At the beginning of the year, I was on my way home from San Antonio. I’m not too familiar with San Antonio, but I was still comfortable getting home. I was on the NW corner of greater SA and needed to come back east to Houston. For those of you who have never been through SA, downtown is a mess. It’s a spaghetti bowl of highways and if you are not familiar, things can get quite interesting. When I looked up and saw signs to Devine and Pearsall instead of Seguin and Luling, I knew something wasn’t right. I pulled over and checked my map on my iPhone and sure enough I had missed a turn…25 minutes earlier. Luckily I started looking at signs before one that said “Border Patrol.” I recalculated my path and headed back into SA, and made the right turn to get me where I was supposed to be going all along.
In The Story this week, we see a similar situation with the Israelites. They are poised to enter the Promised Land that God was giving them. They are standing on the outside ready to move ahead. They send twelve men to scout the area – to see if the food is plentiful and the people are powerful. After 40 days of scouting, the men return. God has told them to go, but ten of the twelve say that the people there will defeat them and there is no way they should try to enter right now. Only Joshua and Caleb, trust God enough to believe they can take the giants and seize the land God has promised them. The best thing for them would have been to enter the land under God’s protection…it’s why they were there. The people sided with the ten and opted out. They willfully refused the best thing. This didn’t sit well with God, so he turned them around to go back into the wilderness. For 40 years (one year for every day they scouted), the people would wander aimlessly in the desert. When all of the unbelieving adults die, then their children will take the land God had promised. Their failure to trust God led them to a detour that would prove devastating to everyone…except Joshua and Caleb.
Why would God do this? Why would he bring the people all the way to the edge only to push them away? If you are a parent you’ll understand this. I want my kids to obey me, but more than that I want my children to trust me. When they are young, they must do what I say immediately, no questions asked. If I say stop, they have to stop right then. They cannot ask questions, debate the issues or formulate opinions. They have to obey. If they question me about everything, when I say move because a car is about to hit them, they will look up and say, “Why?” They wouldn’t trust me. Trust is developed in the little areas.
The same is true for the Israelites. They were mere babes in the Upper Story. God wants them to trust Him, not because He is some egomaniacal dictator, but because it’s best for them. When they fail to obey, the issue isn’t about obedience, but about trust. They will now spend 40 years wandering in a desert, learning to trust. That has to be the longest time out ever. But it’s more than a “time out.” Over the forty years, God will prove His faithfulness over and over to his people. He is preparing them for something. They are in training. They are recalculating their course. He is making sure they don’t make the same mistake again.
Can you see the loving discipline of the Father in their situation? Imagine they went into the land without having the needed faith in God. They would have been wiped out by any and every army that came against them. They would not have survived. In order to ensure their survival, God had to build trust into them. They couldn’t just say they trusted Him, they had to demonstrate their trust.