“Then they took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought us back a report and said, ‘It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us.’ Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; and you grumbled in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us.’” (Deuteronomy 1:25-27)
God had brought the Israelites to a place of decision. Before them stood the promise land, behind them stood the wilderness through which they had come, and the command of the Lord was to go forth and possess the land. The report of those whom had been sent to spy out the land was that it was truly a “good land”, a land flowing with milk and honey. However, it was also a land of challenges; a land of giants and a land of peoples greater in number and strength then they were. To go forth would require faith and trust in God while retreating back into the wilderness would only require cowardice; the choice was theirs. Caleb tried to encourage then, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30) and so did Joshua, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us -- a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9) and even Moses tried to encourage them. “Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:29-31) Yet for all this, the people refused to enter in.
These were the people that God had destined to enter into His Promised Land, it was their destiny, yet they surrendered their destiny and gave into their fears, unbelief, and disobedience. Their decision represented the end of a movement of God. God had begun to move in and through them and now it was over and it would be left to their children to recapture the promises of God that was once theirs. In their remorse, they tried to reclaim the promise of God for their lives, “Then you said to me, ‘We have sinned against the Lord; we will indeed go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.’ And every man of you girded on his weapons of war, and regarded it as easy to go up into the hill country. And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, “Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies.”’” (Deuteronomy 1:41-42) yet it was too late and once again their rebellion was to their own shame and defeat. “Instead you rebelled against the command of the Lord, and acted presumptuously and went up into the hill country. The Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do, and crushed you from Seir to Hormah. Then you returned and wept before the Lord; but the Lord did not listen to your voice nor give ear to you.” (Deuteronomy 1:43-45) God continued to bless, provide for, and feed them in the wilderness, but the Promised Land had been lost.
Looking back over the past two thousand years of Christianity, we can see many times where there had been genuine moves of God that lasted for a while and then, for one reason or another, died out. For some of those movements there may still remain a remnant, yet often they are like people stuck in a “time warp”, trying to relive the times of past glory, trying to recapture the promise their movement once had, and yet for all their effort, God has moved on. No movement is guaranteed to “live” forever but its continued blessings are often predicated on how those involved respond to challenges presented to them. The same is true for us. Do we respond with faith to each new call from God or do we retreat in unbelief and disobedience? How we answer these questions determine the future of God’s “present movement” and our involvement in that movement.
The transition from one movement of God to another is always difficult. Often the “new” move of God experiences the most persecution from those of the “last” move of God. It often takes great faith, courage, and trust to leave behind the familiar and comfortable for the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but the promise land is never possessed by those who shrink back. We must be willing to shed the past to receive our future. Let us embrace with courage the new thing God is doing in our midst. Let us rise up and go forward, certain that if God has called us, He will cause us to inherit His promises. Let us not shrink back but rather go forth.