We have been freed from this sinful world through the power of the Passover, and now we are walking the desert of faith just before entering into the everlasting heavenly Canaan. Until we enter into eternal joy and glory, we may suffer troubles and hardships (Ro 8:16-18). The people of Israel, while they were on their way to the promised land of Canaan, faced many unfavorable circumstances and obstacles during their 40-year journey through the desert after leaving Egypt, the land of slavery. Likewise, there are many difficulties on the path we walk now.
If we only look at the physical circumstances we currently face, we will be at a loss what to do and have difficulties in finding a solution. However, if we are conscious of God who always walks with us, we can overcome all hardships. God, who is the way, the truth, and the life, is always with us in Zion, the city of truth, and provides a solution for everything.
A man was confined in a glass box. He could see outside, but when he took a few steps forward, he was blocked by the transparent glass wall; he also bumped against the wall when he moved backward, left or right. The moment he felt he was completely confined in the glass box, he fell into despair. No matter how much he tried to find a way out of the box to survive, he had no idea what to do.
He spent several days in despair, and one day he suddenly found himself still alive in the glass box. If he had been locked in a sealed glass container, he would already have been dead. However, he was still breathing. As he came to realize this, he began to think of where he didn’t try to move. Then he found there was one side he didn’t try to move to. It was the top. He naturally thought that the upper side was also partitioned by a glass wall, but when he moved upward, there was no wall.
While walking the path of faith, sometimes we face a problem or situation that seems impossible to solve. If we look at all sides-left, right, front and back-but we can find no way or solution and feel frustrated, being blocked by something, there is still one place we have to look at. It is the upside. Even if all sides are blocked, the upper part is always open. If we look up to God, everything will be solved.
People try to find a way, only looking right and left, back and forth, but there is also the upside. We need to look at the upper side, instead of just looking at the walls around us and getting frustrated. If we look up to heaven, we will find the existence of God who helps us. However, if we look right, left, back and forth at the same level as the human eye, all sides seem to be blocked off by the walls. We must not forget that there is always an open space, even though all sides are blocked, on our journey of faith.
Most of the Israelites tested God and complained against Him on their journey to Canaan, so they all perished in the desert. The people who were destroyed at that time were those who didn’t look up to God but just looked at the circumstances around them.
In the second year after the Exodus, Israel picked a leader from each of the 12 ancestral tribes and sent them to explore the land of Canaan (Nu 13:1-20). When they returned from spying out the land at the end of forty days, they reported to Moses and the whole assembly. There were two conflicting reports.
At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly . . . “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. . . . We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, . . . And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” . . . Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. 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.” But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. Nu 13:25-14:10
Ten of the twelve spies, who had been selected from among 600,000 men, one from each tribe, gave a negative report when they returned from exploring the land of Canaan. Actually, they didn’t give a false report. As they reported, there were descendants of Anak, a tribe of giants, in the land of Canaan, and the city of Jericho, inhabited by them, was a strongly fortified city. While the Israelites were exhausted from travelling through the desert, the inhabitants of the land were training a powerful army consisting of strong and tall soldiers, eating rich food. So, they couldn’t help but think it was impossible to defeat them.
Contrary to them, Joshua and Caleb cried out, “We will swallow them up,” even though it seemed impossible. To the Israelites, the report of the ten spies seemed realistic and accurate, while the two men seemed like dreamers. However, God acknowledged the report of Joshua and Caleb.
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? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. . . . ‘The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.’ . . . forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, . . . but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. . . . In this desert your bodies will fall-every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.” Nu 14:11-30
God was enraged at those who treated Him with contempt, for the ten spies only spoke about the situation of the land and they didn’t tell the people the fact that God was with them in that situation. They only looked at the barriers around them and failed to see the upside which was open. It was true that all sides were closed, but it was also true that the upside was open. However, they failed to report it. God pronounced a judgment that none of the Israelites, who grumbled against God, would enter Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey.
Only Joshua and Caleb accurately reported the fact that God was with them. The reality of the land which the ten spies saw was totally different from what the two men, Joshua and Caleb, looked at. The ten only spoke about the barriers, but Joshua and Caleb also told about the ceiling that was open.
Through Moses God chose the most trustworthy people with the strongest faith from among 600,000 men, but only two of the twelve men were conscious of God. How deplorable and heartbreaking! All who read the Bible may think that they will follow in the footsteps of Joshua and Caleb. However, if they are actually confined in a glass box, it is not easy for them to look upward.
In this age, people like Joshua and Caleb are needed. Those who say about the present situation but do not speak of God who is with them in that situation cannot be like Joshua and Caleb. The more gloomy and difficult our current situation is and the more tightly the glass walls confine us, the more we should look at the upside, shouldn’t we?
It was not long after the Israelites saw the great power God displayed against the Egyptians that they began to grumble against God. They were also continuously observing God’s miracle of raining down bread from heaven for them every day.
When God rained down bread from heaven, there were only a few people who could look above. This occurred precisely a month after the Israelites left Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month: As a month passed by, the food they had brought with them out of Egypt had almost run out. They looked all around, but there was nothing for them to eat.
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. . . ” Ex 16:1-5
Moreover, the land the Israelites were proceeding towards was not a fertile land which could produce various crops or fruits for them to eat, but it was a dry, barren wilderness. They could reach Canaan in about 10 days if they took a shortcut through Edom. However, God led them on a long journey through the desert, and their destination was still far away although they went on and on. They thought they would all die even before arriving at the destination. So, they grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying it would have been better for them to stay in Egypt.
God also excluded these people. The ten spies reported to Moses what they really saw, and the people, who grumbled against Moses and Aaron because there was no food, just explained the circumstances they were in. However, what they saw with their eyes was different from the reality in the invisible world.
God had already prepared food for them. From the barn He had prepared in heaven, He rained down bread for them every day. Nevertheless, they just looked down, right and left, without seeing upward, so they couldn’t find food anywhere. God classified such people into a group that would be destroyed in the desert. So the Apostle Paul repeatedly emphasized in 1 Corinthians that we should not follow their example.
. . . our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. . . 1 Co 10:1-13
God let those things happen to the Israelites as examples and warnings for us, so that we should not be like them. If we carefully observe what kind of people God was not pleased with and who were destroyed in the desert, we can find an answer to the question-’What kind of faith should we have in this age?’
When we walk the way to our heavenly home, we need the same kind of resolution as is required to walk the desert. On our journey, however, God is always with us. As we forget this, we feel helpless like a man who is confined in a glass box, but in actuality our own view of reality is not real. In fact, the upper side is open, and all the other sides are also open. Nevertheless, we confine ourselves in artificial boundaries made by our own thoughts.
Through the historical facts of Israelites’ life in the desert, let’s consider whether we look up and see all things that God operates or we just look back and forth, left and right, as we walk the desert of faith today.
In order to accomplish God’s work of saving the world, we are now making all efforts to find the “salt of the world” that will purify the whole world like the three percent of salt which purifies sea water. If we tell the good news to all nations, we will not always be in a favorable situation where they open their minds right away and listen to our preaching but we will face many difficult situations. We may feel confined in a glass box if we look back and forth, left and right. However, the upper side is always open.
The Bible tells us to cast all our anxiety on God (1 Pe 5:7). None of us by worrying can add a single hour to our life, and we cannot make even one hair white or black (Mt 6:27; 5:36). If God has said that He will bring us out of Egypt and lead us to Canaan through the desert of faith, God will surely accomplish the work by any means. So, all we have to do is go forward, depending only on God.
Just as God said that He carried His people on eagles’ wings and brought them to Himself, He now leads us by His power. While being carried on the eagles’ wings, we don’t need to worry whether the eagles can fly while carrying us.
God is always with us in reality. Nevertheless, the ten spies forgot the fact that there is the invisible world as well as the visible world, and they only spoke about the reality of the visible world. God said they would never enter Canaan. While God gave the physical Israelites Canaan as the land of rest, He has given the spiritual Israelites Heaven as the place of eternal rest for them. So, if God has told anyone that he will not enter Canaan, it means that he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
I earnestly hope that none of our brothers and sisters in Zion will fall away from God on the journey to the heavenly Canaan. We should be always conscious of God and look up to Him so that we can all enter the kingdom of God. Even though it seems that we are now in unfavorable circumstances where there is no food and that we are weak and feeble compared to them, we have God always standing by our side.
If we are conscious of God, we can overcome any fearful situation, as did Daniel and his three friends-Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. As they were conscious of God even in the dreadful situation, God shut the mouths of the lions and prevented the fiery furnace from harming them (Daniel 3, 6). Like them, those who always think of God live a miraculous life every day, but those who do not have God on their side live a difficult and painful life.
In the desert of faith, there are two kinds of people: people like Joshua and Caleb, and people like the ten spies. We need to carefully consider whose footsteps we should follow in, so that we will not end up regretting at the end of our journey to heaven. Let’s not only look at the external reality of the physical world, but see the reality of the spiritual world with our spiritual eyes like Joshua and Caleb, and follow our Father and Mother wherever They lead us, until the end.