Behold, the LORD your God has set the land before you:
go up and possess it, as the LORD God of your fathers has
said unto you; fear not, neither be discouraged. (Deut.1:21)
Moses was speaking to the Israelites, who were about to enter the promised land. God had promised to give them this land, and everything in it,
a land flowing with milk and honey. They were instructed not to be afraid or discouraged. They knew the Lord God Almighty had promised to give them the land,
they had seen His many miracles on their behalf,
they knew God was for them.......yet they did not trust Him enough to obey.
And you came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before
us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we
must go up, and into what cities we shall come. And the saying pleased me well:
and I took twelve men of you, one of each tribe: (Deut.1:22-23)
The Israelites decided to compromise a little. They decided that rather than just going boldly in, as God had told them to do. they would send in spies to check
the place out first. Undoubtedly this seemed wise and reasonable to them - even to Moses, for the idea pleased him as well. But God never once says
we are to follow our own wisdom; in fact, our wisdom is foolishness in God's eyes. 1 Cor. 3:19 tells us
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He takes the wise in their own craftiness."
And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of
Eshcol, and searched it out. And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands,
and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good
land which the LORD our God does give us. Nevertheless you would not go up,
but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God: (Deut.1:24-26)
When God tells us to do something, are we willing to do as He commands? Or are we more likely to be like these stubborn and unbelieving Israelites,
and do what seems right to us? Yes, it does take a lot of courage to obey God in an unknown situation, in a place where we've never been. When He gives us
clear instructions, He expects us to step out in faith and obey Him. Not with faith in ourselves and our own ability,
but faith in Him, in His power to do what He has said, and His providence for us to accomplish the task He sets before us.
And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath
brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites,
to destroy us. Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart,
saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up
to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there. (Deut. 1:27-28)
Here we see their reasoning and justification for their failure to obey God. Rather than recognizing their own fear and doubt, and acknowledging their
sinful disregard of God's instructions,
they turn it around and BLAME GOD! Sure, He brought them out of Egypt --- but it must be because He hated them and
wanted them to die at the hands of the Amorites! After all, their own spies reported that these people are bigger than them, and the cities are surrounded by
high walls, and there were
even some giants living there (sons of the Anakims)!
How wrong could their thinking possibly be? He had promised Abraham to make a great nation from his offspring - which was them!
He performed many, many miracles to bring them out of Egypt to keep that promise. Instead of remembering God's promise, they allowed their thoughts to be
dominated by their own fears and unbelief.
That's how messed up our thinking becomes when we allow sin and disobedience to reign in our minds. That's why we are told to "
... bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5) In any time of uncertainty, faith means we can trust an unknown future to our known God!
As the old hymn says, "I know not what the future holds, but I KNOW who holds the future..." When we know God, we don't have to fear when he sends us into an unknown place or situation.
He is already there, and He will be with us every step of the way.
Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them. The LORD your
God who goes before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did
for you in Egypt before your eyes, And in the wilderness, where you have
seen how that the LORD your God bore you, as a man does bear his son,
in all the way that you went, until you came into this place. (Deut. 1:29-31)
Moses again reminded them that it is the Almighty God who goes before them, and fights for them. He reminded them of all God
had done for them in the past, the miracles He performed that they saw with their own eyes. He reminded them of how God carried them as tenderly and
carefully as a man carries his small son, protecting him in his own arms. And yet with all this, they were still afraid to trust God.
Yet in this thing you did not believe the LORD your God, Who went in the way
before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to
show you by what way you should go, and in a cloud by day. And the LORD
heard the sound of your words, and was angry, and swore, saying, Surely there
shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I
swore to give unto your fathers, (Deut.1: 29-35)
These Israelites had seen God's miracles in their behalf in Egypt. These very people had walked on a dry riverbed right through a raging,
flood-stage river, with a wall of water on each side of them! They saw God hold back the waters for them to cross, and watched as He released those
same waters to swirl over their enemies, completely destroying all of them, including their
chariots and their horses.
They saw God's presence always with them throughout
their long journey, in a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night to light their way. (Ex. 13:21)
They had experienced His divine protection and provision for them in the long journey –
yet they were not willing to do what He told them, exactly as He told them. Those stubborn Israelites had to learn the hard way: partial obedience is total
disobedience! And that disobedience cost them dearly: that generation would not be allowed to enter the land God had promised to their fathers. God would keep His
promise to give this land to Abraham's decendants, but it would be their children, not them, that would dwell in this land of milk and honey.
Today we need to learn this as well.
God does not take disobedience lightly. It may seem like we are being reasonable and logical and prudent, but what it really boils down to is a
lack of faith in our Almighty God. When God gives us a clear
command, we can't pick and choose which part of it we're going to do, and how we're going to go about it.
No matter what we call it: being cautious, showing discretion, checking things out before acting, whatever.... it all comes down to not trusting the Lord
enough to obey Him completely. And this lack of faith is a sin!
Then you answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the LORD,
we will go up and fight, according to all that the LORD our God commanded us.
And when you had girded on every man his weapons of war, you were ready to
go up into the hill. And the LORD said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up,
neither fight; for I am not among you; lest you be smitten before your enemies.
So I spoke unto you; and you would not hear, but rebelled against the command-
ment of the LORD,and went presumptuously up into the hill. (Deut. 1:41-43)
Now the Israelites confess their sin of unbelief and lack of faith, and declare their intention to do what the Lord had commanded in the first place.
But their timing was all wrong: delayed obedience is not what God wants. Their hearts were still wrong. So through Moses, God warned them not to go to war now, because He was not
going to be with them, and they would suffer defeat. But once again, they went ahead in their own time, in their own way, and did not pay any attention to what God had commanded.
And the Amorites, who dwelt in that mountain, came out against you,
and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto
Hormah. And you returned and wept before the LORD; but the LORD
would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you. (Deut. 1:41-45)
It happened just exactly as God had said it would. They were soundly defeated, and cried out to God. But He would not hear their prayers. Their stubborn hearts still were not right. They had confessed one
sin of disobedience, only to commit another right on top of it. They were still trusting in their own wisdom, rather than trusting the great and mighty God. Their lack of faith and disobeience
created a wall between them and the Lord. And they brought it all on themselves!
There are so many lessons for us here. Nothing has changed since the time of the Old Testament. Human nature is still the same as it was then.
Delayed or partial obedience - doing what God instructs, but in our own time and our own way - still equals total disobedience.
Not trusting in God's presence and providence is a still a sin that carries serious consequences. Our stubbornness, pride, and sinfulness still creates a wall between us
and our God. We still need to own our own behavior, not blame others for what we've done.
And we still need to confess our sin before the Lord, in humility and repentence, not in arrogance and self-justification.
Obeying Him still gives victory to His people, and disobedience still brings defeat.
We have to learn to keep our thoughts centered on what God has spoken to us through His word, not what we think is right.
We have to take control of our thoughts, realizing that they can be very deceptive. We need to guard against allowing doubt, fear, selfish desires, and exaggerated imaginations of the future took root in our mind and begin to reign there.
The only way for us to experience victory in our trials and have the abundant life that God intends for us, is to put ALL our faith and trust in Him, and obey Him completely.
Or, as the proverb puts it:
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct thy paths.