Missing Out on the Promised Land
Numbers 14:22, “Not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have seen all my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice” (NLT).
After performing miracle after jaw-dropping miracle for the Israelites God brings them to the edge of the Promised Land. Moses sends a group of men to scout out the region. When they come back the men tell the people about how bountiful the land is, but then they tell the Israelites how terrifying the people living in the Promised Land are. The scouts give full reign to their fears and strike terror in the hearts of the Israelites telling them it’s hopeless and they would never win the victory over the land. The odds of defeat are just too great. Their opponents are far too powerful.
And the whole community starts to weep. In chapter 14 verses 1-4 it says “Then the whole community began weeping and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. ‘If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!’ They complained. ‘Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?... Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?’ Then they plotted among themselves, ‘Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!’” (NLT).
Egypt… the place of their slavery… the den of their captivity… and they were willing to go back because they did not trust God to fulfill His promise to them. Even though He had shown up time and time again. Even though He had performed miracle after miracle.
Two men stood apart from the crowd: Caleb and Joshua. They told the people about the unfathomable blessings of the Promised Land. And they assured them that the Lord would give them victory as He had promised. They told the people that these so-called powerful enemies roaming the land were nothing compared to God.
But the people wouldn’t listen. And God Himself grieves in verse 11 “How long will these people treat me with such contempt? Will they never believe in me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?” (NLT).
Then God says something that can make our blood turn a little cold when we read it. He says, “Not one of these people will ever enter that land…” But He says something else in verse 24: “But my servant Caleb [and in other texts we see Joshua was also included in this] has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.” (NLT).
As saints born after the penning of the new testament and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we know for certain that our eternity with God is sealed. The moment we first believed in Him and placed our trust in Him for salvation we were sealed for eternity by the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Our passage to the Promised Land of heaven after we die is sealed.
But how much we experience the “Promised Land” here on earth is a different story. From the Old Testament to the New we see that God has given us free will. And we can use that free will to walk in faith… or not.
Some of God’s promises are unconditional (like eternal salvation after conversion). But some of them are conditional (like winning spiritual battles and overcoming strongholds). God does not promise to give us victory over our enemies if we refuse to trust in Him. He does not promise to magically make us experience freedom to its fullest if we’re unwilling to walk the path to freedom with Him, following His lead.
He loves us. He will always pursue us. But the extent to which we experience victory and freedom here on earth is up to us. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect. But it does mean we have to be willing. In Joshua 1:3 God told the Israelites “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (NIV).
God wants to give us the Promised Land. As a good Father He longs to give us good gifts (James 1:17, Matthew 7:11). He delights in it. But for things like restoration, and victory, and freedom He requires one thing and one thing only: that we take a step of faith and set our foot on that place.
Jesus shows us that God is kind and compassionate. And to the man who trembled and struggled to overcome his fear and doubt crying out, “I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV) Jesus came to the rescue. He had compassion on the man, and accepted his offering of feeble faith. And Jesus performed a miracle on his behalf by healing the man’s son--even though his faith wasn't perfect.
There’s a quote I love by Lisa Bevere in her book Out of Control and Loving it: Giving God Complete Control of Your Life. In it she says, “My husband, John, always shares this truth: ‘Only one person can get you out of the will of God—you!’ No man, woman, minister, ministry, parent, spouse, or friend can do it. Only you.
“When you set yourself in agreement with God’s will and plan for your life, the opinions of men, women, organizations, and devils no longer matter, It does not matter how many times those around you have failed. It does not matter how many times you’ve failed. God never has. If God is for you, who can be against you? (Rom. 8:31). God’s purpose will prevail—unless, of course, you choose not to believe. If no one can get you out of God’s will, then it is equally certain that only you can move into it. It is a decision you make on your own.”
We see the reality of this everywhere in the form of strongholds and addictions and rebellion that continue to rot the lives of those who refuse to take the step of faith God is calling them to. I see this in my own life sometimes. Yes, there is grace. So. Much. Grace. And there is always more grace for every single time we turn back and cry out to Him for help. God can redeem anything. But oh how His heart grieves the gifts and blessings we miss out on because we refuse to use the power He Himself has given us to take a step of faith… and to trust Him.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live. You can make this choice by loving God, obeying Him, and committing yourself fully to him. This is the key to your life…” (NLT).
Hebrews 3:15, “Remember what it says, ‘Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” (NLT).
Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (NIV).
Resources: Bevere, Lisa. Out of Control and Loving it: Giving God Complete Control of Your Life. Lake Mary Florida, Charisma House, 1996, 2006.