Recently, I’ve been writing about how God not only goes before us, but He also goes right along with us. Yes, God wants you to know He is with you in order to comfort you in difficult times and to encourage you to move forward. However, knowing that He is with you is not only a comfort and an encouragement, but it is also a responsibility.
In the 13th and 14th chapters of the Book of Numbers, there is an intriguing account about the children of Israel’s hesitancy to move forward with God. Moses had led God’s people out of Egypt with a vision to go to their promised land, an area known as Canaan. Although Canaan was already inhabited by others, God had promised to give the land over to the Israelites. When they reached the edge of Canaan, Moses sent twelve spies into to land to scope out the territory in order to help devise a plan for how to move forward. Ten of the spies returned to report that trying to take over the land would be too challenging. They claimed the people of Israel were like “grasshoppers” compared to the “giants” among the people of Canaan. In response, the people of Israel grew afraid and started making plans to return to Egypt.
Still, there were two spies, Joshua and Caleb, who had a much different outlook. Instead of focusing on the challenges posed in the land, they focused on the opportunities there. Instead of talking about how big the giants were, Joshua and Caleb came back talking about how big the fruit was in the land, calling it “a land which flows with milk and honey” (Num. 14:8). They implored their fellow people, “Do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them” (14:9). Unfortunately, the people would not listen to Joshua and Caleb but instead tried to have them stoned!
The Lord grew angry with the refusal of the Israelites to obey His word and therefore told them that He would not allow any of the men and women to ever enter the promised land except for Joshua and Caleb. He declared that those who rebelled would have to stay in the wilderness for forty years until they had all died, and then their children would be the ones who would finally enter the chosen land.
When the Israelites heard this rebuke, they suddenly changed their minds and wanted to enter Canaan. However, by that point it was too late, and Moses tried to stop them. “Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies,” he warned, “for the LORD is not among you … because you have turned away from the LORD, the LORD will not be with you” (Num. 14:42-43). Despite his warning, they tried to go up anyway but were indeed driven back in defeat.
We learn from this story that when God assures us He is with us, we have a responsibility to stay with Him! God is looking for obedience; when He directs us, He expects us to follow. Even when we face big obstacles, we can overcome them when He is with us. However, if we refuse to follow where He leads or if we try to chart our own path apart from His, we will not experience His blessing.
So, stay with God. Follow His lead by focusing on the opportunity, not the challenge. When you’re on your own, you’re sure to fail, but when you’re with Him, you’re destined to win!