We have noted in the previous sharing that God’s people (from Old Testament and New Testament) should not take God’s grace and mercy for granted. Although the Scripture reveals many promises of God to His people, the Scripture also has serious, sober and stern warnings for His people not to stray away from God’s ways and desires for them.
Warnings against unbelief and disobedience
“And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest (the promised land), but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. Therefore, while his promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them (Israelites), but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 3:18-19; 4:1-2).
Notice the relationship between unbelief and disobedience – our failure to exercise faith in God invariably leads to disobedience to Him.
We see this demonstrated vividly in Deuteronomy 1:26-32:
“Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of Anakim there.’ Then I (Moses) said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes., and in the wilderness where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son all the way that you went until you came to this place. Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God,…”
Although God had promised Israel that He would bring them into the promised land and clear the way for them to inherit this land, yet they lost sight of their faith and confidence in God and His promises. They ‘walked by sight’ and not by faith – the ‘giants’ in the land frightened them and they forgot that God would fight for them (as He promised). They disobeyed God and rejected His command to go up. The people forgot how God delivered them miraculously from Egypt and how He guided them, provided for them all the way until they reached the ‘edge’ of the promised land; they even accused God of hating them and seeking to destroy them.
This sounds familiar to us, believers in the New Testament, the church. How often we are ‘derailed’ from focusing on God and His promises by faith; how often we allow the circumstances to cause us to murmur, complain against God and we quickly forget God’s goodness and faithfulness to us in the past. We may even ‘slander’ God by accusing HIm of hating us and turning against us, seeking to destroy us.We allow the ‘giants’ to frighten us and we lose sight of God’s promises and His love for us demonstrated at the cross.
“We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:9-10). Notice that those of Israel who rebelled against God in the wilderness were said to be putting Christ to the test – we see here the parallel truth for us believers in the church today.
The Apostle Paul exhorted us:
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Philippians 2:14-16).
The work of God’s servants among His people in the church will be in vain if His people murmur and grumble against God in disobedience and unbelief.
Going back to the ‘olive tree’, Paul wrote:
“Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true.They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note the kindness and the severity of God; severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:19-22).
We must continue in faith and obedience and not take God’s kindness for granted; the warning is clear and the consequence may be severe. We must not make the mistake of those who fell in the wilderness when the promised land is just beyond. Remember God’s goodness, faithfulness, promises and do not be led astray to unbelief and disobedience, for the stakes are high and the consequences are eternal!