“See, I have given you this land. Go and take possession of the
land the LORD swore he would give (you)…”
“…But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, ‘The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to… destroy us…’”
Deuteronomy 1:8, 26,27
Instead of listening to God’s word through Moses and trusting Him with obedience, the Israelites listened to the words of their peers. Ten of the leading men who scoped out the land had first-hand knowledge and their interpretation of the facts made sense, V:28 “The people are bigger and stronger than we are. The cities are large with walls up to the sky!” The conclusion was clear: God’s word was out of step with the current political and social climate. And His insistence on obedience was a sure sign He hated them. So, they disregarded the One who rescued them from 400 years of slavery with a mighty hand and miraculous wonders; the One they pledged to love and obey. And they put their trust in what made better sense: self-preservation.
In the face of overwhelming or unfair circumstances, the words of God can seem foolish, unreasonable and out of place. His commands are often at odds with what feels right and safe.
“Don’t be anxious about anything.” ~Philippians 4:6
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” ~Philippians 2:14
“Forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
“Make every effort to… be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” ~Hebrews 12:14
The words of people we love and respect make more sense: “It’s hard not to worry about (fill in the blank).” “You have every right to complain about the horrible way you were treated.” “Forgive? After what he did to you!” Protecting ourselves rather than obedience is often our first consideration. And as for holiness, there are many loud voices that say we needn’t bother with such an antiquated idea anymore. Holiness has been replaced with the gospel of unconditional love and acceptance for all. We have grace now. But grace that doesn’t teach us to say, “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2). Rather, grace that extols the virtue of embracing ourselves and others for who we are. Individual self-expression (in whatever way one desires) is a gift from God to be celebrated, not repressed!
When God’s beloved and chosen people turned from Him to listen to each other, it led to fear, grumbling and disobedience—and what God called “rebellion”. The result was God’s chastisement: immediate death for the ten men who led the revolt, and 40 years of wandering in the desert for the rest, which is what the people longed for when they complained, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!” When we don’t want God’s will, He lets our will be done. But is the price worth paying? As unpopular as it may be, I want to side with Joshua and Caleb. Out of the 12 who went to scout out the land, they were the only 2 with faith. They said, “’The land we explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us… and give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people… their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.’ But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.” Numbers 14:7-10
Siding with God is not just unpopular, it’s dangerous! But if I want to see the Lord someday I have to risk the condemnation of the masses. If God says holiness is possible, and obedience is possible, then I should believe it’s possible—no matter how hard or unlikely it appears. Faith requires that I step out in faith and obey God’s commands no matter the odds stacked against me.
Lord, I do believe it. Please help me stand firm in my resolve to cooperate with You in Your desire that I continue to be made holy. Teach me to work out Your wonderful salvation with fear and trembling. For I trust that You are the One working in me to will and to do what pleases You!