By Debbie Dodd
Where do you look when you are afraid? When you’re scared, what are you focused on? I just finished teaching Deuteronomy to seminary students. One of my favorite passages in the book is where Moses challenges the Israelites with this same question.
In chapter 1, Moses is rehearsing God’s history of grace with his people as a basis of encouraging them to obey him in the future faithfully. He reminds them of why they are at the Canaan border a second time, instead of already settled in the land. Thirty-eight years earlier, their parents had stood on the edge of the Promised Land and made a fatal choice. God had commanded them to go into the land, and they had sent twelve spies to evaluate the enemies and map out a battle strategy. Instead, ten of the spies came back with a dual report; first, agreeing with everything that God through Moses had said about the land, to the extent of struggling under the weight of the bounty of the land. Second, they incited fear among the people with the report about giants and the massive cities. These fearmongers fanned the flames of terror in the people to the point where they refused to go into this land that everyone had unanimously agreed was good, and God had promised to give them.
The people respond in three ways:
Their attitude was grumbling and complaining. A believer cannot grumble and have faith at the same time. It’s not only a bad idea, but it’s also impossible. We also know what they thought because they spoke it:
“The Lord hates us. He brought us out here to kill us. We’re like grasshoppers, and they’re giants.”
The people acted and wanted to choose another leader to take them back to Egypt (Had they forgot the slavery and infanticide?). Moses could have challenged their view of themselves: “You can do it! You’re not really as small as grasshoppers. Maybe like small dogs.” He could have challenged their view of the problem: “Things aren’t really that bad. They’re not really giants; they’re only a few inches than you.” Instead, he challenges their view of God.
Rather than teach them something new, Moses reminds them of what they already know. “You’ve already seen that God will fight for you as he did in Egypt. He’s like a father to you and has already carried you. Trust him and stop being afraid.” Moses and the people looked at the same facts, but their conclusions were radically different because of what they chose to focus on.
This passage has challenged me personally in two ways:
- When I’m afraid, it is reflected in my attitude, thoughts, and actions. Those are radically different than my attitudes, thoughts, and actions when I have faith.
- When I’m afraid, where am I focused–At my problems, at myself, or God? And, am I basing my view of God on what I know to be true according to His word?
Deuteronomy challenged me. I again found the book amazingly relevant. Deuteronomy is a hinge book: it helps us understand all that came before it and becomes the interpretative tool to understand the rest of all that follows. May you be challenged to reread it and reflect on its truths for your life.
Photo Credit: The Dodds
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- When you are afraid, how is this reflected in your attitude, thoughts, and actions versus when you have faith?
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