The Midianites, children of Abraham through Keturah, had turned from God and were worshiping idols. God told Moses to take some men, and go and wipe out those disobedient people. So Moses sent 12,000 soldiers to war.
The Israelites were successful. 31:7 tells us they “killed all the males” just like God had told them to. They brought home the spoils of war: women, livestock, gold and jewels. Then they divided up everything among themselves and the entire population of Israel, and gave a percentage to the Levites. Well, except for the gold and jewels. They were allowed to keep those things for themselves.
God had blessed them for their obedience.
Here’s the lesson I gleaned from these verses today, beginning in verse 48: When the commanders had a chance to count their troops, they realized there’d been no casualties. 12,000 men went to war, and 12,000 men came home. They immediately went to Moses.
Now, they didn’t go to Moses to demand recognition, or an “attaboy” for doing great work out there on the battlefield. First of all, they came humbly, calling themselves “servants” not warriors or victors or nice guys. They didn’t go to Moses to report their accomplishments, or to point out their sacrifices in the line of duty.
They came to Moses to lay their gold and jewels at the feet of their God. Scripture says they wanted to make “atonement for their souls.” God had spared their lives. They wanted Him to save their souls.
So many Jesus followers are busy doing great things in our churches and in our neighborhoods. Many spend hours preparing lessons, giving up vacations for mission work, visiting the sick, giving generously of our resources. We are on the battlefield every day, fighting this battle against the devil, and winning.
My question is, what is our attitude about all that? Are we working toward some pat on the back, some applause or recognition? Are we trying to convince God that He’s got a gem in us? Are we waiting for that blessing we’re sure we deserve?
God has given us life. God has taken our sins to the cross. God has forgiven us at a very high price. Our response can only be humility, and praise to the only One who deserves praise.
Our response to God when we are obedient, when we serve Him, should be like that of these Israeli soldiers. It’s a privilege to serve Him, and He deserves all that we are or have. And the bottom line isn’t what we do, as much as who we are in Him.