Thursday, March 23, 2017

When God is Not With Us

by Danetta Kellar

So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country. But the Lord said to me, “Tell them, ‘Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.’” -Deuteronomy 1:42 

The Israelites were a skeptical people, even with their God. 

His commands were often illogical to them and fraught with danger. Instead of taking possession of the land of the Amorites in Deuteronomy 1 as God had commanded, the cautious Israelites sent scouts to check things out first. The reports were daunting. Giant men, tall walls, large cities. They assessed their circumstances through the eyes of logic and refused to go, grumbling and groaning, refusing to trust that if God had said he would give them the land, then He would.

As all stubborn and rebellious people eventually do, they suffered the consequences. And then they finally came to their senses, declaring that they would now obey, even if it was quite a delayed obedience.

Throwing on their weapons, they ran recklessly toward the hills.

It was in this rush to make things right and take the land in their own strength that God stopped them short with chilling words.

Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.

Wait. God would not be with us? What?

What on earth was the difference between when God told them to possess the land and when they finally decided to do it?

Possession through Promise

In Deuteronomy 1:20-21, Moses declared that the Lord was giving them the land. Go, take possession of it. But they refused.

The first time around, possession was an act of obedience in response to a promise. The Israelites chose not to obey, not to trust the promise of God.

Possession through Presence

The Lord said, “Go up and take possession of the land.” The time was the present, and the presence of God would lead them. “The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt…” (1:30).

Throughout their wilderness sojourn, the Israelites were being trained in a key principle of guidance: follow the presence of the Lord. When He goes forth, you go forth. When He stays put, you stay put.

They chose to stay put this time, even as He commanded them to go.

Possession through Power

The Lord said He would fight for them. There is no mention of them fighting. God had promised them the land, and through His power He would accomplish His promise.

Now, after refusing to trust God’s promise, follow God’s presence, or rely upon God’s power, the Israelites rambunctiously take up their own weapons to seize the land. 

So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country.

Thinking it easy in their own power and strength, they assumed they could achieve the same goal as God. 

It is natural from our vantage point thousands of years later to judge God's people as simple-minded and faithless, foolhardy and hard-headed.

But I see me in this passage. Do you see you?

How often I throw on my weapons, more willing to recklessly fight for my rights than to take the illogical, powerful, faith-reliant path of following my God as he leads me to what he has promised?

How often do I fight fights that He does not choose for me? And how often, oh how often, those fights result in my defeat.

I want to be a listener. A truster. A follower of the presence of God. One dependent on His power. Do you?

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 21b

“Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.” Deuteronomy 1:29

His voice still speaks today. You can do it. Trust Me. Do not be afraid. 

Thank you, stubborn Israelites, for teaching me today. I empathize with you. But I am choosing to lay aside my weapons and strong will and wait for the presence of God to lead me up from here. I do not want to go anywhere without Him.

Lord, teach us to trust your promises, follow your leading, and rely upon your power. Keep us from fighting battles without you. Amen.


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