Let’s begin today’s article with a reminder of where we are in the Book of Deuteronomy.
(1) God had delivered the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt.
(2) The people of God refused to believe that he was able to take them into the promised land. God caused the people to wander in the wilderness for 40 years as a result of their rebellion.
(3) When 40 years were over, the Israelites were located in Moab and poised to enter the promised land.
(4) Moses addressed the people with the message of Deuteronomy.
His message involved a recounting of Hebrew history and God’s instructions for how people could live in a love relationship with him and each other.
(5) Deuteronomy was a second witness to God’s instructions that were given on Mt. Sinai.
Just as the relationship with God was renewed before entering the promised land, we can use Deuteronomy to renew our relationship with him, too.
Recalling the Past
Just to be clear, the people of God are ready to enter the promised land. Today’s Bible passage is a look backward to remind followers of God to trust his promises.
The Israelites had many opportunities to know how powerful their God was, but their response was unbelief: “But in spite of this, you have no trust in the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 1.32).
The result was a serious punishment for unbelief and rebellion.
— Verse 35 – “Not one of these—not one of this evil generation—shall see the good land that I swore to give to your ancestors . . .”
It is possible to reach the brink of a nation’s destiny only to see it slip away.
Jesus taught a foundational principle when he said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).
Great things will happen to people who live in a continual relationship with God. Apart from that relationship we will not succeed at all.
— Verse 36 – “Except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his descendants I will give the land on which he set foot, because of his complete fidelity to the Lord.”
Caleb and Joshua were exceptions. They trusted God to give them the victory in the face of the popular opinion that it was impossible.
These men attempted to persuade the people to trust God. They said, “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 14.8).
God saw the faithfulness of these men and gave them the honor and responsibility of leading the Hebrews to the promised land once the rebels had died in the wilderness.
The kind of faith of Caleb and Joshua is built one decision at a time. All faith is trained by living in a relationship of trust with God each day.
— Verses 37-38 – Even with me the Lord was angry on your account, saying, “You also shall not enter there.
“Joshua son of Nun, your assistant, shall enter there; encourage him, for he is the one who will secure Israel’s possession of it.”
Moses was responsible for the people. As such, God did not allow him to enter the land of promise. Joshua was God’s designated person to lead the people in the future.
— Verse 39 – “And as for your little ones, who you thought would become booty, your children, who today do not yet know right from wrong, they shall enter there; to them I will give it, and they shall take possession of it.”
Children, who had no decision-making ability, matured during the wilderness wanderings and were those to possess the land.
How to Lose a Fight
When we presume that we can enter our destiny separate from God’s guidance, we are destined to lose.
The Israelites experienced crushing defeat, because they rebelled against God and falsely trusted their own abilities.
Verses 41-43 – So all of you strapped on your battle gear, and thought it easy to go up into the hill country.
The Lord said to me, “Say to them, ‘Do not go up and do not fight, for I am not in the midst of you; otherwise you will be defeated by your enemies.’”
Although I told you, you would not listen. You rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went up into the hill country.
It is hard to teach someone who thinks they know it all. It is even more difficult to lead someone who refuses to listen to God.
Presumption is the act of believing something is true, even though there is no evidence. When the people rebelled against the Lord and action presumptuously, they trusted their resources even though experience had taught them that to do so was foolish.
I wonder how many children have been named Caleb or Joshua over the years. Their faithfulness has been memorialized and highlighted for centuries.
The people who acted on their best thinking without God’s direction failed to enter the land and have been forgotten by history.
There is an important lesson for us in these two approaches to God’s promises.
— Verses 44-45 – The Amorites who lived in that hill country then came out against you and chased you as bees do. They beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah.
When you returned and wept before the Lord, the Lord would neither heed your voice nor pay you any attention.
Not only were the Hebrews defeated, but God refused to hear their prayers.
Moses told this story to the Israelites to remind them that only in a trusting relationship with God can people succeed. What a great lesson that is for us today.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is an excellent Bible student and lover of God. I am sure you will appreciate his insights into this passage.
I am indebted to Peter Craigie’s study of Deuteronomy. It informs my blog articles and challenges me to love God more.
Please email me your prayer requests at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.