Numbers 12:32b  The land we explored devours those living in it.  All the people we saw there are of great size.”


This was an unfortunate report.  God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and showed them sign after sign to prove that God was with them.  God miraculously saved this rag-tag bunch of slaves from the mighty armies of Egypt, led them across the fierce desert by providing manna and quail and water when it seemed there was none to be found.  So here they are, at the edge of the land God promised to them.  The desert time is behind them, and the land of milk and honey is just over the border.  So they send out some scouts to look at the place.


It is every bit as good as was promised.  The scouts bring back fruit and tales of abundance.  But they don’t stop with that description.  The scouts come back fearful.  They tell stories of giants that live in the land and warn the people not to try to go in there…that the people are too big and too strong.  Fear grips the Israelites in response to the report.  They complain loudly to Moses that he has brought them to their doom and they start wishing they had never left Egypt.  Even after all they have seen, they refuse to trust that God can give them what God has promised, and Moses gets an earful.  God gets angry at their lack of trust and vows that only the two scouts who tried to remind the people of God’s faithfulness…Caleb and Joshua…will ever enter the promised land.  God sends them all back out into the desert for 40 years.


If it wasn’t for their fear, Israel could have experienced God’s blessings and abundance 40 years earlier.  If they had only been willing to trust God, they could have spared themselves all those years of harsh, desert living.  Some time in the desert was necessary for their formation, but it was only 40 years because they refused to trust in God.  How often our own lives are like that.  Hard times come to all of us, but often we make those hard times longer or harder because we will not trust that what we see as insurmountable boulders in our path are mere pebbles to God.  Lots of times we make our suffering worse by believing that God is working for our harm or punishment rather than our salvation.  We think God has shut us out of happiness, just because we don’t see how God can get us there.


The story of the Israelites reminds us that God is the one who provides for us.  It also reminds us that we can refuse that provision and stay in the desert if we so choose.  The key that opens the door to the promised land of our lives is trust…trust that God can do things that we cannot.  Trust that God is at work for our good.  Trust that if God says, “Step out,” God will provide solid ground under our feet.


God of fiery pillar, you feed us in the wilderness.  Help us to trust you to also lead us out.  Amen.


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