Moses revisits Israel’s punishment over their reaction to the spy’s report. God did NOT take their attitude sitting down!
The people wanted to kill Moses, Aaron and Caleb when they tried to remind them that GOD was the one who would be fighting the battle for them if they only did as He commanded. The people’s reaction so enraged God that He was ready to wipe them all out and start again from scratch. Moses saved their lives but he couldn’t spare them from the punishment they would receive instead. God took His promise away from them.
God didn’t change His promise or decide to void it. Instead, He chose to delay it. He gave it to another; their children. God NEVER goes back on His word but He can and does choose to use different recipients. He chooses to work through those who will follow Him instead of those who have to be dragged along.
In all honesty, this generation wanted nothing more than to return to Egypt. They said so every time they complained about their situation. God was dragging them kicking and screaming into a better place. He would only push for so long. At some point He wanted them to want it as much as He wanted it for them. They didn’t reach that point until He told them they couldn’t have it. Then of course they wanted it!
Israel’s response to God’s decision regarding their punishment shows two things. The first is how they thought they could manipulate God. The second is how little they thought He added to their strength.
Israel had been whining and complaining since before leaving Egypt. When they cried, God intervened. God gave them water, mana, quail, and victory in response to their cries. Sometimes it came at a price but He always listened. They thought they could get Him back on their side if they simply said “sorry” and did as He first asked. Reminds me of a child who thinks if he just says the right words his parents will forget about his punishment and all will be “good” again. Not this time! God made a NEW promise and He wasn’t backing down.
When the people decided to go up and fight, even after Moses TOLD them that God was NOT going with them, they showed how little they thought God was adding to their success. Maybe they thought that if they got in trouble God would have to come to their rescue; returning us to attitude number one. These people didn’t get it. The ONLY reason they were alive was because GOD kept them safe. When they were in His will they were protected. When they stepped out, they were destroyed. They should have learned that along the way too, but didn’t. HE was their strength. HE gave them victory. HE fed them. HE made their clothes not wear out. And HE sat back and watched as they figured that out.
God brings us opportunities just like He brought them to Israel. Not nearly on such a grand scale as a whole nation at once, but just as important. The biggest and best opportunity He brings us is salvation through His Son Jesus. He demonstrates His love in SO MANY different ways in this world but we don’t always recognize it. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people complain because of hard circumstances and wonder “why a loving God would allow such tragedy.” I bet they sound just like the people of Israel when water was scares. “God brought us out here to die! How could a ‘loving God’ do that?” But they fail to acknowledge Him and His grace when He provides for our needs. They don’t see His hand in the air we can still breathe. They fail to see the warmth of the sun He still lets shine on us. They don’t acknowledge the fact that we have food to eat. And they sure don’t accept that this life is but a moment and what comes next is SO much more important.
He brought us the ONLY hope we have for what comes next. He gave us Jesus. But WE, each one of us individually, have to decide if we really want that precious gift. Just like Israel found out that day, there IS such a thing as “too late.” There is a point where God will stop coaxing or pulling and He expects you to step across into His direction for your life willingly. He won’t push you into accepting Jesus’ sacrificial substitution. You have to do that on your own. And if you refuse, He WON’T come to your rescue after you receive your last chance.
The generation that God removed the promise from had the rest of their lives to be reminded of their failure. They lived their punishment out the rest of their lives in the wilderness. I don’t know if any of them changed their hearts towards God during those 40 years and wound up in eternity with Him or not. That was for Him to decide. Our final chance runs out at the end of our life. We have NO WAY of knowing what day that will be. We don’t get the 40 years of trying to make it up somehow to God. And He won’t change His standards or promises because we realize too late that we have sinned. There IS a life after this one and no matter how hard we cry we won’t entice God to change His mind. He made a promise and He is sticking to it.
Not all of the opportunities God brings us are as defining as this one but they are still important. Moses didn’t think that his meeting with the rock that day would end in him losing out too, but it did. Deuteronomy is the only place where we see that Moses tried to beg God into changing His mind about his punishment. He never did. I notice in our reading that Moses blames the people for his punishment too. “Even with me the Lord was angry on your account and said, ‘You shall not go in there’” (verse 37). God was angry with Moses because of Moses’ actions and attitudes. Moses’ actions and attitudes were probably colored because of the people’s behavior but that was his to own, not God’s and not the peoples’. “They made me do it” didn’t cut it with God.
If God would take an opportunity away from Moses for his own sin, don’t think that you or I are above consequences for our sins. Moses sin did NOT separate him permanently from God but it did affect the course of his life. I can bet that he longed to enjoy the fruits on the other side of the Jordan after tasting what the spies brought back.
What will I (or already have) miss out on because I won’t follow where He is leading? What “Promised Lands” have my sins kept me from entering into? I can bet that in my earlier years I would have reacted just like the people of Israel did. “No God. I’m ready now. Let’s do this thing!” But I have learned over the years that He doesn’t play that game. I pray I won’t fail to recognize His opportunities again.
Father God, please forgive me for my stubbornness. I KNOW there are times where I have missed the good things You had for me out of fear, stubbornness, and lack of faith. I’m SO glad You haven’t given up on me and let me wander around waiting for death. I pray I don’t miss any more of those opportunities. The ones that show Your hands and feet to others. The ones that shine Your glory into this world a little more. The ones that make life a little easier for me. Thank You for each and every one of them You have brought into my life.
Thank You more than anything else for Your love and Jesus’ love. Lord Jesus, You didn’t have to include me in Your work, but You did. You didn’t have to do any of it at all, but You refused to let ANYTHING stop You. Your love is AMAZING! I pray I love You back even a fraction of the amount You loved and still love me. Thank You for Your life altering opportunity to be part of Your family. Thank You for the Holy Spirit who is with me every day and reminds me of what I have to look forward to. I’m really looking forward to seeing You face to face as we sit on our special bench in Heaven. I have SO MANY things I want to talk about!