40 years.

Last week I mentioned that how much time we spend in the middle is mostly up to God. But did you know that the time in the middle is also up to us? The journey from Egypt to the promised land is apparently an 11 day journey. So how come it took the Israelites 40 years? One word, rebellion. The book of Numbers chapters 13 and 14 detail what actually happened.

Indeed God did not want to take the Israelites on the direct route to the promised land as He wanted to spend some time with them so they would get to know who He was, His nature, His character, His love for them. But He also had no intention of keeping them hanging waiting for the promise for 40 years either. Based on Numbers Chapters 9 and 10, it is likely that it had been about two years since the Israelites left Egypt when God was ready to take them to the promised land for He spoke to Moses to send the 12 spies to sass out the promised land (see Numbers 13:1-2).

The men came back and gave this report recorded in Numbers 13: 27-30, “They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.””

There are two distinct responses from the people, one was full of fear and lacked faith in God, the other was full of faith. A few weeks ago we talked about how it is impossible to please God without faith. The report that the 10 men gave to Moses which was full of fear was displeasing to God. And we see in the verses and chapter that follows, that the whole nation caught that spirit of fear and they all rebelled against God.

Numbers 14:1-4 says, “That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t’ it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.””

The level of disrespect, *gasp*. There is a very thin line between fear and rebellion and when we are not careful, fear can easily turn into rebellion as it did with the Israelites. We, through the story of the Israelites, have the beauty of hindsight. Because if we fast forward to Deuteronomy 28, we will realise that in addition to faith, God only had one requirement for them to inherit the blessings He had for them, obedience.

When they heard the report, before they let fear lay hold of them, they should have consulted God and sought His direction. God was on Caleb’s side the whole time. In Numbers 14, 6-10 it says, “Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” But the whole assembly talked about stoning them…”

Phew, talk about drama! The Bible is a good read y’all! So there was a real battle between faith and fear and the people kept choosing fear. The Israelites openly rejected God and His plan for their lives. After all the miracles they had witnessed, they still didn’t trust God. They did not want  to enter into the promised land and they said they’d rather have died in Egypt or die in the wilderness.

We say a lot of things when we are upset but I think the Israelites teach us one very important lesson; when you have nothing good to say, say nothing. Don’t speak out of fear. I think sometimes fear is faith in the wrong thing. The Israelites sincerely believed that if they went into the promised land, they would be defeated by the inhabitants of the land. They spoke out of that fear and they were caught in the snare of their own words (Proverbs 6:2; Matthew 12:34-37). Because what ended up happening is that all the people who rebelled against God’s plan to go into the promised land, died in the desert just as they had said.

God could have taken the Israelites into the promised land after about 2 years in the desert but they spent 40 more years wandering in the desert and all who rebelled against God died without entering into the promised land. God said this about the rebellious ones in Numbers 14:23, “not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”

So back to where we started, how much time we spend in the middle is mostly up to God but  it is also up to us. When it comes time to enter into the promised land, we must respond in faith and not in fear. 40 years is a long time to be circling the same mountain. It takes faith and obedience to enter the promised land.

Caleb said in the verse above, “If the Lord is pleased with us…”. He was not 100% sure but he was choosing to have faith and trust God with the unknown. Faith does not mean you know everything. It just means you are willing to trust God with the result. And this is what God said about Caleb in Numbers 14:24, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to [the promised land], and his descendants will inherit it.” [the words in brackets are mine].

Love and blessings,

Melissa Tsingano

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