Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart… (Deuteronomy 1:28)
Israel lived as slaves in Egypt. In the wilderness, the people struggled with human nature, basic needs such as food and water. Moreover, enemies encircled them and threatened their existence.
With so much going against them, we probably have no room to criticize them for their many failures. Of course, when the people sinned, things got even worse for them. To their credit, however, the people kept pursuing the Promised Land, knowing that one day they would meet their destiny.
During the journey, even the diabolical strategy of Baalim failed to dissuade the Israelites from pursuing their goal.
It never happened.
As the people prepared to take their rightful place in the land that God promised to give them, something amazing happened. All they had to do is cross one more river. They only needed to believe a short while longer before their dreams would become reality.
It never happened.
After an arduous journey, the people failed to receive the land and prosperity that was theirs to take.
They all died
After reaching the Jordan River, the people turned back. They would waste away in the wilderness until everyone who was older than 20 died over a period of 40 years (one year for every day the Hebrew spies explored the land of Canaan).
The next generation
God pardoned the people, yet they could not reverse their failure. God gave His promises to the next generation, the children whom the parents feared would be destroyed while claiming their land (Numbers 14:31).
Sure, it’s good news that the children were able to realize the dreams of their parents, but the story still seems tragic.
Why did the people fail?
During their entire trek through the wilderness, the people never faced a permanent setback, until they were on the very last leg of their journey. What could’ve been so much worse than enemy armies attacking, hunger, thirst and personal failures?
Their brethren held them back.
Who’s holding you back?
For Israel, it only would’ve taken some “attaboys” and optimism. Perhaps even compassion from the brethren would’ve made all the difference. Instead, the voice of ten naysayers prevailed over that of two believers. The result was an entire generation failing to realize their potential.
Have you been there? I have. At the very moment when fantastic things are about to happen, have those whom you respected or the people closest to you said “NO!”?
The blame game
In our text, the “brethren” did indeed discourage the heart of the people. In fact, God held the ten evil men accountable and killed them with the plague (Numbers 14:37).
The people had neither the will nor the strength to continue in the face of opposition from “the brethren.” Still, God held the people accountable for their failure to overcome.
It could be a parent, a family member, a close friend, a mentor, a leader, or a similar person who holds sway over you. Still, in the end, you are responsible for not seeing your dreams come true.
What to do next
When the people realized that they made a huge mistake, they changed their mind. Despite Moses’ counsel, they attempted to take the Promised Land. The timing was wrong. They had their chance and missed it. They made a mistake that permanently and irreversibly altered their lives.
Learn two lessons from the example of the Israelites:
First, beware of the influencers in your life. You have a dream. God wants you to do great things. Other people, however, might not share your vision. Other people might see nothing but defeat if you pursue the path that God has revealed to you.
Do you want the best that life has to offer you? If so, carefully choose who you empower to influence you. Those who should encourage you could pave the way for your downfall.
Second, realize that going against consensus takes courage and strength. Defying the pontifications of those around you might result in damaged or severed relationships. You might have to pursue your dreams without any external support.
Not only did the 10 evil spies inspire fear, the people were undoubtedly afraid to contradict them. After all, what if they failed after stepping out on their own?
Your mother or father might have plans for your life that don’t match what God wants for you. If they reject you, you’re on your own regardless of whether you succeed or fail. Even in a church setting, those who you counted on for support might discourage you from claiming God’s promises.
What are you going to do?
When people who should support you tell you that you can’t achieve great things, what will you do?
The choice is yours. We all can identify with the fear and uncertainty that the people faced while preparing to cross the river and enter the Promised Land. Still, their failure needn’t be yours.
I want you to know that you can achieve anything that this life experience causes you to desire. God wants good things for you. Ask Him for strength and wisdom. Watch for your opportunity and then act when the time is right, even if you must do it alone.
Don’t let your “brethren” discourage your heart.