Numbers 14:26 And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: 27 How long shall this wicked congregation complain against me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites, which they complain against me. 28 Say to them, “As I live,” says the LORD, “I will do to you the very things I heard you say: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of all your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, 30 not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you said would become booty, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have despised. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.” 35 I the LORD have spoken; surely I will do thus to all this wicked congregation gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.
Ever wonder why it took the Israelites 40 years to arrive in the Promised Land? It was a long journey, for sure, but it should never have taken that long. It started when a scouting party, sent by Moses to recon the Promised Land, returned with a good news/bad news report. The good news? The land was indeed “flowing with milk and honey”. In other words, it was a rich land filled with good things to sustain a nation of people. The bad news? The people inhabiting the land were numerous, strong/fierce, and well-protected in fortified cities. They would not leave easily. Of 12 Israelite warriors sent to recon the area, only 2 (Caleb and Joshua) encouraged moving into the land as instructed by God. The other 10 were filled with fear and advised against it. The crowd aligned with the fearful and refused to enter the land – which made God very angry.
Fear. It’s a tricky thing. God gave us fear because fear can keep us alive. I remember years ago going on a skydiving trip with some people from church. You know what the hardest part of skydiving is? It’s not the free-fall, or the landing. It’s forcing yourself out the door. Every instinct you have is saying “NO!!!” even though your mind knows you have a parachute. Your mind has to override fear to make a successful jump.
Our economy is opening up some. People clearly have varying tolerances for risk. Some are moving about as if the pandemic never happened. Others are still locked away in their homes, usually because they are among those more susceptible to the virus than average. Others of us are in the middle somewhere.
As we all figure out how to move forward during this pandemic my hope and prayer for us is that we will allow “caution” to drive us rather than “fear”. Fear is an emotional response that can paralyze us unnecessarily. Caution is a more thoughtful response that overrides fear and lets information drive our decisions. In any case, we all need God’s wisdom and discernment right now.
Lord, let it be so. Amen.
(Fun fact: 40 is an important symbolic number in scripture. V.30 tells us that none of the adults who left Egypt would enter the Promised Land – hence they wandered for “40 years”. Was it actually 40 years? We don’t know, but the number 40 represents an adequate amount of time to accomplish God’s purpose. The rains that came for Noah and the ark fell for “40 days”. Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for “40 days and night”. See what I mean?)