April 30

Seeking Direction: The Obedience Factor, Part 2

Numbers 14:36-45 Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land… died by the plague before the LORD…and the people mourned greatly. And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!”

And Moses said, “Now why do you transgress the command of the LORD?….Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you….” But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop….Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.

Years before the lessons of Ai, the children of Israel demonstrated another way of mishandling the judgments of the Lord. The men who’d spied out the land but brought back a bad, faithless report (all except Joshua and Caleb) caused a great deal of dissension and rebellion in Israel. After Moses’ intercession, the Lord didn’t destroy His people, but sent a plague to those who brought the evil report.

After mourning, the people of Israel made a classic error: they reacted instead of responding. The Scripture said, “the people mourned greatly,” but the mourning didn’t bring wisdom as they decided to take their direction into their own hands. Perhaps some of them thought that their recent faithlessness regarding the land could be erased by aggressively—and thoughtlessly—storming the territory they’d so recently been afraid of. Perhaps others thought that the result of their faithlessness—judgment and no clear direction from God to proceed—could be erased by the same thing. In any event, they had to have acknowledged that they’d made a serious mistake (the plague caught their attention), and their knee-jerk reaction was that they could reverse things by being aggressive about what they thought they should have done earlier—or what they assumed God would want them to do now.

The people of Israel should have humbled themselves and sought the Lord for what He had to say to them next. They were to receive their direction from Moses. Instead, they made reactive assumptions, went against his counsel, and made a mess of things.

When we’ve made a mistake and we see and/or experience the negative consequences, it’s tempting to react and try to “fix” things. But only God really knows how to do that. We have His Word, prayer and godly leaders in our lives to help us know our “next steps” after we mess things up. Take advantage of them!

The point wasn’t what Israel thought should be done–in this case, taking over the land. The point was obedience to the Lord. Not believing that God was going to give them the land was their first sin (Numbers 13:2). When they saw their sin, they made a second mistake by not seeking the Lord, and instead relying on their own thinking.

Prayer: Lord, help me to humble myself enough after I sin that I don’t compound the problems I’ve created. Help me to respond to Your Holy Spirit’s leading rather than reacting and trying to correct situations by doing what I think best. Thank You that You always have wisdom for me when I ask.