When Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, the people mourned greatly. And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned.” But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the Lord, when that will not succeed? Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed out of the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah. Numbers 14:39-45, ESV.
Have you ever sought after something that you knew the Lord would not want you to have? I imagine that each one of us would have to confess that we have. Sometimes we justify the pursuit by pretending we don’t know what God would say about it. At other times we forge ahead in full awareness of God’s prohibition, hoping to get away with it because He has been gracious to us in the past. In other instances, we seek the forbidden fruit simply because we believe we deserve it.
It is hard to tell exactly what motivates Israel to enter the Promised Land after God had just struck dead the faithless spies and revealed His wilderness judgment against the faithless people. Their words are strange; “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned.” Knowing their sin, they choose to sin again? When the door was open to the land, they refused to enter because they feared giants. Now that the door is closed, they are determined to enter. Their hearts are filled with rebellion.
Moses condemns their folly and calls for them to reconsider, but to no avail. They enter the land. They enter alone—God is not with them. They meet the very end they feared in the first place. They experience defeat in battle and are chased back out of the land. For all their efforts, now they will begin the forty-year journey as a defeated people. Twice they choose to follow the path outside of God’s will—a path that leads them from sorrow to sorrow.
Friends, my prayer for you today is that you will not follow the path trod by the people of Israel in this passage. May you instead seek the will of God, find it, follow it, and be blessed.