Scripture: And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned.” But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the LORD, when that will not succeed? Do not go up, for the LORD is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies.” Numbers 14:40-42 ESV
Observation: The Lord, having pronounced judgment against the adult generation of Israel for rebelling against him and refusing to take possession of the Promised Land, explains to Moses the forthcoming wilderness wandering will match one year for each day of the forty days of the scouting mission. And only the children who will have matured into adults will enter the land flowing with milk and honey (14:26-35). Yahweh then directs Moses to convey his sentence to the nation. (Interestingly, even though Israel doubted God would grant them victory over the stout natives of Canaan, they did believe that he would fulfill his judgment.)
Overcome with self-absorbed grief over Yahweh’s verdict, the people foolishly try to mitigate their offense against the Lord by rising in the early morning, ascending to Canaan’s border, and confessing their sin with the promise they would make things right by taking possession of the Promised Land. Frustrated, Moses pleads with them not to compound their transgression by disobeying the Lord’s decision. And he warns them that they will suffer defeat (above verses). Typical of those who think they know better, Israel ignores Moses’ counsel and charges into battle without Moses or the ark of the covenant and encounters a devasting defeat (14:44-45).
Takeaway: When I read stories like this, I shake my head in disbelief at how childish Israel can behave. Yet, sometimes I act the same way and attempt to make things right with God when I have foolishly disobeyed him—as do all of us. And when we do, we deny ourselves of his grace and make things worse for all concerned. But he restores our souls when we sincerely confess our sins, receive his forgiveness, and seek direction from the Holy Spirit through prayer, Scripture, and the guidance of godly men and women. And the first step is to a place of godly sorrow versus worldly sorrow, as Paul distinguishes (2 Corinthians 7:10). In this story, Israel felt sorry for themselves rather than grieved over their rebellious response to God’s command.
So if we have the right attitude and trust in the Lord’s forgiveness and grace, he will sort things out for us, right? Yes, but not necessarily the way we would anticipate. As yesterday’s Daily Focus mentions, the consequences may project into the distant future. Still, we will find his grace and mercy to help us travel light and press on toward other opportunities when we humbly accept the consequences. But if we try to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we will deny the work of the Cross and find the road forward arduous and treacherous for our souls.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who has made it possible for us to find your grace and mercy to help us when we stray from your will. Would you please help us to resist the temptation to fix things and instead humbly accept the consequences relying on your Holy Spirit to lead us onto paths of righteousness for your name’s sake? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling