“For forty years — one year for each of the forty days you explored the land — you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.” (Numbers 14:34)
We have reached a low point in the book of Numbers. The failure to trust God’s promise about the land of Canaan was an epic act of unbelief. And the consequences were terrible. For forty years Israel would have to wander in the wilderness even though they had reached the doorstep of Canaan. Even worse, an entire generation would die in the desert. They would fall short of the inheritance God had promised. Only Joshua and Caleb, the two explorers who trusted God, would survive and eventually live in the promised land.
The book of Hebrews takes up this story as a warning for us still today. We are warned not to turn away from God by having a sinful, unbelieving heart. The generation that died in the desert saw God’s deliverance from Egypt but lost faith in God. We are called to hold firmly to Christ to the end.
How can we do this? We must remember that God still has a promise of rest for us today. This promise is about an eternal salvation rest in Christ — as well as life together with God in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1-7). We also must encourage one another daily to resist sin. We need to help each other see sin’s deceptions and then walk with each other to remain firm. Finally, we must listen to the Spirit, who says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Learn from Israel’s failures and ask God to help you persevere in faith.
It’s so easy, Lord, to fail to trust in you. Strengthen our faith so that our hope always rests in you. Amen.