…not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected.
Israel rejected God when they rejected His call to enter the Promised Land. And God had to bring some sort of lesson to this disobedience. The consequence was that for the next four decades the nation would be doomed to nomadic wandering in a desert that doomed them to daily remember their faithlessness. An entire generation would eventually die. And their children would have the faith and courage to obey God. Faith and obedience always go hand in hand. You can’t just say you believe God and then live by your own wishes.
God built into the next generation of Israelites a robust faith. They knew that their lives would be better by trusting God. They lived with the horrible consequences of judgment. As each body of the generation that rejected Canaan was buried in the sand of Sinai, a growing sense of something new coming down the line had to fill the next generation with hope. And when the time came for them to cross over, they enthusiastically accepted the challenge.
This chapter of Numbers is not very grace-filled (at least at first glance). But God did hear Moses’ prayer and chose NOT to eradicate the nation and build a new one from Moses. God was actually merciful by punishing just one generation and promising anew His deliverance to a new generation. And the lessons they learned on the necessary mutual requirements of faith and obedience would define a generation that would conquer and receive.
I often wonder how they felt. What was it like to wait for an entire generation to die off? Did they count down the last few survivors, waiting for them to fall so they could move forward? We don’t know. But we do know that they did not grumble like their parents did. That may be the big lesson to learn. Real faith and real obedience does not complain or suggest “better ways” to God.