October 6, 1999

Failure to trust God can cause
missed opportunities

___bluebull Numbers 12:1-14:25
___By Susan Pigott
___Logsdon School of Theology, Abilene
___The Israelites stood at a crossroads at Kadesh Barnea. They only had a short march northward and they would be in the land God promised to Abraham so long ago (Genesis 15:7). They had witnessed many incredible acts during the journey, so they knew God could fight for them. But something went wrong at Kadesh, where faith was crushed by fear.
___At the Lord's command, Moses chose 12 spies, one from each of the tribes, to go explore the land of promise. After 40 days, the spies returned and reported their findings. study2.They indicated the promised land was indeed a fertile land, flowing with milk and honey. However, this positive statement was swallowed up by an accompanying litany of fear: "the people are like giants in the land and we are like grasshoppers in their sight" (Numbers 13:26-33).
___The Israelites' response reflects their recalcitrant attitude increasingly evident in the book of Numbers. They blamed Moses, Aaron and ultimately God for their perceived predicament: "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?" (14:2-3a). Their words betray the depth of their sin--they allowed fear to overwhelm their faith in spite of God's categorical promises to them.
___Such obstinate distrust had dire repercussions. God threatened to destroy the people entirely and start over again with Moses (14:11-12). But Moses interceded, emphasizing God's character as a God of compassion and justice and pleading for the people's forgiveness, undeserving as they were, on that basis (Numbers 14:13-19). God forgave, but consequences remained. Because the people had refused to trust even after witnessing all of God's miraculous acts along the way, that generation would never see the promised land. Instead, they would wander in the desert for 40 years until every one of them died. Their children would inherit the right to the promised land which they themselves forfeited through disbelief.
___We shouldn't be too quick to condemn the Israelites for their failure at Kadesh, for we, too, allow faith to be overwhelmed by fear. Financial concerns, sickness, job insecurity, loneliness, family conflict, violence and the like can demoralize a faith softened by easy living. It is so much easier to profess faith in a God who blesses us than it is to trust a God who leads us toward crises. Even with God in our midst we, like the Israelites, would rather retreat to the safety of yesterday in order to avoid the uncertainty of tomorrow. What we must avoid, however, is the kind of obstinate distrust which the Israelites demonstrated in spite of God's constant displays of protection over them.
___So, we are faced with the challenge of each of our own Kadeshes where we must decide whether or not we will trust God. Sometimes we will fail, and suffer the consequences of a missed opportunity, and other times we will trust and discover a faith deepened by crisis and conflict.


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