‘Mutually Dependent on One Another’
Meeting others’ needs—and your own

Mahlah, No’ah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah were five sisters about to enter the Promised Land. The fact that they were all daughters made their family situation unique. It also put them in a rare dating situation.

See, they were about to inherit land on behalf of their late father Zelophehad, the youngest of Manasseh’s great-grandsons. In Number 26, Moses was conducting a census not far from the border crossing into Canaan. None of those in the original census at Sinai nearly 40 years earlier were still alive except Joshua, Caleb and Moses (who would die not long after this).

Numbers 27 records how these five sisters asked Moses to give them a plot of land on behalf of their father, since land inheritance was dictated as generally going through sons. When Moses took the case to God, God told him, “The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter. And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren” (verses 7-9).

The way inheritance worked would keep wealth in the family. It would also create stability for the land and ensure its upkeep and that of the greater tribal “province” surrounding it. A daughters-only family wouldn’t be excluded from this promise.

But a little while later, another question became remarkably obvious (Numbers 36:1-4). Tribal leaders from Manasseh realized these young girls would soon start marrying, and they considered what would happen if they married men from other Israelite tribes. (Genealogies show that inter-tribal marriages were common.) Once these women had children, if their husbands were from other tribes, the Zelophehad plot in the province of Manasseh would go to the heirs of these other tribes—which would forever confuse the tribal boundaries.

Under God’s direction, Moses said: “This is the thing which the Lord doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry” (verse 6). The next three verses show the intent and precedent of this ruling. It applied to all five daughters, not just the firstborn. All five would inherit and share a sizable plot in Canaan. Their five husbands would work the land, and all the children growing up there would be of the same tribe.

A principle emerges that applies particularly to singles in God’s Church.

You Are Needed and Necessary

Typically, a son in ancient Israel didn’t need to be “tribe conscious” when dating, but girls in a family without sons did. We don’t date with the same tribal restrictions today, of course. But singles in God’s small and scattered faithful end-time remnant can probably relate to Zelophehad’s daughters, because they too have relatively limited dating options.

Those limitations put more positive pressure on each single to get involved. Think of the needs our Church’s size createsneeds requiring everyone to step forward and participate.

Herbert W. Armstrong described this principle in Mystery of the Ages: “All these various members God has set in his Church are interdependent—mutually dependent on one another. They form a team—an organized spiritual organism—utterly different from any secular and worldly organization!”

The singles program in the Philadelphia Church of God shows how “mutually dependent on one another” God’s people truly are.

There is a “mutually dependent” component to any successful organization. A musical ensemble is dependent on its instrumentalists or singers creating all the facets of a multi-layered sound. A sports team relies on each member. Even the existence of a game depends on there being two teams present.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, the same is true of a body. The Church spiritually is the body of Christ: “But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (1 Corinthians 12:20-22).

The apostle used terms like “need” and “necessary” to describe this dynamic!

Verses 25-26: “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”

A Hypothetical Manasseh Mixer

The smaller the community, the more pronounced this mutual dependence becomes.

Consider this hypothetical scenario for Zelophehad’s daughters, who were essentially told, Marry whom you want, as long as he’s from Manasseh.

What happens if the men in that particular tribe aren’t really interested or, worse, have an aversion to marriage and family? What happens if they don’t involve themselves in the dating “scene,” or make themselves available for a singles “program.” What happens if there is a Manasseh Singles Mixer, and all Zelophehad’s daughters show up, but only one Manassite male comes?

What happens to the women in that tribe if most of their options are withdrawn? And what happens if—while the Manassite men are showing no interest—men from other tribes are giving these girls all kinds of attention? This is going to create problems.

This isn’t just to pick on the men. There are cases where guys can feel similarly limited because their sisters in God’s Church barely notice them. Then if those men receive all kinds of attention from girls in a worldly workplace, this will also create problems!

Loneliness and Stubbornness

“Marriage collapse, absent fathers ‘unraveling’ Christianity in growing U.S. crisis: study,” read a Fox News headline from June 1, 2023. A survey of 19,000 mainstream Christians found that 22 percent of regular churchgoers are lonely—noting a substantial gap between married and single. “What we’re seeing in the study is … the crisis of loneliness,” the article quoted the study’s author. He said “the most lonely people walking around in our churches, in our communities, are actually not the elderly or widows. It’s men and women in their 30s, who in every other time period—almost every other decade before this century—would have been overwhelmingly likely to be married.”

Hopefully this is different in God’s Church, and we pray that He is doing what He can. Psalm 68:5-6 bear this out: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge [more literally, ‘advocate’] of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” The “solitary” are those who are alone.

In Hebrew, this more literally reads, God makes the lonely inhabit families. The Hebrew for family is the same word as house or household. These people can feel homeless. But God is doing what He can to address that—to help them avoid the “crisis of loneliness.”

This psalm shows God’s efforts to include those who otherwise may not feel like they fit in. But He also gave us all free moral agency, and we must do our part. The more limited the options are in anything, the more that those involved have a duty to include themselves. Single-Minded for God brings out: “As we draw closer to God, we will inevitably be drawing closer to others of like mind. Conversely, if we drift away from God, we will begin to forsake others.”

In the final phrase of verse 6, “the rebellious dwell in a dry land,” the word for rebellious is more often used in the Old Testament to describe withdrawing. In Hosea 4:16, it describes “backsliding,” trying to slide out of the yoke. Zechariah 7:11 and Nehemiah 9:29 describe similar imagery: pulling away or withdrawing the shoulder. Some can interpret God’s guidance as a trap and try to wiggle out of it.

Consider: A yoke does not just represent being stuck—or even just submission. It is also depicts being connected to others for a task. There’s a mutual dependence. If those you’re yoked with are trying to wiggle out, this slows down the work.

By using this imagery, the psalmist David implies that there are some in the categories of verses 5-6 who are resisting God’s efforts to help them—resisting His efforts to link them to in interdependent community. David says they remain in an arid land.

Yes, we each work out our own salvation. We each have a personal one-on-one relationship with our Father in Heaven. But that process and that relationship links us to a community—to other relationships, and to a team effort. How much do you engage with that community?

God is “yoking” us to a common effort. If we try to slide out, we actually yoke ourselves to more dangerous things. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”

God commanded Israel not to intermarry with the heathen nations around them, and similarly restricts those in the Church regarding nonbelievers. We don’t date or form substantial relationships outside the body of Christ. Verses 17-18 explain that God has begotten us as sons and daughters. He has put us in an incredibly special household!

In This Together

Consider also: We are not in this Family of God just for what we can get out of it. We have probably heard a number of times that we are not called out of this world now just to “get into the Kingdom.” We are to help Jesus Christ serve, teach and save the rest of humanity. But if we’re not careful, we can have a “get into the Kingdom” approach into our involvement with the Church.

We can decide whether to “take advantage” of an opportunity based on whether it’s best for us, while overlooking that Church members are mutually dependent. Maybe we need to be involved because it’s best for others. Others might need you.

And here’s the thing about mutual dependence: By serving others’ needs, you serve your own!

Remember Paul’s admonition in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider [understand] one another to provoke unto love and to good works [in other words, to provoke someone to love, you need to understand what their needs are]. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” We need to be assembling together. And consider the word for “exhorting,” the Greek parakaleo—meaning to beseech, comfort, or call near.

This verse is describing people mutually dependent on one another, who are present at occasions because they have to go, they need to go, and they are needed there. The Greek for word “more” in the phrase “so much the more” can mean more willingly.

The success of the Church’s singles program is largely in the hands of our singles.

Verses 32-33 admonish us to remember what we were willing to put up with in our “first love”—when we became “companions of them that were so used.” We found people we’d describe with the phrase: We’re in this together.

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (verses 38-39). We either live by faith, or we draw back—or pull away the shoulder—to destruction.

The word for “draw back” is used in Galatians 2:12 to describe what the Apostle Peter did in a moment of weakness. This is recounting a time when God had just invited physical Gentiles into the body of Christ, but Peter was still concerned what fellow Jews would think if they saw him eating with Gentiles. It says he “withdrew and separated himself,” adding that he did this out of fear of what others thought. How often do we withdraw ourselves for the same reason?

Do Yourself a Service

There is more to the story of Zelophehad’s daughters. Once in the Promised Land, just before Joshua divvied up the land, these sisters came to remind him what Moses had decided about their unique situation (Joshua 17:1-6).

That passage says Manasseh got 10 portions of land west of Jordan, and it was impacted by this unique circumstance. So they were still single at this time. That means someone added this detail to Numbers 36 after Moses died. Verses 10-11 read: “Even as the Lord commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad: For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father’s brothers’ [relatives’] sons.”

They dated whom they were supposed to, and there were obviously men of Manasseh eager to date and marry them!

Verse 12 confirms: “And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father.” The fact that the land remained there means at least some (if not all) of them had children.

Yes, some have fairly limited dating options within this “Church tribe.” Yes, even beyond dating, the Church in general is a little flock and tiny remnant, requiring more of each of us to get involved.

We are not here for what we can get out of this opportunity. Yes, we have needs. But remember: By serving others’ needs, we actually serve our own. That is what it means to be “interdependent—mutually dependent on one another.”