We are wrapping up our look at the Exodus by reading Deuteronomy 1. The time of training at the base of Mt. Horeb was coming to an end, and the LORD was preparing to move the Israelites onward to Canaan to 'take the land'. Twice in Deut. 1, we read God telling his people to 'go in and possess the land'. So did they march right in and take it?
Instead of going in and possessing the land that God said He was giving them, they suggested to Moses to send in some spies to scout out the land first. Moses went along with what he thought was a reasonable request, but the LORD didn't take too kindly to His people AGAIN second-guessing His word. They trusted in their opinions more than God's promise, their light more than God's Light.
Unbelief had been their pattern ever since leaving Egypt.
So they sent in the spies -- and found the land just as God had promised. Numbers 13 tells us it was 'flowing with milk and honey', a fertile land full of vineyards. You would think this confirmation would have excited them to move into their new home...but they doubted God again, choosing to focus on the giants that inhabited the land. "They are too big for us!" They were afraid.
Yes, the Anakim were bigger and stronger than the Israelites, but were they bigger and stronger than God? Are our obstacles too big for us? Maybe. Are they too big for God? No way. It's so easy for us to see what's in front of our face and disregard the Word of the LORD. How many times do we focus on the giants?
I find it really interesting that ever since Israel left Egypt, they were daily seeing miracles (manna, fresh water, Red Sea crossing, pillar of fire and cloud, the Exodus, etc). Miracles were their daily bread, but they still lived in unbelief! They still didn't trust God!
I am Israel. Daily, He shows Himself to me, and daily I wrestle with fear. I am no different, so I choose not to judge Israel. I think it's a mistake to read scripture and not see ourselves in the story so we too can turn to God.
Unbelief is not without consequence. Unbelief leaves us wandering in lostness, aimlessly meandering, floundering in life. And this is exactly what happened to Israel. The unbelieving generation spent the next 40 years wandering and floundering in the desert, living a nomadic existence, constantly harassed by their enemies. And they continued wandering until the unbelieving generation died off. Even Moses -- who gave into the people -- did not enter the land.
Why do we flounder? Perhaps it is because we have chosen the nomadic path of unbelief.
There once was a man who had a son possessed by an evil spirit. He suffered from painful seizures, causing him to foam at the mouth. On several occasions, the convulsions threw the young boy into the fire or into the water 'to kill him'. The boy had suffered, and his dad was afraid for him. Jesus's disciples tried to cast out the demon but were unsuccessful. [You can read the rest of the story in Mark 9:21-24.] It's the dad's declaration of faith that catches my attention...
"I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief."
I love this prayer! It is so honest and pure. "I do believe; help me in my unbelief!" Don't we live with this dichotomy? Isn't this us? We believe and struggle with belief at the same time. We've seen the work of God all our lives, but we still doubt him for today.
The offspring of unbelief is insidious. Unbelief is a rejection of belief. It is the opposite of faith. It is disobedience. So when we do not trust God, we are in unbelief. When we chip away at the legitimacy of the Word of God, we are in unbelief. When we subject God's Light to our light, we are in unbelief. And it leads to confusion, aimlessness, lostness...and eventually death.
I do not want our church to be a place where we feed unbelief. I don't want us to flounder and wander aimlessly in the desert. I want us to trust God and embrace what He has promised.