Heart of Obedience

Have you ever heard someone say, “delayed obedience is disobedience”?  I think I found the story it is taken from…

I was reading the book of Deuteronomy today and came across a part of Israel’s story that I haven’t paid much attention to in the past.

Let me briefly set it up…

God powerfully freed the people of Israel from their slavery and oppression in Egypt. He provided for them, protected them, and personally guided them to the land He promised them. Before they entered the promised land, the people sent spies to check it out and see what they were up against (this turned out to be a bad move). The spies returned filled with fear (except for two faith-filled spies) and the people lost heart and started to complain and consider going back into their slavery in Egypt.

God had clearly given the people a command to obey and the encouragement to act.

We see this in Deuteronomy 1:21

“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” 

But, instead of choosing obedience and trusting God, they chose disobedience and trusting the reports of some of the spies. They listened to the wrong voices.

So God explained that their consequence would be to live out their days in the wilderness and never enter the land He promised them. The next generation of Israel would enter the land and not the generation that disobeyed. Then God told them to get moving back into the wilderness.

This is where I typically end the story when I think about it and tell it.  But, there is an interesting bit in this story that can be missed.

The people of Israel were heartbroken and recognized their rebellion. But instead of following God’s new command to go back into the wilderness, they decide that they would now enter the land. God warned them to not go into the land to fight because He would not be with them. But, again they did not listen to God and they gathered people and weapons and marched forward. They met opposition and were soundly defeated and retreated.

In the past, I somehow missed the part in the story where the people try to take the land on their own and are defeated.

This story made me think about obedience and the heart behind it.

God told them to enter the land. They delayed the obedience and sent out spies to check it out and decided to not go in.

God explained their consequence. They recognized their sin.

God told them to enter the wilderness. They disobeyed and decided to now enter the land.

But, it was too late. They had revealed their heart, their lack of trust in God, and their pride. I find it fascinating that the people chose to disobey God’s clear guidance a second time immediately after recognizing their failure.

Did they think they could avoid the consequences of their disobedience by entering the land?

Did they think they could do it without God?

I’m reflecting today on how I respond to the the commands and guidance of God.

  • Am I quick to obey because God can be trusted and He is good? Or do I delay obedience out of fear, pride, or looking for alternatives?
  • Am I obeying to avoid consequences and prove something? Or do I joyfully obey to embrace God’s way of life and respond to His love?
  • Am I learning from my mistakes and failures?  Or do I continue to march headlong into disobedience time after time?

(The story is found in Numbers 14 & a retelling in Deuteronomy 1)