Our passage today opens in the middle of Moses’ words to the people. He’s recounting the story of Israel’s first attempt to enter the Promised Land. You probably know the story: God rescued His people from Egypt. After giving them the Commandments through Moses, the people marched to enter the Promised Land. Yesterday, we were reminded that the people decided to send 12 spies to scope out the Land. Upon their return they said, “It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us” (25). If that’s all they said, the story probably would have turned out better than it did.
As we look at verse 26, Moses reminds the hearers that Israel was “not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God.” And then he adds a terrible charge against them, “You grumbled.” Grumbling is not a flattering word in Scripture. It reminds me of Luke 15:1–2 when the religious leaders “grumbled” at Jesus for engaging sinners. Grumbling shows a sour heart, callous to the Lord’s work. There are grumblers in every church—those who criticize instead of cooperate, who scoff instead of celebrate, who choose me over we. Ultimately, grumbling never works out for the grumbler.
Israel didn’t take the land because all but two of the spies reported that “The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven” (28). Moses warned them, reminding them that the battle is the Lord’s, yet they did not listen. Because of their grumbling, rebellion, and lack of trust, the Lord responded, “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers” (35). Except for Caleb, Joseph, and the very young, not one person of Israel alive at that time would enter the Promised Land. They tried to take it by force and failed. They wandered the wilderness for forty years until the day that Moses stood before the people, reminding them of their story, and challenging them to remember the Law before they enter in to the Land promised to the previous generation—the passage that we’re reading today.
Moses’ words are a challenge to this next generation of Israel about to enter the Promised Land. The implied question in our passage today is, “Will you be more faithful to God’s Covenant than the previous generation?” Israel suffered severe consequences for their sin. The challenge for this second generation was to take God at His Word and relieve themselves of the consequences of the sins of their parents.
A couple things stick out in this passage. First, we as believers are called to take God at His Word. To do this we must know His Word and be willing to let it change our hearts and minds. Second, with God you can do anything, without Him you can do nothing. Even if the spies gave an accurate report and the land contained giants, as Moses warned Israel, it was God’s fight (30–31). Conversely, when they understood the consequences and decided to go fight, Moses again warned them that the Lord was no longer going to go before and they would be defeated (42). Without God fighting for them Israel was immediately routed by their enemies. How often do we tell God our plans and ask Him to come along instead of seeking His will first?
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate