It only takes a spark of fear to ignite panic in a group of people. One person might jump and scream in terror in a crowd of people. Maybe they saw a snake or maybe they witnessed a crime. Regardless of the reality, fear will spread to everyone in the vicinity. Crowds have been thrown in to panic. People have been trampled for what turned out to be a false alarm. We see the same contagious fear used as a tool in politics as well. We are easily controlled by fear, particularly when fear infects the group.
In Numbers 14:10b-24, the people of God have just refused God’s command to enter the Promised Land. The spies had returned with stories about the great strength and power of the land’s occupants. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, encourage the people to turst God’s promise and provision. The people, overcome by fear, threaten to stone these messengers of hope.
God is incensed by their rebellion. “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” Moses intercedes on their behalf, seemingly reminding God of God’s character: slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. God’s anger relents and God forgives the people, but there are still consequences for their rebellion: the generation delivers from Egypt will not enter the Promised Land, only their descendants.
It is one thing to declare our unshakeable faith in God; it is a different thing entirely to put that faith to work through trusting obedience, particularly when the future feels frightening. Israel heeded the voice of fear. Instead of fixing their eyes on the countless examples of God’s deliverance, protection, and provision, they fixed their eyes on the obstacles before them. Because of their refusal to trust and obey, the generation that had been shown the greatest acts of divine deliverance missed the opportunity to experience the greatest joy: possession of the Promised Land.
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Grace and Peace.