ONE BAD DECISION: A GOOD IDEA GONE AWRY

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. But, if you’re like me, we make many of our decisions spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but also for the many others whose lives are intertwined with  ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? Sometimes a single decision will change us for the better. And sometimes a single decision will change us for the worse.

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the singular decision that some people in the Bible made that changed their lives forever…for the worse. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word it’ll give us reason to stop and think about both the long-term and short-term ramifications of the decisions we make. Lots of forethought and prayer, I’m convinced, will save us from the pain and regret of a hastily-made decision for the worse.

A GOOD IDEA GONE AWRY

We all have good ideas. Sometimes they really are good. Other times, they just seem good to us at the time, but really they’re not. The hardest part to understand or accept is the fact that SOMETIMES GOOD IDEAS CAN HAVE TOTALLY UNFORESEEN, REALLY BAD, CONSEQUENCES. Here’s a case in point.

The Israelites have journeyed out of 400 years of bondage and slavery in Egypt. They’ve trudged wearily through the hot desert sands and finally arrived at a place called Kadesh-barnea. It’s the last desert town. Beyond it lay Canaan, the land of promise. It was their destination and home. Excitement was in the air as the travel-weary Israelites finally got within sight of home.

Moses, the leader of the Israelites, called for a nation-wide assembly. You’ve finally come to the land of promise. This is the land that the Lord your God has promised you. It’s yours. And it rightfully belongs to  you. Unfortunately, there are people living in this land. The natives aren’t going to hand over their lands and vineyards to you. You’re going to have to take it from them. This means war. But don’t be fearful or disheartened. We’ve got a huge fighting force here. With God on our side and with your prayers, we’re going to go in and take possession of the land, one acre at a time, one city at a time, one step at a time. With God’s help we will take possession of the land!

It really was a rousing speech. You’d think the Israelites would be all pumped up and ready to launch their invasion. In hindsight, that’s what they should have done right away. God had given the marching order. The battle cry had been sounded. It was time to go in and fight and take possession of the land.

But the fearful and unbelieving have a way of making things more difficult and complicated. They have a way of making themselves heard. They weren’t convinced that the war was going to be a piece of cake. They had an idea. And, quite honestly, at first sound, the idea was a really good one. It made perfect sense. Whoa, Nelly. Let’s not be so hasty and get ourselves into something we don’t know anything about. We have no idea what lies ahead of us. We don’t know where the enemies are or how strong their city walls or forts are. Let’s send a scouting party out so that they can spy out the land, know the terrain, know the enemy’s strongholds, strengths, and weaknesses. We don’t have cameras. But at least they can draw us a map and show us where we need to attack. Let them see what’s ahead of us so that we’ll know where and when to start our invasion (Deuteronomy 1:22).

The idea made good military sense. Joshua used it when he launched his invasion of Canaan forty years later. Every nation under the sun, even to this very day, reconnoiters the land before launching an invasion or attack. That’s how things are done. That’s how wars are fought. And won.

The only problem was, that’s not what God told them to do. Yes, it may have been a good idea. But GOOD IDEAS AREN’T REALLY GOOD WHEN THEY CONTRADICT OR DISOBEY GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS. God’s instructions were, Go and take possession of the land. Don’t be scared or intimidated by the enemy. I will give the enemy and their lands into your hands (Deuteronomy 1:20-21).

Moses should have listened to God. But, unfortunately, He listened to the fearful and unbelieving. So twelve spies were chosen and sent to scout out the land.

After forty days of reconnoitering the land, the spies came back with a mixed report. We went to the land where you sent us. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s some of its fruit.  (28)  But the people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak there.  (29)  The Amalekites live in the Negev. The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountain region. And the Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and all along the Jordan River  (Numbers 13:27-29).

Turned out, the land itself was good. But the people in it weren’t. They were militaristic and militarily equipped. They lived in walled cities. Impregnable fortresses more like it. The land was well populated with many different races of people. And worse of all, the giants, the sons of Anak, lived there.

Naturally, the news was dismal and it caused quite a ruckus among the people. Joshua and Caleb tried to calm the people and get them to focus on the God who would lead them into battle and to the victory. But nothing doing. The fear and unbelief of a minority spread like wildfire until it consumed the entire nation.

Numbers 13:30-33  tells the story. Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.”  (31)  But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!”  (32)  So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall.  (33)  We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.”

Long story short, the Israelites refused to go to battle. The Lord punished them by making them spend forty years wandering aimlessly in the desert until an entire generation of murmuring, fearful, unbelieving Israelites perished in the desert sands.

So what began with a good idea ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people, if not a million or more, over a forty-year span of aimless, senseless desert travel. I dare say, they lost more people in the desert than they would have had they obeyed the Lord and launched an immediate invasion. The desert—not the war nor Israel’s enemies—ended up killing the great majority of the Israelites.

So you’ve got a good idea, huh? As long as it agrees with God’s ideas, that’s mighty fine and dandy. But you’d better make sure first before you follow through on what you think is the best or the right thing to do. Learn from the Israelites, dear friends. IF GOD TELLS YOU TO DO SOMETHING, THEN DO IT. DON’T LET YOUR BRIGHT IDEAS, OR ANYONE ELSE’S FOR THAT MATTER, FOOL YOU INTO DISOBEYING GOD. GOOD IDEAS CAN GET YOU KILLED IF YOU DON’T LISTEN TO GOD AND OBEY HIM. In this sad and tragic way, what parades as a really good idea is anything but good for you. A GOOD IDEA THAT INSPIRES FEAR, UNBELIEF, AND DISOBEDIENCE IS REALLY A BAD IDEA. Any dead Israelite buried in the sand will tell you that.

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