Numbers 13 and 14 show us what’s really going on in the hearts of God’s people in the heat of the desert. According to Deuteronomy 1:22, it’s not God’s idea to spy out the Promised Land but because the kids ask Dad for the car, He relents and lets them take it out for a spin.
Twelve chosen leaders, one to represent each tribe, are singled out and ready for some high risk-taking adventure. Moses lines the men up and gives them orders to check out the Promised Land, size up the people and note any possible risks or challenges they might be up against in taking the land. Before sending them off, Moses dares them to be brave and bring back some of the fruit of the land to encourage the people.
The wives pack some manna sandwiches for their men, who head off courageously with a mission from God. In enemy territory, they search high and low, taking notes and making observations along the way. The men take their time evaluating, measuring, scoping out and appraising the land, its occupants and their habitat.
When the men come to a brook called Eshcol, they skip the Souvenir Shop and take home a sample of figs, grapes and pomegranates, crossing their fingers that they won’t get stopped at Customs. As the band enters the camp after 40 long days, they’re greeted with more excitement and fanfare than Justin Bieber.
As the people gather around the campfire for story-time, the men leave no detail to the imagination as they describe their trip to the Promised Land. The tales get bigger and better and eyes and mouths grow wider as the microphone passes down the line. Suddenly, Caleb stands up to silence the ooh’s and ah’s of the crowd. Why should they sit around talking and shaking sand out of their skivvies when they could be enjoying the Promised Land? After all, God said they could have it — why wait a minute longer?
But just as Caleb is ready to lead the way to the Promised Land with Joshua right behind him, the rest of them stand up in protest. Spying out the land is one thing, but taking it is quite another. After all, they were just talking. Nobody was actually going to do anything just yet.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. God informs His people that He’s giving them the Promised Land. They check it out and decide it’s a nice idea, but for the most part, unrealistic. When Caleb said, “We are well able to overcome it,” he meant ‘we plus God.’ When the men replied, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us,” they meant ‘we minus God.’
This is a pivotal point. When God gives you a promise or instructs you to do something for Him, it is always bigger than you. In fact, if it’s impossible without God, you’re probably right on track. God does this to freak you out a little and cause you to realize that you are, in fact, dependent on Him. He wants you to lean on His strength, not your own, and watch Him do something beyond your ability. That’s why it’s called a miracle: you can’t do it — only God can.
That doesn’t mean you should put on a red cape and jump off of a building because you can’t succeed without God intervening. That would not be smart. First, you need to hear from God. Then, here’s how it normally goes: you freak out, calm down a bit only to face reality that you don’t actually have the money, people or resources to do what He’s calling you to do and will have to risk looking like a fool if He doesn’t come through. You may freak out another couple of times before coming to the conclusion that you will have to trust God step by step in order to accomplish what He has told you to do. This crisis of belief is essential to all acts of faith because it challenges you to trust in God and not in yourself.
This is where God’s people went wrong in the desert. They got stuck on the reality part, causing them to forget what God had said in the first place. He didn’t say He might give them the land – He said He would give them the land. Since the devil in Genesis questioned Eve, it’s been his game to make us forget, question, doubt and even rebel against the last thing God told us to do. That’s why I use a journal to write down those things I hear from God, not only to remember them, but to do them.
Entertaining doubt and fear can rip God’s promises from your heart and mind and keep you pacified in the comfort zone. All the while, with a simmering frustration, you know there’s more for you than a quiet, mediocre existence. But to fulfill your purpose and destiny, you will have to face more than a few giants along the way. Will you let that stop you or allow it to spur you on?
That depends on your focus. Are you going to concentrate on a step by step plan to move forward or numb yourself by staring into a television until the feeling fades? Many destinies have died in the desert. Don’t let yours be one of them.
You may know exactly what God has told you to do and exactly why you haven’t done it yet. I’m with you on this. The first step is to go back to where you left the path. Moses couldn’t escape his calling and neither can you. Whatever it is, go back and do it, despite how you feel. Faith equals obedience. I don’t see the word “feelings” in that sentence. That means you have to ignore your fear and doubt, bite the bullet and step out in faith.
If you have a growing frustration, but aren’t sure why or where it’s coming from, that’s a sign for you to pray. Ask God what He would have you to do, but be prepared for the answer. You might like it and you might not. But since you asked, you’re obligated to follow through. This is why many people do not seek God—they’re afraid He’ll take them out of their comfort zone. And they’re right. But what’s the alternative?
Living a life of comfort doesn’t amount to much in the end. Your definition of comfort will lead you to a wilderness of your own. You might have cushy furniture and a big screen, but absolutely no meaning or fulfillment. Look around at all the people who have chosen that life for themselves. Do you really want to be like them? Or do you want to be more for the glory of God?
Like God’s people in the desert, the decision is all yours. Desert or Promised Land, it’s up to you. What you believe about God will affect what you do. Whatever you choose, be prepared to not only take responsibility for your own choices, but to live with the results.