“Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die. And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still. And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly. And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned. And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you. But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah” (Numbers 14:30-45).
The people of Israel had the wonderful opportunity to enter the Promised Land, and there was absolutely nothing that could hinder them doing so, except of course their own unbelief and disobedience. They refused to accept God’s invitation to be abundantly blessed. This land was promised to them because they were the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but it was their responsibility to go and take possession of it.
If God had preordained that Israel were to possess the land, why did they need to go and search it out? Surely all they needed to do was march right in and claim their inheritance! Numbers 13:1-2 clearly states that God commanded that the land was to be searched prior to taking it. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them”. Twelve men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, were sent to spy out Canaan. They remained there for forty days and saw many wonderful things. Unfortunately ten of them did not believe that it was possible to take the land, while only two had the faith to get the job done. Therefore, do we see that God’s command to send spies was a test of the worth of Israel’s faith?
The people chose to believe the report of the majority and thus lost their opportunity to receive their inheritance. These are the same people who had witnessed the dividing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh and his army. They daily saw the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, which signified the presence of the Lord. They had drunk the miraculous water from the rock and eaten the heavenly manna. They had heard the voice of God from Mount Sinai. All this, but they still refused to believe that God’s promises could be fulfilled. They had many sins, but only one would keep them from entering into their rest, that is, the sin of unbelief. The people of that generation were given only one opportunity to take Canaan. The promise of victory would not be repeated, so this one time offer demanded an exercise of their faith, but they refused to act upon it and forever lost their blessing. When they finally realised what they had lost, they tried to recover it, and were defeated by the enemy (Numbers 14:40-45). Not one of them, except for Joshua, Caleb and the children ever inhabited the Promised Land.
How often do we fail to take the opportunities that God has offered us! We may claim that “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20), but let us not forget that such promises are only fulfilled in our lives according to our faith and obedience, “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Whenever the Lord gives us an opportunity to serve Him, we ought to seize it with all our power.
Maybe we too lose out because of unbelief in our hearts. The Scriptures teach that “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26) and “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). This means that nothing, except our own doubts, can hinder us entering into the fullness of Christ. Let us not think that we can let such an opportunity pass us by because it is sure to be offered to us again. There is no guarantee that God will repeat His offer to us, anyway, is not such an attitude a sign of wilful unbelief?
There are many Christians wandering around the wilderness of their own making because they refused to act upon God’s word in the past. They wait for another opportunity to obey Him, but it never comes. Some try to take possession of the blessing by their own power, but the enemy of their souls continually defeats them. They often return to fellowship with in a blaze of glory, but their fire quickly fizzles out and so they return to their backslidden state. Can these people ever receive the blessings God has promised? Only by the grace of God! The sad fact is that many are given another opportunity only to refuse to obey again.
“For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This is often quoted in relation to the message of salvation, but the preceding verse gives us the reason why Paul quoted from Isaiah 48:9, “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1). He is saying that believers must take the opportunities God has given or else there will be much loss. The opportunities God offers us are always golden.