39 When Moses reported the Lord’s words to all the Israelites, the people were filled with grief. 40 Then they got up early the next morning and went to the top of the range of hills. “Let’s go,” they said. “We realize that we have sinned, but now we are ready to enter the land the Lord has promised us.” (Numbers 14:39-40, NLT)Have you ever read the Bible, and when reading a particular verse, recognized yourself in it? Well, this is one of those times for me.
I'm continuing in the book of Numbers, and I'm at the point where the Israelites have reached the Promised Land. God commands them to send the leaders from each tribe of Israel into Canaan and scout out the land. They're told to bring back fruit and tell what they've seen. And so, the 12 leaders set out for the land that God had promised them.
I know my readership knows how it ended....the "spies" came back and told what they saw. Ten of them came back and talked about how large its inhabitants were, how the Israelites were grasshoppers in comparison, and how they didn't stand a chance. Only Joshua, the leader of Ephraim, and Caleb, the leader of Judah, came back with the right response....the Lord would lead them to victory. Unfortunately, the report of the other ten persuaded the Israelites not to obey God. They decided they didn't stand a chance. In response, God was angry at their disobedience and killed the ten leaders who gave a negative report.
That's where we find the verses above. After seeing God's anger and what He did to the ten leaders, they then decide, "hey, we should obey God....we'll go take that land that He promised us now!" The problem is, they were too late. I'm sure it's been said many times by many church staffers, but "delayed obedience is disobedience". This is what the Israelites learned. They had the opportunity to do the right thing and obey God. God had promised them the land, and He had been faithful to His promises in the past. And they didn't trust Him! They continued to doubt Him. So God kills the ten leaders and tells the Israelites that they would wander in the desert until everyone 20 and older died out, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. And it was then they realized they'd realized they'd goofed in a major way.....
Wow, can I see myself in them! I know times when I've disobeyed, and when I got "caught" and reprimanded, that was when I decided to be obedient. The problem was, it was too late; the damage had been done. I wonder how much pain and time I could've saved myself if I was obedient from the beginning. God promises us blessings when we obey! And yet, so often, I'm disobedient.
So, I definitely think I'm in the wilderness now....it's not fun! The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of a giant fish (*cough*not whale*cough*). It stinks, but it's the price of disobedience. The good news is, after the wilderness and the fish, God did great things! The Israelites did make it to the Promised Land; Jonah preached and saw 100,000+ people turn to God! I know that after my "wilderness experience", God has something awesome in store....
I just pray it doesn't take 40 years.