What was the primary problem with the Israelites of old? Moses tells us: they “… did not believe the Lord.” Nothing has changed. Let us be reminded of the actions of the One in Whom the “church in the (physical) wilderness” (Acts 7:38) then and the church in the spiritual wilderness today had/have no confidence. He was the One Who had preformed numerous miracles to bring His people out of Egypt, Who had led them through the Red Sea on dry land, who had miraculously provided them with food and water, who had protected them from the Egyptian army using a pillar of fire and from the sun’s heat using a cloud, Who had spoken to them in an audible voice from Mt. Sinai and protected them from warring tribes during their journey from the mountain to the Jordan River. This is the One in Whom they had no trust. Instead, they trusted in themselves.
Let us look at the plan they concocted that would enable them to enter and conquer the Promised Land. Recall that God had told them to go straight in, and to do it immediately. But more rational minds had come up with a better alternative. They would send men into the land who would scout it out then report to them about the people and the cities they would be forced to overcome. They, not God, would determine the best mode of operation. Unbeknownst to them, by ignoring His Words they were replacing Him, thereby committing idolatry. As they were about to learn, the Almighty does tolerate being ignored and replaced.
The Lord had heard the complaints of the recently freed Israelites and had seen their faithlessness in action. His Words to them reflected His anger: “There will not be one man among this evil (adult) generation that will see the good land that I promised to their fathers.” He went on to say that only two men within that generation (Joshua and Caleb) would enter the land “flowing with milk and honey.” As He said, they were the only men who had trusted and obeyed Him. And because he went along with the doubters’ plan, Moses would feel the brunt of His wrath–he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. Only those below the age of 20 would be allowed to cross the Jordan River and enter into the inheritance God had promised all of Abraham’s descendants.
As is usually the case when those calling themselves God’s people find themselves on the receiving end of His wrath, the Israelites had a change of heart. “Then they said to me,” Moses recalled, ‘… we have sinned against the Lord. We will go up and fight just as the Lord commanded us.'” But the Lord warned them not to cross the river to fight the heathen because HE WAS NO LONGER AMONG THEM. Their defeat was guaranteed. In spite of His warning, the Israelites crossed the river and engaged the heathen. They suffered a humiliating defeat. Having been defeated physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, they cried out to the God Whom they had disobeyed. BUT THE LORD WOULD NOT HEAR THEM. Because they had rebelled against Him He had turned their heaven into iron.
In His wrath the Lord turned them around and sent them back the way they had come. For the next 40 years they wandered in the desert until He had killed off everyone above the age of 20. Having eliminated that generation, He had brought their descendants to the Holy Land and had prepared them to enter it, run the heathen out and claim it for themselves. The rest is Bible history. Let us not forget that God’s dealings with the original Israelites serve as teaching moments for those who claim oneness with Him in this age. Have His teachings had their desired effect on the modern church? Has professing Christendom leaned the lessons He taught? Let us answer those questions by comparing the church’s present spiritual condition to His written instructions. L.J.