Deut. 1:26-46: The tragedy of unbelief: part 3 of 3. James Dale; Audio & Text
Tragedy of Unbelief
(Part 3 of 3)
For those of you that weren’t here last week, we need to remember that Moses is giving the first of three sermons to this young generation of Israelites as they are on the banks of the Jordan ready to enter the Promised Land. He is looking into the past and reviewing what happened at Kadesh-Barnea 40 years before when their fathers were faced with the same situation. The lesson that he wants them to learn is do not repeat the tragedy of unbelief. Trust God’s promise and enter the Promised Land.
Let’s look at some key words to help us remember the lesson that Moses wants these young people to remember.
Verse 26 - “Notwithstanding”
The land was good and yet, despite all that, they wouldn’t obey. Moses uses the word “rebelled”. I couldn’t help but wonder what David would have done in the same situation. When faced with a report that there were giants in the land, we know his response because he faced a giant.
Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the ORLD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
I Sam 17:37
I wonder what Abraham would have done when faced with a scary decision like that. We know because God told him to do something even more scary that going into battle with giants. He had to sacrifice his only son. But he chose to trust God.
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
But the people of Israel saw the giants and rebelled.
Verse 27,28 - “Murmured”
“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, so I guess I’ll eat some worms.” This is what the Israelites said about God, “He hates us, that’s why He allowed this to happen.” Have you ever done this? Am I genuinely persuaded that God loves me, or do I have the attitude, “Daddy doesn’t love me because he won’t give me any candy?” Heb 11:6 tells us that we cannot have faith unless we believe that God is a good God and does things that are good for us … even in affliction. “I know O Lord that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” (Psa 119:75) This was a test of their faith and they failed.
What is faith? Maybe these two balloons will help us understand.
First balloon … What do you predict will happen if I poke this pin in this balloon? It will pop, of course, and it will be scary. (Pops the balloon.)
Second balloon (which has some clear tape on the end of it which they cannot see) … What do you predict will happen if I poke this balloon? The same thing probably, but what if I promise that it will not pop. Would you believe me? I promise that this balloon will not pop. Now, who will come up to hold it while I poke the pin in? (Hand the balloon to the person and push the pin into the tape.)
The only difference between the first balloon and the second balloon was my word that it would not pop. It would have been crazy to hold that balloon while I poked it, except for trusting in my word. That person had faith. She didn’t know that I had placed tape there, but I knew it wouldn’t pop and scare her.
However, the Israelites had no excuse for not believing. They saw God put the tape on the balloon and still would not believe. Let’s look at the next few verses to see what God did.
Verse 29-31 - “Goeth before you” and “God bare thee”
They saw God go before them in Egypt and in the wilderness and yet the past did not help with their future. Satan loves to make us forget the past victories. And yet he loves to remind us of our past sins and failure.
Verse 32,33 - “Did not believe”
Now we come to the key problem … the tragedy of unbelief. Sin did not keep them out, it was a lack of faith. Sin, per se, does not keep us out of heaven. It is that we do not accept by faith His provision for atonement. Sin has been taken away ... Christ is a gift of salvation by faith.
Verse 34-40 – Because of their lack of faith God was wroth (very angry) and the people were banned from the land. Caleb and Joshua were exceptions (36 & 38). Now, Joshua (which is the Old Testament
Hebrew name of Jesus) brings them to the Promised Land. Moses gave the law which brought them to the Jordan, but Joshua brought them into the Promised Land. The law brings us to Jesus, and Jesus brings us into heaven.
The excuse they gave for not believing God’s promises was that their children “should be a prey”. (verse 39) God’s answer was that the faithless adults would be killed but the children they were supposedly concerned about would be the ones to possess the land. “Anything will serve as an excuse when the heart is bent on compromise.” (Spurgeon). God saw through the excuse.
Verse 41-46 – After God described their consequences, they repented in the flesh not in faith. It was not a grieving heart, it was the consequence of getting caught. It was tears of rebellion which resulted in fretting and quarreling. I can think of two examples of this of this “presumptuous” kind of behavior. (verse 43)
Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
My children, when I spanked them sometimes, would scream in rebellion and anger. This is what the people of Israel were doing. They did not follow Moses’ command to journey toward the Red Sea (verse 40), but instead went the opposite direction to cross the heights occupied by forces of Amorites and Amalekites. They were chased as bees and suffered a great loss. From this point on they had to stay in or around the camp of Kadesh-Barnea for the next 40 years until all the soldiers over 20 years old died and their children could possess the land instead.
This closes part 1 of the history lesson that Moses gave to the millennials of his day. His heart was heavy and you can hear the concern in his voice. He doesn’t want them to make the same mistake that their fathers had made. Their fathers had lost sight of the fact that God was bigger than giants. An entire generation of Israelites died in the wilderness because they saw giants and thought they couldn’t trust what God said. What a tragedy!
It tells us in I Cor 10:1-5:
Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well-pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
You see, faith is an individual step, not a group thing. It was a tragedy for these people to experience everything that God did for the people of Israel, and then not get into the Promised Land because of unbelief. It would be an equal tragedy if a person has been involved in a Bible-believing church or raised in a Christian family, but never made a personal decision of faith to trust Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Salvation comes at a point in time. Maybe there is someone here today that has never made that decision. I’m thinking especially of the children that come from godly homes but have not made that decision to trust Christ. If you have never done that, this would be a good time to talk to your parents or an elder about it. Don’t have a tragedy of unbelief.