This past Sunday morning, our family got a special surprise. Some friends of ours that we had not seen in a long time were in the area and decided to surprise us by meeting us at church for worship. When they are in town, there is one restaurant that we all know we love to eat at, so there was no long discussion about where lunch was going to be after church. Our friends were pretty sure they remembered the way, but they said they would follow us just in case. You all know what happened next. When I got in our car, I told Amy, “Now don’t forget, their following us!”
Whenever we are going somewhere as part of a caravan, it always seems that somebody has to remind the lead driver that everybody else is following them. I wonder why. Are we saying to that person: “Don’t drive like you usually do – drive well”? “I know you don’t usually pay attention behind the wheel, so you need to make sure you do now”? Are we afraid that somehow we might lose the rest of the caravan, never to see them again? In this day and age of smartphones and GPS, that would seem less likely than ever. But still, it seems like we just can’t stop ourselves from saying it: “Don’t forget – they are following us.”
At a place called Kadesh, which means “Spring of Decision”, Israel had a decision to make. God is offering them the opportunity to leave Kadesh and enter the Promised Land. The Israelites asked 12 men to enter the land and give them a scouting report of what lies ahead. All the men come back proclaiming how beautiful and bountiful the land is. 10 of them, however, speak with woe that the people already living in the land are strong and mighty and that Israel faces certain defeat if it tries to cross into Canaan. Even though Joshua and Caleb, the other 2 men sent to check things out, encourage Israel to move forward with confidence in God’s strength, Israel decides that this whole Exodus thing has been a huge mistake. They grumble against God and Moses and declare that it would have been better to just die in the desert than come this far to face certain destruction (Numbers 14:1-3).
So what does God say in response? “As I live, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and all of your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you… And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lie in the wilderness.” (Numbers 14:28-30, 33).
Israel complained against their leaders, but they forgot that they were leaders too. And because of their grumbling and complaining, not only did they lose the chance to enter the Promised Land themselves, but they forced their children to grow up wandering in a desert rather than settling in a land flowing with milk and honey.
Our decisions are not just about us. Our decisions impact others. We, too, can decide whether we will grumble or be faithful. We, too, can decide whether we will follow in faith or rebel in fear. The choice is ours.
But, don’t forget, there are others who are following us.