If you've been a Christian for even a short time, you are probably familiar with the following sequence of events:
1. Israelites are rescued by God, led by Moses out of Egypt.
2. Israelites spend 40 years in the desert.
3. Israelites have a chance to go into the Promised land, but 10 of the 12 spies they sent were afraid of the existing inhabitants.
As with many of the most familiar stories, there is much more to this one. Upon a recent re-reading, I encountered some troubling items; troubling because they have highlighted many of my own shortcomings. Let's look at just one.
In Numbers 13, we see God instruct Moses to send out twelves spies to check out the promised land. To be clear: this was God's idea. There was nothing wrong with sending out spies, and by inference, we can say that this is nothing wrong with taking note of the giants, the armies, the challenges which awaited the Israelites. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with strategizing to meet the obstacles that might be in our way as we carry out what we believe to be His plans for us today. Still, God had promised them this land, and they should have kept that in mind when giving their report after 40 days of of spying. Instead, all except Caleb and Joshua said "no dice". The giants are too big, and the job too tough.
Numbers 13:31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us."
and here was the result:
Numbers 14:1 "Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night."
So this is no longer about meeting the challenges. It's about a disbelief in God's ability to fulfill a promise. As these 10 men spread their discouraging message, the masses exhibited their own lack of faith in God's character by lamenting the fact that the Promised Land was not meant to be.
Now, here's what many do not realize: At this point, the Israelites were only 2 years into their release from Egyptian bondage. Not 40. Two. God gave them the chance to forgo the 40 years of aimless wandering that turned out to be their fate, and only their unbelief stood in their way. This early in their voyage, after 400 years of slavery, and they were right on the edge of the Promised land! And they blew it!
God told them He wouldn't allow them entry in the land of milk and honey until the faithless died off:
Numbers 14:22-23 "Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it."
then, although they are right there, on the edge, God sends them packing:
Numbers 14:25 "turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea."
This makes me wonder, and shudder at the thought: how many times have I missed out on something God has good for me, because I have reject Him, misunderstood Him, lost faith in His promises, or otherwise blown it? I'm afraid that if I ever found out the number, I'd be in shock, then cry for days. As it is, I know I want all that He has for me, and I pray that from this point forward, when I hear His voice, I take it seriously, and I obey the first time, in order to glorify Him, to do His work, and to enjoy His blessings.