Do you like reality TV?
Personally I am not a fan, but that really isn’t relevant to our discussion. Now, I realize that television did not exist in the time period around 1400 BC and 1300 BC, but there was a lot going on during this little slice of history that would have made for some nice reality TV plots. I find that reality TV gives me an incredible urge to bring my hand up toward my face with my palm leading the way and connect with my forehead with a resounding SMACK.
Lets set the stage. Israel is posed to enter the land that had been promised to them. They had sent out the twelve spies and heard the report. Their inheritance was hanging before them like an over-ripe fruit, barely needing to be touched to fall into their grasp… and yet they hesitated. The land was inhabited by people groups much more advanced than the Israelites. Peoples who towered over this rag-tag group of refugees in more ways than one way. And what does Moses say? “Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes.” Deuteronomy 1:30
Basically Moses is saying, “Go get ’em. God is with you.” But, that did not really sit well with the Israelites and they continued to grumble against God and refused to take what was promised to them. As a result every adult Israelite was held accountable before God for their unbelief and was forbidden to enter this promised land. Next, this group of backward shepherds realizes they may have made a bit of a mistake and decide to do something about it. So, after the fact, they pull themselves up by their bootstraps and say, “We have sinned against the Lord. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.” Deuteronomy 1:41 After that “uh-oh” moment they attempt to rectify the situation and go in guns blazing (chances are the guns were leather and shot stones instead of lead) and claim what was theirs. Sounds good right? About time they grew a few backbones. Unfortunately God in effect tells them, “Don’t go because I am not going with you.” And just when you would have thought that they would have learned their lesson and listened, they decided that they would be fine without God’s help and went all Rambo and what not. What happened next ended up being a disastrous affair that we won’t go in to, except to say that the Israelites were probably sitting tenderly for the next couple of days.
So, why did this happen? Well, I think it all comes down to an incorrect viewpoint. At first, the Israelites didn’t enter the land even when God said that He would be with them and would fight for them. Sounds like a sure thing, right? Unfortunately, this backwards people failed to see God as who He was. They were like, “Sure, God is going to be with us and that is great and all, but how about some howitzers or tanks? Or you know what would be really cool? What if… What if we had a few B-52s to flatten everything for us first.” They failed to see God for who He really is. Their limited view of God let their fears creep up and control their actions. So, that was the first issue.
The second problem was that the Israelites thought too highly of themselves. Think back. What did they say after they realized that they had messed up? “We ourselves will go up and fight…” They utilized the good old-fashioned, buckle down and get ‘r done mentality. God is like, “Dude, don’t go ’cause I am not going with you.” (paraphrased) And, in typical reality show colors, the people just don’t get it. You see, not only did they not not view God in the right light, but they also viewed themselves improperly. Sure, God wasn’t going with them, but couldn’t they still get the job done under their own strength and efforts? Wouldn’t that show God how good they were and show their worth? Not only did they fail to realized that God was not interested in how well they could perform under their own power but they also didn’t get the fact that without God they were nothing.
Now, we might read this story and roll our eyes and think to ourselves, “Oh, you silly Israelites, when will you learn” but really, we should take a bit more notice. I mean come on, we are not exactly asked to storm castles with our sticks and slingshots, and yet we continue to be paralyzed by fear and doubt and anxiety. In our own lives, if we are faced with a financial squeeze we break down. Any variety of issues may face us and instead of resting in who God is we let our fears control our actions and we fail to see that God is still in control and we have nothing to fear. Or, maybe you are one of those people who is going to roll up your sleeves and show everyone just what you can do. Regardless, either option is just as pathetic. So maybe, just maybe, we all need to step back and check our focus. Are we viewing ourselves in the right light? And how, just how do we actually view God?