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In God’s Timing

“And they told him, ‘We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large’” (Numbers 13:27-28a).

After nearly two years of waiting in the wilderness, learning God’s statutes and setting up His tabernacle, the time at last arrived for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land. Just to see what they were up against, the Israelites sent twelve spies into the land. They were gone for forty days, and when they returned, they had no shortage of news. The land was indeed good; they even brought back a cluster of grapes to prove this. It was just as rich and beautiful as they had been promised. But there was a huge problem—the people already in the land were giants. They had strong, well-fortified cities, and they certainly wouldn’t be an easy enemy to defeat. According to the spies, Israel had no chance.

Everything dissolved into chaos then. The people instantly rebelled against God’s words, claiming it would have been better to remain in slavery or even to die in the wilderness than to be killed in their very own promised land. And God listened to them. He sentenced all the men of war, those who had feared to enter the land, to die in the wilderness. All the people would wander for forty years, and at the end of that time, only those who were currently children would enter the land. This rebellious generation had just forfeited their right to the inheritance.

The people tried to make up for their mistake. They told Moses they were ready to enter the land and fight their enemies, and even though Moses warned them that God was no longer with them in this endeavor, they went up anyway. The defeat was disastrous. Upon seeing that, the people realized God was serious, and they prepared themselves for forty long, heartbreaking years in the wilderness.

The land of Canaan was the Israelites’ land. It was the place God had promised to Abraham generations earlier. But God wouldn’t allow them to take it in their own strength. He wasn’t giving them land just to bless them; His main purpose behind it was to glorify His own name. This is why the people’s attempt to take the land failed. They had missed the opportunity God had offered them. The right time was gone, and it would not return until the next generation. The rebellious people would never experience this great blessing, because they had failed to move when God did. Then, realizing their mistake, they moved when God didn’t. In the end, they trusted in themselves instead of in God, and the result was disaster upon disaster.

It’s easy to be like Israel. When God beckons to us, our first reaction is often fear. We see the giants awaiting us, and we’re terrified to face them. But instead of focusing on the dangers, we should instead look at the fruit of our obedience. God has promised to fight our battles, to be with us in troubles, and to one day reward us. When He calls us to fight, He never intends for us to do it alone. He is the great warrior, and He will deliver us from our enemies. Our job is simply to move when He moves and to trust Him with the outcome.

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