When the Israelites finally reached the Promised Land, they believed in their circumstances instead of having faith that God would do what he said he would do. 

That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud…Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

Numbers 14:1,3 (NIV)

Because of their constant complaining and unbelief, the Lord decides to destroy the Israelites and make a new people from Moses. However, Moses intervenes for the Israelites and asks the Lord to forgive them. The Lord forgives the Israelites but refuses to allow them to enter the Promised Land.

Not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.

Numbers 14:22-23 (NIV)

After Moses told the Israelites what the Lord said, that they would wander for 40 years as shepherds in the wilderness while only their children (under 20) would enter the Promised Land; the Israelites do something curious. 

Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!”

Numbers 14:40 (NIV)

Why did the Israelites change their mind? Why didn’t they do what the Lord told them to do in the first place? Earlier, they didn’t believe the Lord, and now they do. Indeed, it appears as if they’ve seen the error of their ways since they said, “we have sinned!”

Before the Israelites set out to leave, Moses questions their actions.

But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, for the Amalekites and the Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.”

Numbers 14:41-43 (NIV)

However, they don’t listen to Moses. 

Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp (emphasis added)

Numbers 14:44 (NIV)

What did the Israelites presume? From Numbers 14:40, we might think they imagined they were at fault; “Surely we have sinned.” That they had been wrong and the Lord was right. Yet, Moses tells them the Lord isn’t with them, and they will fail. Furthermore, Moses and the ark of the covenant (symbols of God’s presence and acceptance) stay in the camp. The Israelites presumed that their way was best, and they knew what they were doing. 

When I asked the Lord why the Israelites tried to go into the Promised Land and didn’t listen to him, he gave me this verse.

For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.

Isaiah 30:9 (NIV)

“[They] are [a] rebellious people.” The Israelites did what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it, just like kids who seem to do the opposite of what they are told to do.

The claims in Numbers 14:40 to “go up to the land the Lord promised” and they “had sinned” were displays of false piety and a desire to not accept the consequences of their sin. Neither were actual acts of repentance. 

Consider King David, who, after being told that his illegitimate son by Bathsheba would die. David repented in sackcloth with ashes hoping the Lord would turn from his wrath and that his son would live. Or the Ninevites who repented at the preaching of Jonah in sackcloth. These were cases of true repentance. Even King Ahab. Who the Bible tells us was one of a kind in his evil deeds, put on sackcloth in repentance, and the Lord postponed the disaster for Ahab’s house to another generation. 

The Israelite’s “repentance” was more like the rich man in Luke who, having found himself in Hades, asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to the land of the living to warn his brothers. 

“‘ No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Luke 16:30-31 (NIV)

The rich man didn’t care about God’s word. He just didn’t want his family to suffer his fate. Neither did the Israelites believe in God’s word. They wanted to do what they wanted and didn’t want to suffer for their sins. 

The picture of the Israelites being barred from the Promised Land and then trying to get into it anyway is a sad image of how the world will respond when Jesus returns. 

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:10-11 (NIV)

Those who know the Lord in the pardon of their sins will enter into Heaven, but those who do not will be cast into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, wishing they had believed before it was too late. 

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.