“I said to you, ‘You have now reached the land that the LORD our God is giving us. Look! He has placed it in front of you. Go and occupy it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’ ” - Deuteronomy 1:20-21
If we don’t learn from history, we’ll probably repeat it. Perhaps that is why Moses was careful to remind the children of Israel that their forefathers had experienced a failure of both nerve and faith, and as a result they had wasted forty years in the wilderness. If the people did not learn from that experience, but repeated the failure of nerve and the lack of faith, there was no telling where they might end up. Moses had no interest in returning to the wilderness in another holding pattern. For the people of Israel, the way forward was the way of faith.
Forty years earlier, confronted with the awesome task of moving into enemy-held territory, the people had sent scouts in to spy out the land. The scouting report brought them into a dilemma. On the one hand, the land was full of promise—as promised! On the other hand, it was full of giants, both real and imaginary. The sons of Anak were very big and very real. But the Israelites’ inordinate fears were without substance, and their imagined problems lacked reality. They failed to imagine how big and real their all-powerful God is. As a result, they fell back rather than pressing forward.
A careful recounting of God’s actions in the past should lead a trusting person to have confidence in his saving power in the future. But some of us are more cautious than others, some more calculating than the rest. Some of us can recognize opportunities in every difficulty, while others see difficulties in every opportunity. We’re all wired up differently. But there is a factor that should loom larger than personality or temperament: the God factor! When we recognize who God is and what he has promised, we should have no problem trusting him to carry through in the future.
Who God is, what he has done, and what he has promised to do have been fully documented. So we are faced with the challenge of deciding whether he is worthy of ongoing trust and whether we will choose to trust him. Notice the word choose. It comes down to a matter of choice in the end. The earlier generation of Israelites “refused to trust the Lord [their] God” (1:32). Now the later generation were being given their chance to choose or refuse. We have the same opportunity every day of our lives. We either choose to trust or we refuse to trust. And the result? Living in the land of promise or wandering in the wilderness.
For Further Study: Deuteronomy 1:19-33
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