“‘Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go’” (Deuteronomy 1:32-33).
The Israelites rebelled against God almost every time He gave them a command. They complained about their food. They insisted God had brought them out of Egypt just to kill them. They refused to enter the land God had promised them because they were afraid of the inhabitants—the very inhabitants God had promised to drive out. They wailed that God hated them for bringing them to such a place.
The people had sent twelve spies into the land to scout it out and see how good the land was and what their enemies were like. Ten spies came back afraid, convinced they could never overtake the land. Their fear spread to all the people, resulting in the complaints that eventually drove them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness. They placed their trust in themselves instead of God. They forgot what God had already done for them.
Because God had never left them alone. He had not just been with them in their camp; He had also gone before them, searching out good places for them to camp, providing them with everything they needed to survive in the great and terrifying wilderness (1:19). He had brought them through those things so they would learn to trust Him. If they had remembered, they would have realized they had no need to fear their enemies, because the God who had cared for them as a father does his child would certainly not fail to do so now. But they did not remember. And so an entire generation missed the blessing God wanted to give them, because they were too afraid to trust Him to be faithful.