And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
The Testing Of God
Four decades had passed since the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea on dry land and the Lord made them a great nation feared by all. Now the Israelite nation stood before the Jordan River poised to cross again on dry land and begin the conquest of the Promised Land. Moses has been forbidden to enter the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He views the rich land of bounty from Mount Pisgah where he will die. He writes the final legacy of the children of Israel exhorting them to be faithful and follow the commandments of the Lord. The book of Deuteronomy is a history lesson for the Hebrews to understand the nature of God and how He blessed the generation before and will bless the new generation if they will heed His word. The generation that stands ready to enter Canaan watched their parents and grandparents die in the wilderness. Moses reminds the people that God led Israel through the wilderness for forty years to humble the people and to test their faith. The Lord wanted to know what was in the heart of His people if they would retain their allegiance to Him or deny Him.
The forty years in the wilderness were hard years for Israel. They had first come to Kadesh-Barnea where they could enter Canaan and begin the conquest. Because of a lack of trust in the power of God, the people heeded the warnings of ten spies and rebelled against the word of God. In His wrath, the Lord declared Israel would wander one year for every day the spies were in Canaan. Forty years would see the deaths of everyone above the age of twenty. Throughout the wilderness journeys, the people murmured, complained, rebelled, and started insurrections against Moses and Aaron. In just four short decades, the Hebrews were decimated with plagues, snakes, and the wrath of God bringing judgment against a rebellious people. What happened to Israel was not a coincidence. Throughout the forty years, the Lord was testing the heart of the people to know if they were willing to serve Him and obey Him.
Two reasons are given by Moses why God punished Israel for forty years. It was the plan of God to humble the Israelites and to prove their character. In many ways the people failed; yet in many other ways, the people succeeded. Moses reminds Israel that God needed to take the pride and arrogance out of the people as they enjoyed the blessings of a righteous God. It was easy for the people to take for granted all the Lord had given them. They did not go hungry or lack for water during the forty years. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell during those forty years. Enemies were defeated by the hand of the Lord. Israel was a nation blessed above all other nations on the earth and yet they still did not appreciate the blessings of God. The Lord made things hard for them to test them and see what kind of character they had. For many, the test of God proved they could not remain faithful. During times of crisis, the weak strengthened their resolve to deny God and perished. At the same time, men like Joshua and Caleb increased their faith in the Lord as they faced the trials of life becoming stronger in their resolve to serve the Lord. The forty years of crisis proved what was in the heart of the people.
There is a great crisis overshadowing the world and impacting the nation of God’s people. Like Israel of old many murmur, complain, rebel, and refuse to serve the Lord. The pandemic has opened the weakness of their faith giving them more resolve to serve the world rather than the Lord. Instead of turning to the family of God in the body of Christ for greater strength, they have embraced the religion of convenience and ease to worship in their own way. The COVID virus has changed the face of the world and the character of the church. For many, it has heightened preexisting weaknesses that are now driving them away from serving the Lord. They are failing the test. In the midst of the pandemic, many have become stronger and more resolute to draw closer to one another and the Lord. Tests of life will always do two things: make a person stronger or expose their weakness.
When this pandemic is over and we stand on the banks of another day, who will be left? Like Israel of old, there will be those who perished in the wanderings of COVID-19 who lost their way, lost their faith, and gave up. The new day will be conquered by those who kept the commandments of the Lord, vanquished their fears, and devoted their hearts to serve the Lord. This pandemic says a lot about the hearts of God’s people. What does your heart say?