Men Were Sent
Moses said to Israel:
19The Lord had commanded us to leave Mount Sinai and go to the hill country that belonged to the Amorites, so we started out into the huge desert. You remember how frightening it was, but soon we were at Kadesh-Barnea, 20-21and I told you, “We have reached the hill country. It belongs to the Amorites now, but the Lord our God is giving it to us. He is the same God our ancestors worshiped, and he has told us to go in and take this land, so don't hesitate and be afraid.”
22Then all of you came to me and said, “Before we go into the land, let's send some men to explore it. When they come back, they can tell us about the towns we will find and what roads we should take to get there.”
23It seemed like a good idea, so I chose twelve men, one from each tribe. 24They explored the hill country as far as Bunch Valley 25and even brought back some of the fruit. They said, “The Lord our God is giving us good land.”
Moses said to Israel:
26 You did not want to go into the land, and you refused to obey the Lord your God. 27You stayed in your tents and grumbled, “The Lord must hate us—he brought us out of Egypt, just so he could hand us over to the Amorites and get rid of us. 28We are afraid, because the men who explored the land told us that the cities are large, with walls that reach to the sky. The people who live there are taller and stronger than we are, and some of them are Anakim. We have nowhere to go.”
29Then I said, “Don't worry! 30The Lord our God will lead the way. He will fight on our side, just as he did when we saw him do all those things to the Egyptians. 31 And you know that the Lord has taken care of us the whole time we've been in the desert, just as you might carry one of your children.”
32 But you still would not trust the Lord, 33even though he had always been with us in the desert. During the daytime, the Lord was in the cloud, leading us in the right direction and showing us where to camp. And at night, he was there in the fire.
34 You had made the Lord angry, and he said:
35You people of this generation are evil, and I refuse to let you go into the good land that I promised your ancestors. 36Caleb son of Jephunneh is the only one of your generation that I will allow to go in. He obeyed me completely, so I will give him and his descendants the land he explored.
37The Lord was even angry with me because of you people, and he said, “Moses, I won't let you go into the land either. 38Instead, I will let Joshua your assistant lead Israel to conquer the land. So encourage him.”
39Then the Lord spoke to you again:
People of Israel, you said that your innocent young children would be taken prisoner in the battle for the land. But someday I will let them go into the land, and with my help they will conquer it and live there.
40Now, turn around and go back into the desert by way of Red Sea Road.
41Then you told me, “We disobeyed the Lord our God, but now we want to obey him. We will go into the hill country and fight, just as he told us to do.” So you picked up your weapons, thinking it would be easy to take over the hill country.
42But the Lord said, “Moses, warn them not to go into the hill country. I won't help them fight, and their enemies will defeat them.”
43I told you what the Lord had said, but you paid no attention. You disobeyed him and went into the hill country anyway. You thought you were so great! 44But when the Amorites in the hill country attacked from their towns, you ran from them as you would run from a swarm of bees. The Amorites chased your troops into Seir as far as Hormah, killing them as they went. 45Then you came back to the place of worship at Kadesh-Barnea and wept, but the Lord would not listen to your prayers.
Israel Spent Years
Moses said to Israel:
46After we had been in Kadesh for a few months, we obeyed the Lord and headed back into the desert by way of Red Sea Road.
Failure is never fun! And it is not what we are planning on either. No one sets out in the morning saying, “How can I fail today?” “What problem can I run away from now?” And Israel, Moses reminds us, is no different. But they let their fears and anxieties win. It took a major resetting of priorities for them to succeed. Can we do any better?
The story in Deuteronomy is aimed at people who are trying new things. And at times the challenges are overwhelming. They are setting off on a journey to a home they have never seen. The opposition is real, and it is deadly. Their future hangs, it seems, on a thread. And that thread is trust in God.
Moses is merciless in truth-telling about their failure. It isn’t a pretty picture, and neither is ours. Sin has consequences. There is a cost to failure and disobedience. Yet hope and renewal is possible. Where humans fail, God makes a way. Two leaders remain faithful, optimistic and true to God’s word. Caleb and Joshua look on the land with trusting eyes. Where others see fear, they see fortune. God has given his promise, and has proven faithful to us in the past.
Failure for Israel meant a great reset had to occur. This happens to us as well. In fact, we are in the midst of a global economic reset at the moment. The temptation now is to secure our future ourselves. To grab for ourselves the tangible marks of success and safety. But how can we secure our future? The real question is not “How”, but rather “Who” will secure your future? Moses urged Israel to put its trust in a personal God, not in themselves or in things they could see.
Forgiving Father God, our lives stand open before you. In our weakness you give strength. For our fear you offer reassurance. We recognize our failure. And today we ask for your forgiveness. Grant us courage and resolve as we seek to serve you in the Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray.