And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.
If the child of God is to obey the will of God, he must keep his eye on the timetable of God. Israel had been miraculously delivered from Egyptian bondage by the evident power of God. Two months later the Israelites camped at the foot of Mount Sinai where Moses received the law of God. Here they remained nearly a year until God commanded them to move on to Kadesh-Barnea. Everything was right on God's schedule.
God had led His people each step of the way. But before He would lead them into the promised land, this luscious countryside had to be explored. For this task the twelve heads of their respective tribes were chosen. Their names are given at length but only two of them are memorable: Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh.
The twelve spies spent forty days on their intelligence gathering foray. Sure enough, the land was all that the Lord had promised. It was truly a land that "floweth with milk and honey." In fact, the grapes which they brought back were so robust that a cluster of them had to be borne on a staff supported on the shoulders of two men.
But the news was not all good. Ten of the returning spies reported that the people dwelt in very great, walled cities: the Amalekites in the south; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites in the mountains; and the Canaanites by the sea. But more than this, the giant sons of Anak dwelt there, before whom the spies felt as grasshoppers. In spite of the encouragement by Joshua and Caleb in the minority report, the people broke into open rebellion. God was leading them into the land, but they were afraid and would not follow His leading.
The disobedience of Israel evoked the wrath of God. All Israelites twenty years of age and older were banned from ever dwelling in the land they had refused to enter. Instead, God declared they would wander in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day the spies were in the land, and would die during that wandering. Only Joshua and Caleb were permitted to settle in the promised land, for they alone were ready to move on God's command and according to His timetable.
When the people learned of God's sentence on their disobedience, they were not at all penitent. Instead, they resolved to atone for their sin by belatedly storming the promised land. But delayed obedience is the brother of disobedience. "And they rose up early in the morning" in preparation for their ill-fated campaign (Numbers 14:40). In spite of Moses' warning, the people marched against the Amalekites and Canaanites. What they would not do with God's help, they now attempted to do without it. First they refused to enter the land because of their unbelief in the power of God. Then they attempted to enter that same land because of their unbelief in the severity of God's judgment. In their own strength and outside of God's timing, they were sure to fail. They did. The enemy defeated the Israelites with a great slaughter and drove them back as far as Hormah.
Each of us who knows God must learn from Israel's tragedy so that it is not similarly repeated in our lives. We dare not question divine leading. If that leading is to dwell at the foot of Sinai, as the Israelites did, we must learn to be content where we are. But regardless of adverse circumstances, if God tells us that it is time to act, we have no reasonable choice but to act. Whether remaining indefinitely or moving out immediately, we must learn to follow the accurate timetable of God. This can be done successfully only when we are sensitive to that still small voice of His Holy Spirit and are willing to obey it.
It may not be on the mountain's height, Or over the stormy sea; It may not be at the battle's front My Lord will have need of me; But if by a still, small voice He calls To paths I do not know, I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine I'll go where you want me to go.
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