For the week of June 20, 2009 / 28 Sivan 5769
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 13:1 - 15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24
Who Directs Your Life?
When Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, the people mourned greatly. And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, "Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned." (Bemidbar / Numbers 14:39,40; ESV)
If we didn't know this story, I wonder what we would think of what I just read. In response to Moses' words, the people had a great change of heart and sought to do what God had told them. What God had told them was to enter the Promised Land. Twelve scouts had spied out the land and brought back a mixed report. They all agreed that it was a wondrously fertile land, but only two of the twelve had any confidence that the people could conquer its residents. The ten others honestly thought Israel would be slaughtered. The influence of these ten won over the hearts of the people. The quote I read is the change of heart of at least some of them.
The problem with this supposed change of heart is that God had already pronounced judgment on their lack of faith. Go and read how they responded to the challenge facing them. They didn't simple struggle with the daunting task before them; they outright rejected God's direction and were preparing to choose a new leader and return to Egypt. It wasn't until after God pronounced judgment on them and the ten rebellious scouts died of a plague, that they expressed themselves as recorded in what I quoted.
That they felt bad and confessed their sin are good things, but taking matters into their own hands by trying to do what God had wanted them to do originally is just more of the same rebellious attitude that got them into trouble in the first place. When they attempted to enter the Land they were slaughtered, since God's protection was no longer with them.
When we read the whole story, the presumption of these people is obvious. Even though God had originally told them to enter the Promised Land, due to their rebellion against him, he pronounced judgment upon them, sending them back to the wilderness to wander for thirty-eight more years. When Moses told this to the people, some of them responded by attempting to fulfill God's original directive. By determining themselves what of God's word they would obey, they demonstrated that they had learned nothing from the sin they confessed. Their phony attempt at obedience was nothing other than the perpetuation of the same sin.
The real problem that these people were not willing to face was that no matter how much they talked about God, no matter how honestly they grieved over their sins, they were nonetheless directing their own lives. They didn't listen to God when he told them to enter the land. They didn't listen to him when he told them they had to return to the wilderness.
No matter how much we invoke God's name, directing our own lives is sin - the same sin our first parents committed in the Garden. True faithfulness to God is about relinquishing control over our lives and obeying his directions on his terms. So when we find ourselves in a predicament due to our own wrongdoing, let us not think we can fix the past by trying to do the right thing after it's too late. Instead let us be attentive to what God is saying to us at that point, letting him and him alone direct our lives.
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