Which seems worse to you? Refusing to follow God even though He promises success, or stubbornly pressing forward without Him? Sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference.
God’s people swung on both extremes of this pendulum in the course of one day.
What their experience teaches us can guide us as we anticipate the future God has for us.
Refusing to Follow God at Kadesh Barnea in Spite of His Promises
The young nation of Israel stood on the edge of Canaan, poised to take possession of the land God promised them. They stood at Kadesh Barnea.
At Kadesh Barnea, the 12 spies Moses sent to scout out the land returned with a mixed report. The future God had for them had giants in it.
- This report shot so much fear throughout the nation that they plotted among themselves to choose a leader and head back to Egypt (Num. 14:4).
- They refused to follow God on a mission He had guaranteed to succeed, preferring bondage to a future requiring faith.
Because of their refusal to follow God, He announced that they would have a 40-year hiatus in the wilderness before their children would enter the land (Num. 14:33).
Pressing Forward without God’s Presence
Amazingly, the people then announced a change of heart and a resolve to enter!
But Moses warned them:
Do not go up [into the land], or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. —Numbers 14:42
At first, the Israelites had refused to follow God, but now they refused to wait on Him.
Moses’ warning proved true. As they ascended the hill country— without God—they got the whipping they initially feared.
The author of Hebrews later concluded: “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).
How to Follow (and Not Get Ahead of) God’s Will
God’s people failed to grasp that the land was not theirs for the taking but God’s for the giving—in response to faith in Him.
God is our reward and not simply the means by which we get what we want.
- Our goal is not a place to go, but to journey beside God—wherever we go.
- What good would we have anywhere without God? The real blessing is simply His presence.
A life that glorifies God comes when we walk beside Him in faith—not ahead or lagging behind.