One of my assignments in Deuteronomy class is to read through the book at least twice. Because I ask way too many questions while reading, finishing the book is becoming quite a task. I was astonished at Israel’s unbelief in chapter one. The LORD had commanded them to take the land that he had sworn to their forefathers (1:8). Moses repeated the command when they came from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea, adding, “Do not fear or be dismayed” (1:21). After sending the spies into the land, they heard the great report concerning the land, “It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us” (1:25).
But they would not go up. They rebelled against God’s command (1:26). In the privacy of their tents, husbands were saying to their wives,
Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of th eland of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where are we going up? Our brothers hav emade our hearts melt, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there’ (1:27-28).
They heard the reports about the people and their city walls. They knew that there was no way for them to defeat them on their own; after all, they were travellers. Their seemingly inevitable defeat before the fearsome Amorites led them to conclude one thing about the LORD– he hated them. “He brought us out of Egypt for this?! To be destroyed by the Amorites?!”
Moses’ response cuts straight to the heart:
Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place (1:29-31).
Israel’s main flaw in their thinking was that they thought they were being stranded. They thought they would fight the Amorites alone. The truth is, as Moses said, they weren’t going to fight at all. The LORD their God would fight for them! They should’ve known that, because he fought for them in Egypt. Wasn’t that what they sang not too long before (cf. Ex. 15)? Not only would he fight for them, but he would carry them, just like he had done in the wilderness to that point, like a father carries his son. They were not stranded. The God of their fathers was with them in power and in love.
But they would not trust him. They refused to enter the land. And God consequently took their lives in the wilderness, as not a single one from that generation entered the land, except Joshua and Caleb and their families (1:34-38).
As I reflect on this, I am amazed at how much things haven’t changed. Of course, I am not living in the wilderness, and I am not Jewish. I have not been commanded to eliminate anyone from any land to take possession of it. But I am called to go into the world with the gospel of Christ. What is my problem? It is the same as the Israelites’ problem– people are big and God is small, to borrow from Welch. I easily use fear of man to talk myself out of sharing Christ with others. I even have the audacity to use my responsibility as father/protector of my sons as an excuse (cf. 1:39)! Am I going to be disqualified from being used by God to fulfill his purposes too?
How can I fight this paralyzing unbelief? What must I have so that I fearlessly spread the gospel? I must recall Moses’ words:
“The LORD our God…will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes”: Is my God strong and mighty, one who defends his people in power? Who really has the disadvantage if God is for me? Do I meditate on the great acts of God in history? Specifically, do I reflect in depth on what God accomplished in redemption? Does his work in redeeming my soul on the cross bolster my faith in his accomplishing every other promise and purpose in my life?
“the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place”: Do I see how God has brought me thus far? Do I meditate on his sustaining presence? Do I trust in his fatherly care over my soul? Do I trust that he will never leave me nor forsake me?
In the end, fearlessness for the gospel is grounded in a rock-solid faith in the power and care of my almighty God. Lord, may you be uppermost in my thoughts and affections, that you become infinitely big in my eyes, and that all other people become infinitely small. Make me fearless for the sake of your name and for the sake of your gospel.