If we were going to try and say what it was that kept the children of Israel out of the Promised Land – if we were going to try and lock it down to one thing, because the reasons are truly legion – what would be the one thing?
Or maybe a better way to put it would be to ask, what would be number one on a top ten list of ‘Things That Kept Israel Out Of The Promised Land’?
For me, the key attitude that stoped them from getting in would have to be doubt.
I know that they complained a lot, and I mean A LOT!
I remember at one point doing a reading of selected passages from the whole Scripture, just to try and get an idea of the flow of the whole story, and half-way through the Old Testament I just felt this intense frustration at the complaining of the people of Israel – and I think that is what we are supposed to feel – the complain
But the key attitude was their lack of faith in God. When I say faith I am aware that there are many different ways to define faith, so the definition that I will be using is that of:
”Trust that God will keep His promises”
That’s what we’re going with for our definition of faith. The ultimate display of this is in the story of the 12 spies as they check out the land that God has promised to give them. They get to enjoy the Promised Land for 40 whole days – it blows my mind that no other people in their generation got to do that, out of all of the people that left Egypt, of those over 20, only these 12 got to taste the food, and to see the promise of God fulfilled in their lives. Yet, this wasn’t enough for them.
Imagine this in your own life – God gives you a foretaste of the promise that He has said is yours, and you still don’t trust that He will deliver the whole package.
If I’m honest – and I try to be – this is something that I’ve done in my life plenty of times. I have seen God come through in small ways, and yet have doubted that He is able to come through on those same things, but on a larger scale.
Doubt forces us to see God as smaller than He is. This is one of the biggest problems with doubt. We don’t think that God is powerful enough – or maybe we don’t think that He is good enough, or maybe we don’t think that He cares enough for us, or that we are worthy enough – to do the thing that He has said He would.
We tell ourselves things like:
“That’s impossible. No one could do that!”
“Who’s going to give me some money for that out of the blue?”
“Why do I deserve this sort of thing?”
“That’s too good to be true!”
And the list could go on. But let’s examine a little more closely some other aspects of doubt, before we move on – next week – to look at a solution.
1. Doubt Is Brought Out By Testing
The best way to know the state of our relationship with God is to go through some tough stuff. That’s the truth isn’t it? How many of us know this from experience?
We think that everything is fine, and that us and God are cool, and then we get sick, or we lose our job, or a relationship ends, or a loved one is struck down. Then we start to ask that question:
God, I thought You were good, yet You have let this happen to me? WHY?
Our attitudes betray the depth – or lack of – in our relationship with God, and how much we know of His character.
2. Doubt Sees Only Obstacles
If we look at the story of the spies in Numbers 13 and 14 it tells us that they only saw the problems in the land. That was where their focus was – not on the bunch of grapes that needed two people to carry, but on the people who looked like giants.
They saw the fortified cities, and the armies, and the people in the land and they let fear creep in to their bones. All of a sudden they weren’t sure that God could do it. He wasn’t BIG enough to defeat these giants. Even though these people had seen Him part the sea – they still thought this was out of His league.
3. Doubt Leads To Despair
Here’s the reaction of the people who heard the report of the spies:
All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to die by the sword? Our wives and children will become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Numbers 14:2-4 (CSB)
They were ready to turn around and go back into the land that had kept them in slavery for 400 years.
The question coming out of this, I suppose, for all of us is, how is your relationship with God? What sort of relationship have you cultivated with Him? What can you do to deepen it?
We will look at some of the answers next week.