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Hebrews 2:1-4 – OT

01.24.2011

Deut 1:19-46

This story, about the sending of spies into Canaan, just makes me sad, both on a macro level and a micro level.

On the macro level, there’s a depressing pattern encapsulated here that really extends over the entirety of Israel’s history (and, by extension, over the entirety of the relationship between collective man/individual men and God).  It’s repeated in this story twice: ignore -> disobey -> suffer.

In the first round of this merry-go-round of self-destruction, God tells the Israelites to enter the promised land.  They don’t trust that He will hand the land over to them as He promises, so they decide to send spies into Canaan to see if what God is promising is even possible.  When the spies confirm God’s promises, they still reject them and decide not to enter the promised land because they didn’t believe God would or could do for them what He had promised.

So God says, ‘Fine.  None of you gets to enter.  If this is what you want, this is what you’ll get.  I will make you wander the wilderness until this entire generation dies.  Your children can receive the blessings that you have declined to take.’  It’s another example of God punishing us by giving us over to what we value more than Him.

The people respond with a second go around on this pathological whirly-gig.  God tells them not to go up and try to take the land on their own, now that they have rejected it.  They decide anyway to do on their own what they thought was too tough for God to do (!!!).  To the surprise of no one, they are slaughtered and limp away from their failure into the wilderness.

Twice God tells them what He wants them to do and what He promises them.  Twice they ignore His instruction and disobey him.  Twice they get what they ask for and, suprise!, don’t like it.

But the part of this story that’s really sad for me is what happens to Moses. In verse 37, Moses relays to the people what God said to him:

Even with me the Lord was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there.’

I just see Moses shocked and disappointed and angry and hurt at this development.  It’s like a deflating stomach punch.  Moses has worked his entire life to bring God’s people out of slavery and lead them to the promised land.  Now, because the people were petulant and stubborn and stupid, he is being denied the fruits of his labor.  The object to which Moses had spent his entire adult life obediently working towards will elude him.

Tim Keller’s ‘older brother’-ness, a tendency against which I personally have to guard, puts people in opposition to God because of the importance they put on morality and obedience.  An older brother ends up angry at God when things don’t go well for them because they, subconsciously, feel entitled to God’s blessings.  This exposes their true motivations: their obedience and righteousness is not for God but for themselves.

I say that to clarify that I don’t believe this describes Moses.  I don’t believe that Moses only served God as a way to serve himself.  However, I can’t see this element of Moses’ story as anything but tragic.  He worked his adult life for God’s purpose only to be told to let go.  And I think the element of surprise here is even worse.  I know that God called David a man after His own heart, but no one else seems on such ‘friendly’ terms with God.  Moses’ relationship with the Father was intimate and trusting and honest.  It’s speaks volumes about Moses’ character that he didn’t take this development as a betrayal.*

* And, to be honest, that he didn’t take it out on the feckless crapweasels that he’d been leading around the desert.  If I’m Moses, I’m leading that lot back to the Red Sea, opening it up until they all got inside, and then ‘WHOOSH’!!

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