The people of ancient Israel were first-hand witnesses of their own divine rescue every step of the way. Regardless, when they arrived at the promised land, they responded with unbelief. God’s discipline meant that entire generation would live out the rest of their lives in the wilderness. Was God finished with them? Would he forsake His wayward people and “start fresh” with the new generation? The answer we find in today’s episode should leave us astounded with the grace of God. Join us.
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer” and I’m so glad that you joined us today as we continue this study, entitled, “Making the Best of a Bad Decision.” Now, if you were with us last time, you know that we spoke about the second best. Oftentimes in life, you look back and you say, “I wish we had made a different decision” but here you are in what we call “the second best.”
The story that we alluded to and talked about is found in the book of Numbers, chapters 13-14, where Israel is sent into the land. You remember there were twelve spies? Ten came back and said, “We can’t do it” — two said, “We can” and God was very angry because the people chose to not take Him at His word and they did not go into the land. And God says, “You are going to wander in this desert for 38 more years, making a total of 40, until this generation dies, but your young people, those who are 20 years of age and under, they will enter but not you” — a nation under discipline. Does this mean that God forsook them and said, “Well, you know, you made your own bed, you have to lie in it”? No, God blessed them even while they were being disciplined.
One day, I just read the book of Numbers and then, of course, Deuteronomy, just to see what God was doing to these people. Now, not all of them died as unbelievers by any means. There were some, sometimes the earth swallowed up some people because of overt disobedience but I expect to see most of the people who wandered in the desert; I expect to see them in heaven. Now, what did God do? He provided forgiveness. First of all, He threatened to actually rub them out, so to speak, and Moses intercedeed and said, “You know, you can’t do that because of your covenant” and then God gave them the blessing of the next generation and says, “You can’t do this but your kids will.”
By the way, that reminds me of a woman by the name of Monica who lived many centuries ago. She was in an arranged marriage, a very unhappy marriage, but she was very Godly and even though, as far as I know, her husband never came to saving faith in Christ, she had a son and you probably already guessed it: we’re talking about Augustine, one of the great writers and defenders of the faith. Isn’t that Interesting? You could say that her marriage to her husband was the second best but out of that God says, “You will have a son and he is going to bless many people.” Never underestimate what God sometimes does even with our bad decisions.
Now, there’s something else and this is most precious to me. God gave them guidance. God said, “During the day, you’re going to be led by a cloud, during the night, a pillar of fire. I am going to be with you and by the way, I’m going to be giving you manna every morning for forty years. I’m going to be feeding you.” All that while they are under discipline for having disobeyed God. You know, sometimes what we need to realize is that grace is very unpredictable but grace does not come to us through closed doors. Maybe today because you are under God’s discipline having made a bad decision and you feel that you are in the midst of the second best (or maybe the third best, or the fourth). The point is this, God is there to say, “I can provide for you, I can forgive you.” But mark my words, He always begins with the heart and then He begins to work beyond the heart to you, to your circumstances, to your environment, to your relationship with others, but always you have to deal with God and God says, “You know, you’re in a desert, aren’t you?” “Yup, I am.” “A desert perhaps of your own making?” “Yup, I’m there because of bad decisions I made.” God said, “Even there, I can meet you, if you let me.”
Now, I want you to make sure that you join us next time because we’re going to be talking about Joshua and Caleb, who were also under discipline and suffering not because they made a bad decision but because others made a bad decision for them. What lessons there are to learn! Thanks for joining us today but as for today, let me simply remind you as you have frequently heard me say, just go with God.