God’s Grace in The Wilderness – My Daily Bread!
Our reflection today is taken from Leviticus 26: 3-4, NIV:
“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season and the ground will yield its crop and the trees of the field its fruit.”
Here we are listening to the Words of the Lord as spoken to the Israelites soon after they were delivered out of slavery in Egypt. Little did they know that they were about to learn a costly lesson about God’s grace and the fruit of disobedience from a personal and a corporate perspective.
The Israelites had just crossed the Red Sea and were poised to enter the Promised Land. God instructed Moses to chosen 12 spies, one from each of the tribes of Israel to go and return with a report on the land and the people there.
The spies were gone for 40 days and returned. That’s when all the trouble began. Although the report on the land was good, for indeed they confirmed that it was a land flowing with milk and honey; the report on the people incited fear in the hearts of the Israelites for it was reported that “But the people who live there are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are. And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored”. (Numbers 13: 27-33, NIV)
Ten of the spies were afraid and tried to discourage the people from doing what God had commissioned them to do – take possession of the Land. However Caleb, one of the spies from the tribe of Judah displayed great courage for God and said “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13: 30, NIV) What was their response? “All the Israelites grumbled against Aaron and Moses and the whole assembly said to them “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to fall by the sword? Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14: 1-4, NIV)
What the spies saw with their eyes and the people heard with their ears caused them to forget the mighty power that God had displayed when He saved them! Now these were no small feats considering He had delivered 10 plagues in Egypt, crossed them on dry land through the Red Sea, supplied water from a rock in the desert, provided food from heaven, and His presence in the form of a ‘cloud by day’ and a ‘fire by night’!
But on this day all that was not enough for them to hold on to God and be obedient. God told them to go and take possession of the land flowing with milk and honey and what were they doing? Well they were staying up all night and working themselves into a frenzy, talking about electing another leader, discussing plans to commit murder and how to push their little red wagons back to slavery in Egypt!
All of us hearing this today would say they were out of their minds! We tell ourselves that if we had been there and seen what they saw firsthand we would have done the right thing. But have you ever had a day where the blessings of God; our salvation, His joy and peace, was not enough to keep us from disobedience? We all have.
We may have acted like those ten spies who lacked courage and encouraged others disobedience; or we may have played the role of the Israelites and disobediently followed the crowd. Saints, we must be careful for disobedience comes with a high price; very rarely does that price cost only us. Usually it impacts our families and can even spread to our Christian brothers and sisters in the congregation of Saints. What happened?
God appeared and we all know how the story goes: All Israelites from 20 years and older were not able to enter the Promised Land. God told them they would die in the wilderness because of their disobedience – ironically, this is just what they feared would happen to them. This marked the beginning of 40 years of wandering (one year for each day they spied out the land) in the desert until that generation had passed away. And regarding the ten men who gave the bad report that started all this mayhem; they were “struck down and died of a plague before the Lord”. (Numbers 14; 20-38, NIV)
They forgot the power of their Living God! God brought the Israelites out of Egypt by way of a desert experience as he led them to the Promised Land. From the moment He rescued them He was preparing them to be His “treasured possession, a kingdom of priest, and a holy nation” (Exodus 19: 5-6, NIV) by which all mankind would be blessed. The Israelites headed themselves back out into the wilderness because of their disobedience and lack of trusting in the Lord.
What can we learn from this today about our own obedience? Sometimes God’s grace leads us to our blessings by way of a desert experience; as he shapes and refines us, as He prepares us to accomplish His will. Other times we head ourselves out into a spiritual wilderness because of lack of trusting in the Lord and disobedience which results in losing our blessings. Pray that God becomes bigger in your eyes and your heart than the giants you are facing; that you may quite your fears and be faithful and obedient.
Obeying God is not always going to be easy; some of our greatest challenges may come when we are just about to receive our reward. Be extremely careful, during these times the Devil tries to stick closer than a brother for he desires to head us away from God into the wilderness.
If the Lord has given you something to do, do not be discouraged or afraid, remember that God is with you and His hand extends beyond what we can see with your eyes! Hold on to the Lord; always trusting and standing on His Word; for the Lord will not lead you where His grace cannot sustain you!
And finally, when we are in the wilderness sometimes we may even be called to stand alone on the side of God and His truth. Do not lead or follow others into disobeying the Lord! Resolve in your heart this day to be bold for the Lord at all times, especially in the assembly of the Saints!
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