Where can we go up?
Where can we go up?
Moses prepared a new generation of Israelites for entrance into the promised land by reminding them of their history and God’s Law. He tells them of their forebears’ reluctance to enter the land to which God had brought them. Moses recounts their question regarding going up into the land of promise: “Where can we go up?” (Deuteronomy 1:28). In their history of a mere forty years before, the spies sent out by Moses brought back a good report about the fertility of the promised land but a divided report about Israel’s ability to take it (Numbers 13:25-30).
Obstacles to Going Up
The report was one of a good land, but one that was full of obstacles. The way up was rough and steep—coming in from the south, there would be rough hills and desert areas. The people in the land were strong in number—there were all manner of tribes and nations already in the land. The cities were fortified and very great—the larger cities had great walls and there were leaders with great armies. Ten of the twelve spies said, “We are not able to take it.” Because Israel did not take the land, they were punished (Numbers 14:27-30). When God tells His people to do something, He intends for them to do it.
In regard to living for God today, there are many obstacles, too. Like Israel, we are promised a rest—albeit a greater one—and we too must take action to do the things God has intended. Israel had to make an effort to enter the land and had to continue in obedience to maintain it. God’s people, to ensure the gain of the promised eternal rest, must also give themselves to the task. The world is great in number and we are few. The world around us is walled behind sectarianism, creeds, prejudice, ignorance, and indifference. The walls will never fall if we do not implement God’s plan.
Were these obstacles what really stopped the Israelites from having the land of promise? No. Obstacles are not what separated them from the land. It was not steep terrain, giants, or walled cities—they forgot their deliverer. That’s what stopped that generation from the land. They created their roadblocks themselves—no one else.
The Real Hindrances from Going Up
The lack of appreciation for the land “flowing with milk and honey” hindered them (Exodus 3:8,17; Exodus 13:5; Leviticus 20:24; Deuteronomy 6:3; Numbers 11:5). How much do we appreciate our promised rest? Part of our effort to lay hold of that rest is to center around bringing others with us. Do we appreciate our promised land enough to tell others about it? Do we care enough for the lost to help them see the value of the promised rest?
The lack of appreciation for God’s word also hindered Israel. God had clearly said, “I will bring you …” (Exodus 3:8,17). God intends for us to share His word. Do we appreciate His word, the gospel, His power for salvation (Romans 1:16) enough to live it and proclaim it?
The lack of appreciation for God’s work—the lack of faith in God’s delivering power—was a hindrance. They knew what God had already done for them (Numbers 13:25-33; Numbers 14:1-10). Do we truly appreciate the importance of faith in God’s power (Romans 8:37; Colossians 1:27)?
The lack of appreciation for their own abilities was also a problem for the Israelites. They forgot what they could do by being God’s people. They focused on the comparison to the people of the land (Numbers 13:33). Do we appreciate the fact that God can use us (Philippians 2:13)?
The lack of appreciation for what was right in front of them impeded Israel’s progress. Their vision was flawed and deceptive. How often did they look back to Egypt as being the land of “milk and honey” instead of looking to the promised land of God? (Numbers 16:13). How is our vision?
The lack of appreciation for one another—a lack of unity—cost the Israelites. No one, but Joshua alone, was willing to unite with Caleb under the guidance of the Lord. Not only did the nation not appreciate Caleb and Joshua, but they also wanted to stone them! How can God’s people ever expect to lay hold of the promised eternal rest, how can we ever bring others with us, if instead of “building up” (Ephesians 4:15-16), we “bite and devour” (Galatians 5:15; James 3:14-18)?
Don’t make hinderances your roadblocks. Don’t be as the Israelites asking, “Where can we go up?” The Lord has given us His guidance, His promise, His word. Before ascending, Jesus made this promise to His disciples: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 18:20). God is leading the way. We can with courage say, “Go up!”
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.