In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised.” But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the Lord, when it will not succeed? Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the Lord. And the Lord will not be with you.” But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses left the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah.
One of my persistent memories of life in a coal mining village was folks love for drinking and singing every weekend, they certainly played hard. One song that was a constant favourite drawled out in pubs was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” As a Christian I always found the boozing culture distasteful, but especially disliked that rebellious song of defiance. I have even heard it sung at funerals, which is the saddest defiance of all. In my scripture today I found myself reading about a time of similar rebellion against God by the Israelites, who wanted to do things their way.
Moses had sent out spies on reconnaissance into Canaan, to assess the land and the people in it. Even though Joshua was amongst the spies who was Moses’s right hand man, their general who had been victorious over the Amalek (Exodus 17:18), the Israelites paid no heed to his favourable report of Canaan. Instead they listened to other unnamed spies who gave an inaccurate report of dangers in Canaan. The people rebelled and sought to replace Moses, Aaron and Joshua with others to lead them to safety.
God’s anger burned against the people wishing to destroy them, but Moses steps forward with a most beautiful prayer of intercession for the Israelites. Take note of the power of a fervent praying man of God; the Almighty had mercy and pardoned the people! Their punishment would be that they would live out their lives in the wilderness, but would not enter the promised land – that would be reserved for their children after them.
The Israelites recognised their error, but confounded it further by the folly of thinking that they could put things right on their own without God, their way. They ignored the warnings from Moses and entered the land of Canaan only to suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of the natives, God was not with them in their venture of pride.
Dear reader, let us learn from the error of the Israelites in this story:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
There is only one way for the child of God in this world, that is the way shown to us by our Father God. Trying to do things “My Way” will only lead to grief in the end.