Rebellion against the Lord Deuteronomy 1:26-46

How important is it to obey God? When God clearly calls us to do something, how important is it that we do what He commands us? How serious is it if we do not have enough faith to obey? How serious is that? As we think about that question and look at the Old Testament we come to a disturbing conclusion. Refusing to obey God is a lot more serious than we might think!

So God commands us to do something. He promises us great blessings but we don’t enough faith to claim those blessings. What’s the worst that can happen? We might think that the worst that could happen is that we miss out on the blessings God has promised. Lots of faith brings lots of blessings. Less faith and we miss out on the blessings. That may be true – but failing to obey God is much more serious than that!! In the Book of Deuteronomy refusing to obey God and failing to trust God were actually acts of rebellion.

Deut 1:20 Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. 21 See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
So they sent out twelve spies into the promised land. All twelve spies brought back good reports about the land flowing with milk and honey. But ten of the twelve brought back warnings about the strength of the people in the promised land and their fortified cities, saying (in Numbers 13 ) “We can’t attack these people. They are stronger than we are. Only two Spies Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people saying, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it!” “And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” So said Joshua and Caleb.
But the rest of the Israelites refused to believe. They even thought of stoning Joshua and Caleb.
So Moses said to the Israelites, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”
Despite Moses’ pleading we read that the Israelites refused to put their trust God. That was their sin – unbelief. That was worse than just a lack of faith. That was a stubborn refusal to believe and obey. The Israelites knew they did not have the strength in themselves to take possession of the Promised Land. But they refused to believe that God would give them the strength. They refused to trust God to fight for them.
And it was this unbelief which made Almighty God angry. So we read in Numbers 14:10-11
“Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?
Refusing to believe in God. Treating God with contempt. These are serious sins. The consequences were not just that the Israelites missed out on the wonderful blessings God had ready and waiting for them in the promised land. The results were much more serious than that.
34 When the LORD heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35 “Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.
37 Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. 40 But as for you, turn round and set out towards the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”
What’s the worst that can happen if we do not obey God? The Israelites did not only miss out on the blessings. They came under God’s judgment and not one of them entered the promised land! They ended up wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years – and then that whole generation died! All because they refused to trust and obey.
The New Testament comments on these events, warning Christians not to fall into the same sins as the Israelites did.

Hebrews 3:7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

A sinful unbelieving heart! Refusing to obey God. Refusing to step out in faith trusting in God’s strength and God’s provision. They didn’t just miss out on the blessings. They came under God’s judgment!
18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Disobedience and unbelief. Not believing God’s promises is not just a failure of belief but a positive attitude of UNBELIEF
Alexander Maclaren: “Disobedience is the root of unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience. Faith is voluntary submission within a person’s own power. If faith is not exercised, the true cause lies deeper than all intellectual reasons. It lies in the moral aversion of human will and in the pride of independence, which says, “who is Lord over us? Why should we have to depend on Jesus Christ?” As faith is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, but unbelief leads on to higher-handed rebellion. With dreadful reciprocity of influence, the less one trusts, the more he disobeys; the more he disobeys, the less he trusts.”
This Old Testament story warns us against unbelief. But Jesus Himself also warns us to depend on God and not rely on our own strength. Remember the parable of the true vine in John 15. Jesus said, “I am the true vine”.
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

God calls us to trust him and obey Him. All kinds of wonderful blessings are promised if we remain in the vine, if we abide in Christ.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
Blessings of answered prayer
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
Answered prayer and fruitful lives.
8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Fruitful lives. The fruit of good works which bring glory to God. The fruit of the Spirit, the character of Christ. The fruit of new Christians who find faith through us.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Joy – not joy as the world gives it but joy which springs from Christ Himself – His joy!
14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
A special relationship with God – for Jesus to call us His friends! Joy. Fruitfulness. Answered prayer. These and so many blessings which God promises to us if we will only remain united to Jesus.

The challenge is for us as Christians to stay abiding in Christ. And how do we do this?
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
My words remain in you – feeding on the Word of God – Scripture!
Ask whatever you wish – prayer.
10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Obedience – to all Christ’s commands –supremely:
Love – God’s kind of sacrificial love.

Abiding in Christ is simple. Scripture. Prayer. Obedience. Love.

So what happens if we fail to abide in Christ? What is the worst that can happen? Of course we will miss out on the wonderful blessings God promises.
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Apart from me you can do nothing. If we fail to abide in Christ we will miss out on the blessings Christ has for us. If we try to serve God in our own strength, with our own plans, in our own efforts, we will achieve nothing. Our lives will be fruitless. True. But actually the worst that can happen is far worse than that. Jesus himself goes on and warns us!
. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

We don’t just miss out on the blessings. We get thrown away! Now I don’t believe that this means that Christians who fail to abide in Christ lose their salvation. There are plenty of other places where Jesus teaches that once we are saved we are always saved. But what Jesus could well be saying is that if we fail to abide in Him, if we keep on trying to do God’s work in our own strength, the results will more serious than us simply not achieving anything. Jesus says apart from me you can do nothing. If we persist in thinking we CAN achieve anything in our own strength, we will come under God’s judgment! We can come to the point where God will not choose use us to bear fruit for His Kingdom any longer, because we do everything in our own strength.

Because that is exactly what happened to the Israelites after they failed to put their trust in God!

41 Then you replied, “We have sinned against the LORD. We will go up and fight, as the LORD our God commanded us.” So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country.
42 But the LORD said to me, “Tell them, ‘Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.’ ”
43 So I told you, but you would not listen. You rebelled against the LORD’s command and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country. 44 The Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you; they chased you like a swarm of bees and beat you down from Seir all the way to Hormah. 45 You came back and wept before the LORD, but he paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you.

The Israelites refused to step out in faith to take possession of the promised land. They refused to trust that God would help them. But when God became angry with them, they disobeyed a second time, this time by going out to fight in their own strength. Doing exactly what God had commanded them, but in their own strength instead of depending on God. They didn’t just fail in what they tried to do. They came under God’s judgment a second time and God turned a deaf ear to them!

Disobedience and unbelief. Sinful unbelieving hearts. What is the worst that can happen if we fail to obey God and put our trust in God, depending on His strength and not our own? The worst is not just that we miss out on the blessings God has for us. Far worse is that we can make God angry. Disobedience and unbelief are rebellion against God.

So when God calls us to step out in faith for Him and be his witnesses we have some choices. When God calls us to show his kind of love for other people, we have some choices. When God calls us to do something new for him, we have some choices.

We can disobey – not go. Or we can do what God commands. We can trust in His almighty power rather than our feeble human strength. We can show that faith by immersing ourselves in Scripture, by showing Christ’s kind of sacrificial love, and above all by prayer, showing that we know that it is only what God does rather than what we do which counts for anything at all. Then we can do what God commands. And God will be with us!

About

You may also like...

Comments are closed.