Show me Your glory, I pray.
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.” Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the Israelites. And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the Israelites, “The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” But the whole congregation threatened to stone them.
I’ve heard that no good deed goes unpunished. That seems to be the case in today’s scripture as Joshua and Caleb file the minority report for the team sent to spy out the Promised Land. They boldly look with the eyes of faith while the other spies look with the eyes of fear. Joshua and Caleb confidently declare: “If the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us…” And for this the whole congregation is ready to kill them. Notice the universality of the complaining against the Lord: “all the congregation…all the Israelites…all the assembly of the congregation…the whole congregation.”
In today’s scripture we are reminded of two great dangers looming in the Wilderness. The first danger is FEAR; specifically fear of moving ahead with God. In this we are afraid to step out and claim God’s promises. For these Israelites camped on the Promised Land’s border, the problems seem bigger than God’s promises. They blame God! “Why is the LORD bringing us into the land to fall by the sword?” It is the Lord’s fault! “What else can be expected from a people who had nothing before their eyes but mighty giants, lofty walls, and great cities?… They were occupied with themselves and their difficulties instead of with God and His resources.” (C. H. Mackintosh, Notes on the Penteteuch)
Then there is in the Wilderness the second danger of REGRESSION. This is the ever-present danger of wanting to go backwards, wanting to return to the way things used to be, even if it means Egypt, bondage and dysfunction. Ready to go backwards the Israelites say: “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”
Egypt? Do they not remember how much they hated Egypt? Do they not remember how they groaned under their slavery and cried out? They had once called Egypt, Mitzraim, or land of “double straits.” It had been for them a place of double oppression and misery, a place where Pharaoh was even killing their babies!
And yet fear of moving ahead with God, fear of claiming His promises can make people want to turn back. When the voice of a Joshua or a Caleb is heard saying, “Fear not!” people are ready to pick up stones.
Of significance for you and me in our Wilderness journey is the New Testament looking at these Israelites as types of a Christian’s unbelief:
“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4:1-2).
We have the same promises as the Israelites, but the promises did not do them any good; they did not receive the promises with faith. Let us dare to go forward with God; He promised us!
- Do you sense the dual dangers of Fear and Regression at work in you? If so, how?
- In what one specific way could you dare to go forward with God?