Monday, May 23, 2016

Trusting and Obeying God

2 Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea [on the border of the Promised Land], going by way of Mount Seir. 3 But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the LORD had commanded him to say. Deuteronomy 1:2-3 (NLT)

One of the most dramatic examples from the Holy Bible for wholeheartedly trusting and obeying the true and living God are the events of the wilderness wandering (see Deuteronomy 1). While in Egypt, God had graciously and lovingly multiplied Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s descendants a thousand times more, and God blessed and protected them as He promised (Deuteronomy 1:10-11; see also Genesis 15:5-7; Genesis 22:17; Exodus 32:13). Then, God delivered the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage by His mighty power and then brought the Israelites to Mount Sinai (Horeb or mountain of God) (see Exodus 6:1-2; Exodus 14:14; Exodus 19:1). At Mount Sinai, God revealed to Israel His great power and glory, and He gave the Israelites His covenant as recorded in Exodus chapters 20 through 24, Leviticus, and Numbers. The book of Deuteronomy summarizes God’s gracious covenant with Israel. Once receiving God’s covenant, God instructed the Israelites to go into the good land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all of their descendants (Deuteronomy 1:8, 20-25; see also Genesis 13:14-18; Genesis 15:7-21; Exodus 3:7-8; Numbers 10:11-13; Numbers 13:26-27; Numbers 14:7-8; Joshua 1:2-4). The ancient Israelites’ trip from Mount Sinai to Kadesh Barnea [on the border of the Promised Land] was only an eleven-day journey (Deuteronomy 1:2). However, the ancient Israelites stayed at Mount Sinai forty years (Deuteronomy 1:3, 6; see also Hebrews 3:7-9). Why may you ask?

Moses to Israel: 29 “But I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked or afraid of them (Israel’s enemies)! 30 The LORD your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw Him do in Egypt. 31 And you saw how the LORD your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now He has brought you to this place.’ 32 But even after all He did, you refused to trust the LORD your God, 33 who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.” Deuteronomy 1:29-33 (NLT)

Sadly, the ancient Israelites doubted God and refused to trust in God’s continued power, grace, and glorious protection to lead them to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:26-28; see also Numbers 14:20-23). The ancient Israelites rebelled and complained against God because they believed that the true and living God was not strong enough to protect and provide for them and their families against their enemies (Deuteronomy 1:26-28; see also Numbers 13:28-29). The ancient Israelites were filled with fear and wavering unbelief as they were walking by sight and not by faith in the LORD God's promises (Deuteronomy 1:21; see also 2 Corinthians 5:7; James 1:5-8). Moses, along with Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua, encouraged the people not to be afraid or discouraged because the LORD God was powerful and mighty, and He would protect and care for them against their enemies (Deuteronomy 1:21, 29-31; see also Exodus 19:4; Numbers 13:30; Numbers 14:5-9). God had graciously and miraculously protected and provided from Israel, and He wanted the people to continue to obey and trust in Him (Numbers 14:11). However, the ancient Israelites treated God’s loving goodness with contempt and refused to obey and trust in the LORD God’s glorious grace, power, love, and protection (Deuteronomy 1:30, 32-33; see also Numbers 14:11; Psalm 78:11-14, 42-43). The LORD God is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion to those that love Him and obey His teachings (Numbers 14:18; see also Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8; James 5:11). However, the LORD God punishes continual sinfulness, wickedness, and rebellion (Numbers 14:18; see also Exodus 34:7; Joshua 24:19; Nahum 1:3).

The true and living God heard the Israelites complaining and became very angry (Deuteronomy 1:34). God promised that not one person in that entire generation would live to see the good land He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all of their descendants, except Caleb and Joshua (Deuteronomy 1:34-36, 38; see also Numbers 14:23-24, 28-30; Hebrews 3:11). Not even Moses was allowed into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:37; see also Numbers 27:12-14). Caleb and Joshua were excluded from God’s punishment because they wholeheartedly believed, trusted, and obeyed the LORD God (Deuteronomy 1:36, 38; see also Numbers 14:23-24). Thus, millions of Israelites died in the wilderness wandering the desert around Mount Sinai (Horeb) and did not see God’s Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:40). However, God’s grace allowed the ancient Israelites’ children to see the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants (Deuteronomy 1:39; see also Numbers 14:31; Numbers 32:8-13).

Upon receiving God’s punishment, the Israelites confessed their sins to God and decided to go into the Promised Land and conquer the land as previously instructed by the LORD God (Deuteronomy 1:41; see also Numbers 14:39-40). The ancient Israelites strapped on their weapons and arrogantly (presumptively) thinking it would be easy to conquer the whole area (Deuteronomy 1:41, 43). However, Moses warned the ancient Israelites that God’s protecting and glorious Presence would not with them to protect them from their enemies (Deuteronomy 1:42). Sadly, Israel’s rebellion and disobedience against the LORD God removed God’s protecting Presence from their lives (Deuteronomy 1:42-43; see also Numbers 14:41-43). Israel’s enemies who lived in the Promised Land came out and defeated Israel’s attempt to take the land without God’s protecting Presence (Deuteronomy 1:44-45).

After their humiliating defeat, the ancient Israelites weep and cried out to God (Deuteronomy 1:45). However, God refused to listen to their cries and weeping because of their disobedience and rebellion (Deuteronomy 1:45; see also e.g., Proverbs 28:9-10; Isaiah 1:15-17; Micah 3:4; John 9:31). The people of Israel stayed in the wilderness wandering the desert for 40 years on a journey that should have lasted 11 days as punishment for their disobedience and rebellion towards God (Deuteronomy 1:46; see also Numbers 14:33-35).

The writer of Hebrews uses the story Israel’s disobedience and lack of trust to warn New Testament believers to remain continually faithful and obedient to God’s Son and Messenger, Jesus (Hebrews 3:7-12; see also Hebrews 1:2-3). Jesus, God’s faithful Son, is in complete charge of God’s house and we Christians are God’s house (Hebrews 3:6; see also 1 Corinthians 3:16). Jesus lives in Christians if we keep up our courage firm to the end, and our joy and our trust in the LORD God (Hebrews 3:6, 14).

7 That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested Me in the wilderness. 9 There your ancestors tested and tried My patience, even though they saw My miracles for forty years. 10 So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from Me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ 11 So in My anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter My place of rest.’” 12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. Hebrews 3:7-12 (NLT)

The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

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