Weekend Renewal: Believing and Following in Deuteronomy 1

Jordan Valley, Israel

Deuteronomy 1:32-36

32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, 33 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.
34   “And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore, 35 ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the LORD!’

Caleb had seen the land, and it was beautiful. It was everything he had expected, and then some. Pastoral fields that made a shepherd’s heart leap. Craggy cliffs that called a person to climb. Streams and lakes that meant water and fish. It was beautiful because it was beautiful . . . but mostly because it was a gift from his God. The Lord had promised this land to His people – the ones He delivered from Egypt. And Caleb was part of the survey team that went in to see what the land was like.

But upon the return, Caleb’s vision of beauty found an enemy; it was his fellow surveyors. Ten of them only saw danger. They couldn’t look beyond the people living in this land. They were huge, and so were their city walls. From a strategic perspective there would be no chance of the Israelites taking over this land. Nations often attempted conquests, and sometimes succeeded. But this was surely folly. In the end, ten of these spies lamented this land – and their own God – who sent them on this suicide mission.

Unbelief and Evidence

Deuteronomy looks back at these events and offers us a word of explanation. Why was the vision of the land so beautiful to Caleb and so fearful to the other spies? In a word, belief. The whole crew saw the same land, and streams, and cities. Two believed the word of the Lord, but the rest did not. The result was inaction. The people decided to disobey God and stay put, just outside the promised land that God had sworn He would give them.

In Deuteronomy 1:32-33, Moses writes “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.” The people had seen God present every day as they went through the wilderness. He literally led them. They had seen God do great miracles to save them. The ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea being chief among these. And yet, the problem was not a lack of evidence, but a heart that did not trust the Lord. Ten spies didn’t believe that God would do what He said. The rest of the people followed the spies.

Believing and Following

Moses points out that Caleb was different. In Deuteronomy 1:36, Moses says that Caleb would see the land. Why would he get to enter in? “Because he has wholly followed the Lord.” This is a strong contrast with the ten spies and the people who sided against the Lord. One group believed, the other did not. One wholly followed, the other stopped short.

It appears that Moses sees a connection between belief and following. One who believes God will naturally trust Him and follow Him. One who does not believe God will naturally resist and disobey. To become a follower is necessarily to trust the one you follow. Even if you have some questions that are thus far unanswered, trust still means you will follow. You might be frustrated and angered by an issue. But trust means you follow. At the end of the day, trust follows no matter what.

Asking why the ten spies did not believe is only natural after reading this story. All that evidence and all those miracles, and they doubted the Lord? But turning that question around and asking it of our own hearts is a better move. When God calls us to obey Him, and we choose not to follow, what is it that we aren’t believing?

This Weekend, Renew Your Mind

Ephesians 4:23 says that we are to be “renewed in the spirit of our minds.” Take some time to meditate on these thoughts from scripture, that your mind might be renewed on the truth of God’s word. Jesus himself has said, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Read, meditate, live.

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