Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Our lives are created through a series of decisions. These decisions turn into extensive journeys, transitioning us from one generation to the next. We see this connectivity reflected throughout the Bible. It was Jacob’s sons who sold their brother Joseph into slavery. It was then Joseph, who by the grace of God, helped the Pharaoh of Egypt navigate through the years of famine, thereby causing a visit from Joseph’s brothers for they were in need of food. Upon their reunion, Jacob’s entire family would eventually leave Canaan – placing the Israelites in Egypt.
Jacob stayed in Egypt for 17 years (Genesis 47:28), but the famine was for only seven. Jacob should have left once the famine was over, but he chose to stay. For it was God who told Jacob it was okay to go to Egypt, but I don’t believe it was ever God’s intention for Jacob to stay in Egypt. Eventually, he and Joseph would pass away. The Israelites remained in Egypt, and a new Pharaoh arrived. The Israelites were treated quite poorly as prophecy was being fulfilled. In due time, the Israelites would be led out of Egypt by Moses, who was called by God. Yet, this exodus did not come without its challenges. In frustration, Moses asked God why he was even sent:
And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them. I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers…. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’Exodus 6:2-4,8
Undoing the Detour
Life happened, and the Israelites were not where they were supposed to be. They were misplaced, and in this space, they had become slaves and were treated quite harshly. In order to be free from this situation, the Israelites would need to make their way back home – to the land of Canaan, the land God had promised to them. Even today, God is calling us out of our detours. He is asking us to break away from where we should not be, and the parts of us that are not of Him. If we are willing, God will help to adjust our journey, but victory is often not free from difficulties. What did we do when we start to face them?
If we look at the Israelites, we see that despite trials and tribulations while in the wilderness, they arrive at the edges of Canaan. In Numbers 13:1-2, the scripture says:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”
God knew what the spies would find – the good and the concerning. They would find a prosperous dwelling place as well as fortified cities and intimidating men of great stature. Life doesn’t stay dormant during our detours, and sometimes we have to deal with has happened in the in-between.
The Report from the Spies
Based on the visit, only Joshua and Caleb had enough faith to believe in God’s ability to deliver to them the land of Canaan. The other ten would succumb to their fears, convincing their fellow community that the land was not for them, because they could not overcome the giants that lived there. Fear has a way of breaking down our faith if we choose to let it do so. It makes us think our own logic is a safer choice than any of God’s promises. It should have been enough that God said He was giving them the land, but in clouded judgment, it was not.
Their rejection of God continued, as they proclaimed that they should go back to Egypt. This mindset is a stark warning to us that progress can be undone. It’s the choices we make every day that solidify our relationship with God or begin to break it apart. Both paths are always an option. The spies and supporting Israelites continued to rally against God. They even went as far as to suggest that Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb – be stoned to death. (Numbers 14)
Instead of focusing on the blessing, fearmongering turned into vigilante behavior, as the spread of sinful distrust in God worked its way through the Israelites. God would intervene to save the lives of those faithful few, but the Israelites would have to pay. They would no longer be allowed to enter the promised land and were left to return to the desert until the generation died out, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb.
Embracing the Blessing
There are many lessons that can be taken from this story, and many more details that could be explored. But for just a moment, I would like for us to meditate on this thought – the Israelites were on the edge of their blessing. They were so close to the finish line, but that next phase in their journey would have to be delayed yet again. And for many, it would never come. The Israelites may have been physically close to God’s blessing, but mentally they were just too far away.
God has so much beauty in store for us, but that does not mean we’re going to reach it. The choices we make influence our timelines and the direction in which we go. The Israelites spent an extra 40 years in the wilderness because of their lack of faith. Don’t delay or block God’s blessings because of fear or what others want you to believe. The world is full of people who are all too willing to limit God, but you don’t have to join that group.
God is always willing to help us move forward, but it takes faith to cross the finish line. We should not let fear get the best of us, or desire to go backwards because forward seems impossible. Instead, we are called to choose trust… to embrace our blessings, even when we cannot see how they will come to fruition. God’s promises are real. His love never fails us and He will always keep us. So in faith, step forward, and let God take care of the rest.
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