they said, “If we have found favour in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.”
Could we agree that the children of Reuben and Gad had thought about things and taking the proper route to express themselves by speaking to Moses, to the priest and to the leaders of the congregation? This sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
But the first words of Moses’ reply sends the conversation in a whole different direction!
Starting in verse 6:
Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?
Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them? Thus your fathers did when I sent them away from Kadesh Barnea to see the land.
Then Moses proceeds to review things that happened in the past, including the wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.
If that wasn’t bad enough, in verse 14 he says, And look! You have risen in your fathers’ place, a brood of sinful men to increase still more the fierce anger of the Lord against Israel.
Can we agree that Moses was upset?
Because of past experiences, Moses didn’t wait to hear the new plan that the children of Reuben and Gad had formulated. They could’ve reacted to being called a brood of sinful men, but they didn’t.
Instead, as verse 16 records, they came near Moses and said,
We will build our sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be armed, ready to go before the children of Israel until we have brought them to their place; and our little ones will dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
We will not return to our homes until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance. For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this eastern side of the Jordan.
The children of Reuben and Gad never intended for their brethren to cross over the Jordan undefended.
Do we do this to each other sometimes? Do we jump into a conversation before someone else has fully expressed what they intended to say?
Let’s hear what Moses said next.
In Verse 20, he begins by saying: “IF you do this thing, IF you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war…”
And continues to end in verse 22 with: “THEN … this land will be your possession before the Lord.”
But right away, verse 23 begins, “But IF you do not do so …”
Have you been in conversations like this?
You start to outline your plan.
The other person interrupts because of some past experience they think relates to what you are saying, perhaps calling you names or using unkind words in the process.
Now their emotions are aroused; they aren’t listening.
When you’re finally able to finish speaking, are you met with “IFs” and “THEN”?
Let’s look at 3 steps to improving our communication skills:
We need to listen in the present. Let’s ask questions to be sure we understand what is being said in the present.
Let’s have a listening response, not an emotional response.
Moses’ use of the words “if and then” demonstrates that he was unsure of what would happen in the future. Let’s make certain that we place our trust in the God of the present, and of the future.
I encourage you to read all of Numbers chapter 32, and I pray that God will bless you in unexpected ways as you do. Let’s listen and communicate so that meaning is always understood.
This is a sure way to glorify God. Amen