Can it take 40 years to complete an 11-day journey? It will when any people refuses to trust God. The result is that forward movement towards spiritual maturity gives way to a wandering, aimless existence.
“It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel…” ~ Deuteronomy 1:2-3
Deuteronomy is the account of Moses restating the law of God before Israel entered the Promised Land. But he is not speaking to the generation set free from Egypt. That entire generation faded in a 40-year journey to nowhere when they failed to trust God, shying away from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). God took care of them in the wilderness. They were still His people. But they lost everything associated with the promises of God… and those losses were real.
So in Deuteronomy, Moses is addressing a new generation. The children of those who refused to trust God. And as a cautionary admonition, he mentions that where they are standing is only an 11-day journey from the spot where their parents began their journey to the Promised Land — 40 years ago.
And just like that generation in the wilderness, any generation that consistently rejects a life of active faith — trusting God as He leads, step by step — is losing the life God intended for them… a life of wonder at the mighty acts of a living God.
It’s not a loss of personal salvation. He is a promise-keeping God. The soul that hears the message of the cross and responds by placing his/her trust in Jesus is completely forgiven and their sins are carried away (John 3:16, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Cor. 1:18). He sends His Spirit to indwell the new believer. And He is there to transform that soul into the likeness of Jesus, guiding him/her into a life of trusting His rule and offering simple devotion to Him.
But if we go on from there to a daily life of unbelief, the losses will come. If He calls you to take a step of faith, and you refuse, you lose whatever He was about to accomplish with that step.
He already has a plan for your life. It is a plan to be lived out one faith step at a time. It involves…
- daily fellowship,
- knowing and enjoying Him,
- recognizing when He is speaking,
- a joyful obedience to what He says, and
- a continual repentance, a daily turning from doing life without Him and setting the heart on doing life with Him.
There are many times when we have to wait (by faith) on God’s timing. But how many other promises is He prepared to give sooner than later? In 11 days instead of 40 years? Only those who walk with Him by faith will know the answer to that.
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’“ ~ Psalm 95:6-10
Too many times we make little gods out of “the odds” associated with the twists and turns of our life’s journey. We bow down to the odds, allowing them to shape and govern our hearts, giving the idols of chance the first hearing as we process major decisions.
But there is a sovereign God who rules over the odds. He has a plan for your life that is most affected — not by chance — but by your love and devotion to Him. Listen to this verse from Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God is at work extracting good from everything that happens to the ones who love Him. No matter the odds, the outcome is assured by a God who always wins. This same one true God sent His Son on a rescue mission to save us from the enemies of our souls.
Dying on the cross in our place, He removed the penalty for our sins by paying the ultimate price. (John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:24) That’s His love for me and you… and He requires nothing less in return than complete surrender of our lives into His hands. (Romans 10:9-10) In this way, the odds are dethroned and you are guaranteed ultimate joy no matter the outcome of your present contest. It’s not chance that determines your destiny… it’s you deciding whether to place the directional control of your life in His hands.
It’s not about the odds. It’s about the one true God.
Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
God does a “new thing” when He comes into our lives. We are cleansed and changed from within, immersed into His body (the church), and led into a life of mission and purpose.
How do I respond to or cooperate with His Presence?
As a young college student I attended Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin Texas, where I was befriended by a deacon. He was a big man, a single adult, and an African-American serving in a predominantly Anglo congregation.
He often drove by the campus to pick me up for church, peppering our conversation with valued advice and quotations that echo in my mind to this day. One of his favorites was “Donovan, if can do your best, why settle for less?” I took his words to heart.
However, I have found that pursuing God’s direction often involves mopping up problems as they surface, then moving forward again. God’s will is rarely experienced as a sequence of error-free decisions or attempts. I must stay sensitive to His voice.
Let me encourage you to pursue God’s will — experiencing the “new thing” of God’s mighty work in your life– but be very forgiving of yourself and those around you when failure rears its head. Create an environment where failures and mistakes are okay: they are simply part of the price paid for taking new ground!
Read Isaiah 6:1-8
In the TV series Mission Impossible, Jim Phelps received his secret mission assignments from a mysterious voice on a tape recorder. Listening carefully, Phelps would hear the voice say “Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it…”
Wouldn’t it be great if God sent out tapes like that? Yet, God has His own process for revealing our mission. He has a purpose for your life for you to discover and fulfill. He doesn’t ask for your ideas or plans; He asks you to seek Him! How can you discover your mission in the heart of God?
Get to know God personally. (vs. 1-5)
Do you have a spiritual hero? I believe Isaiah carried a deep respect for Uzziah, who reigned 52 years as a godly king. When Uzziah died, Isaiah’s hero was gone. Great uncertainty must have filled his heart, wondering what would happen to the nation with the passing of this great man of God.
Perhaps for the first time in his life he was placed in a position of seeking to hear from God on his own—with no help from a spiritual leader. When we lose our spiritual bearings, we should follow Isaiah’s example: he goes where God is. He seeks Him in the temple. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can seek God in prayer anywhere. In James 4:8 we have this promise: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
When Isaiah encountered God, what did He discover? First, he experienced God’s holiness. Isaiah writes that he saw the Lord sitting on a throne. He saw God in human form! How is this possible? Years later, the apostle John explains that Isaiah actually saw Jesus Christ on that day in the temple—a pre-incarnate appearance of the Savior (John 12:41).
Isaiah felt the building shake as the angels proclaimed that God is holy. Isaiah was experiencing the presence of a pure, unstained, uncreated, perfectly good Being: a holy God!
Isaiah immediately became conscious of his own sinfulness. As we draw near to a holy God, we can expect to become increasingly conscious of sin in our own life. In much the way that bringing the lights up in a dimly lit room exposes details we had missed in the darkness, so exposure to the holiness of God will cause us to become painfully aware of our own sin.
As you seek God’s face for specific direction in your life, do not be discouraged when the feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy erupt. Expect this to happen as you approach a holy God.
Be honest with God totally. (vs. 5-8)
Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me” as he begins to confess his sin in detail. He is broken over his sin. He does not try to hide it or dress it up. He exposes his sin before God. If I want to hear the heart of God, it is vital that I confess every sin that comes to mind.
In some cases, repentance may mean going to someone and asking his forgiveness for an offense. It may mean returning or paying for something stolen years ago. When John the Baptist preached the Jesus-endorsed message of repentance, the first question new converts often asked was “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:10, 12, 14). John called these actions the “fruit” of authentic repentance (John 3:8).
Confession leads to cleansing. In the moment of repentance, an angel grabs a coal from the altar (a place where things died for sin) and touches Isaiah’s lips. His sin is purged. He is forgiven. He is clean!
Obey God carefully. (vs. 8)
The cleansing cleared the way for communication. Isaiah suddenly begins to hear the voice of God saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” I believe God had been speaking all along, but Isaiah was out of touch and failed to hear the heart of God.
God’s heart to speak to a generation that is disoriented and devastated by sin is consistent and does not fluctuate. As Isaiah began to align his life with the heart of God—dealing thoroughly with sin and self-centeredness in his own heart—then he began to hear God.
Isaiah’s heart cry–“Here I am, send me”–was the beginning of a lifetime of responsiveness to God’s heart. No longer were two wills vying for control of Isaiah’s life. Now there was only one: Isaiah set his heart to obey God carefully for the remainder of his life.
In Mission Impossible, Jim Phelps had to quickly review the details of the mission, before the tape self-destructed at the end of the message. Phelps and his team had to come up with a plan. They were always on their own.
While God does not send out tapes that self-destruct, I like his method of making mission assignments much better. Unlike Jim Phelps, I don’t have to come up with a plan—God already has one. I’m not on my own either—God goes before His people to accomplish everything He asks them to do. This is Mission Possible!