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Lessons in Obedience

I've been reading Numbers 14 over and over again and just mulling over this portion of Scripture this week. As I have been praying over and reading about and living out obedience for the last year and a half (I spoke on the Wonder of Obedience at our Wonder Conference last October, so y'all know I had to live it before I could speak it!), I have become increasingly convicted when it comes to obedience. Honestly, I pray I never stop becoming more and more convicted regarding obedience to the Lord. I certainly need and desire to grow in this area, to obey immediately and in full faith in whatever it is that the Lord asks me to do. 

This passage covers so much about obedience.

The Israelites are on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. Twelve men are sent out, one chief from each tribe. For forty days they are scoping out the land of Canaan, of which the Lord said, I am giving to the people of Israel.” (Numbers 13:2), and they return with their report of the land. All but two of these men bring the people a bad report of the land, saying that the land flowing with milk and honey is actually a land that “devours its inhabitants” and that they are but grasshoppers to the people in the land. 

Numbers 14 begins with the people of Israel crying and weeping and longing to return to Egypt, to a life of slavery without the Lord's presence and protection. They say,Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2b-4, emphasis added)

The other two men who surveyed the land, Caleb and Joshua, tear their clothes at this and look at what they say to the people: “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into the land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9) 

The land is a good land. The Lord will bring us into it. Do not rebel against the Lord. Do not fear the people of the land- they are bread to us! The Lord is with us! 

And the people said to stone them with stones for these words. 

The Lord says to Moses, How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11) 

I have to admit, that even though I recognize I have many Israelite tendencies, I have found myself about ready to chuck my Bible across the room as I read about these people. “Are you kidding me? The Lord literally said He is going to give you this land. You were just delivered from slavery in the most incredible, miraculous of ways, you've been led by the Lord in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. You've seen His hand and you've seen His provision and you have trembled at His glory and at His judgment and - and you're telling me that you don't believe Him when He says that He will give you this land and bring you into it?” 

And then the Holy Spirit nudges me, “What about last week when I prompted you to pray with that woman?” Why did I hesitate? 

And that person you know you need to share the Gospel with?” Why do I fear? 

And the work that you know I want to do in your home, in your family, that you have been distracting yourself from?” Why do I doubt? 

How long will I not believe in Him, in spite of all of the signs I have seen? 

This part of the Israelites story grieves me so much. The Lord declares that none among the people of Israel listed in the census from twenty years old and upward will enter into the land, except for Caleb and Joshua. He says, But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.” (Numbers 14:31-33, emphasis added)

“Who you said would become a prey.” It's interesting to think that if their parents had obeyed, the children would have avoided the suffering of the wilderness and entered into the land of the promise because of the faithfulness and loving kindness of the Lord.

They said that their children would become a prey and they feared for their children. And because they presumed that they knew best, that their ideas in the face of unbelief were better than the Lord's plans and promises, their disobedience caused the ones they had so much concern for to suffer. And yet, because of the goodness and steadfast love of the Lord, these children would know the land their parents had rejected. 

When Moses told this to all the people, they mourned greatly. The Lord had told them to turn and to set out for the wilderness (Numbers 14:25) and instead they rose the next day, early in the morning, and went up to the heights of the country, now ready to enter into the land the Lord promised, saying, “Here we are.”

Doesn't that just tear your heart apart? I imagine regret and desperation gripping them, compelling them to try to take back their grumbling, their complaining, their unbelief in the sight of their Almighty God.

Moses rebuked them for their disobedience, since the Lord directed them to start for the wilderness, and he warned them not to go up into the land: ...You shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.” (Numbers 14:43) 

But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp.” (Numbers 14:44) And they were thus defeated. 

It is clear that our delayed obedience is disobedience and that disobedience is sin. 

There is so much grace in Jesus, but there will come times when our obedience must be swift as we receive instruction for that moment. One moment. There is no room for delay or hesitation. We must have our minds made up that we will obey the Lord Jesus, right here, right now, even when it doesn't make sense. There is nothing more crushing than missing an opportunity to obey that is a gift to us from the Lord. We simply do not know what is on the other side of our obedience. What will disobedience cost us? What will it cost others?

I want to give the Lord my “Here I am.” before I am even asked. I do not want to offer Him my “Here I am.” with delayed obedience. He is worthy of my complete, pure, wholehearted obedience, not a mixture. 

There are times we are unsure if we have heard Him right. There are moments when we worry that our obedience will be weird or distracting. Listen, I hear you, but what the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do is none of those things; it is the will of the Father. It could not distract if it is for His purpose. What seems weird to you is on purpose and specific for what He intends your obedience for. When you worry you have heard Him correctly? Sis, sometimes we need to stop arguing with ourselves about what we think we have made up and simply obey. Let the Lord grow your faith. 

Always, always, we must remember just who our God is. We must be in the Word, poring over His will and His character and His promises. We must know precisely who He is and what He has done so that we will not give way to unbelief. 

We must desire to be like Caleb, who “had a different spirit” (Numbers 14:24), insisting and persisting in the ability of the Lord to do anything and in His mighty hand. We must be prepared for some around us to react, not with stones, but in ways that could deter or distract us if we take our eyes off of Jesus. Remember that the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel when they intended to stone Caleb and Joshua? Walk in the fear of the Lord, trusting in His purpose to prevail and for Him to be glorified. 

What keeps you from obedience to the Lord? What is keeping you stuck? Stop and pray right now. I'll pray for you here:

God I thank you for your Word. God I thank you that you are holy. I thank you for your steadfast love and I thank you for your goodness and for all of your promises that are yes and amen in Christ. Lord, I ask that you would teach us by your Spirit, that you would embolden us and that you would help our unbelief! Forgive us, Lord, for when we hesitate and for when we fear. Forgive us when we simply do not believe. Help us to cling to your word and to your word alone. Help us to be completely yielded to your Holy Spirit and to trust and obey. There truly is no other way to be happy in Jesus. Show us what a joy and a privilege and a gift it is from you, Father, that we get to follow you and to obey you. And Lord, I pray over any areas of regret in our lives when it comes to obedience. I pray that you will speak to our hearts concerning these things and that you will even redeem some of the situations that may come to mind now. Nothing is impossible for you, God. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

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