Embracing Surrender Theological Musings

Obstacles Toward Surrender: Israel’s Promised Land


God made a promise to the Israelites that they would make their homes in the most fruitful prosperous land available. It was simply theirs for the taking, and yet after being shown the endless flow of milk and honey and eating the largest fruits they’ve ever seen; the Israelites rejected God’s offer. They struggled to fully surrender to God’s will due to the three main obstacles.

Scripture reading: Numbers 13 and 14

Three Obstacles Toward Surrender

Obstacle 1: Lack of Faith

There is one person who spoke with confidence after returning from exploring Canaan. Caleb declared to all who would hear him that the Israelites could certainly conquer the land. He was ready and prepared to march into Canaan the very next day to claim his home. “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Num. 13:30)

Even though the Canaanites were powerful and their cities strongly fortified, Caleb had no doubts. His faith in God was stronger than his fear of the enemy. In the very next chapter Joshua supported Caleb’s claims, “If the Lord is pleased, he will lead us into that land….and will give it to us” (Num. 14: 8). The rest of the Israelites however had strong doubts. They didn’t trust God to follow through on His promise. 

Obstacle 2: Lies and False Information

The second obstacle toward surrender was that the Israelites’ doubts were fueled by the spread of false information. Those who had explored the land with Caleb spread rumors that Canaan was a dangerous place. “The land we explored devours those living in it” (Num. 13:32). In other words, Canaan is a place that breads destruction. They spread rumors that the land was uninhabitable because of the great and powerful nations already living there.   

This is the same place that was flowing with milk and honey and offered an endless supply of bountiful fruits. The spies had traversed the land for 40 days. The whole time they were traveling they did not want for anything. They even had food left over by the time they returned home because Canaan was in fact a bountiful and prosperous land. The only destruction they experienced was the fear in their hearts. 

Obstacle 3: Ignoring God’s Instructions

The spies were correct in their assessment that the cities of Canaan where strong and fortified. After the Israelites repent for their unbelief, they attempt to correct their wrong by declaring themselves ready to conquer Canaan. This confession follows God’s declaration that Israel’s punishment will be to wonder the desert for each day Canaan had been explored by the spies. Consequently, Israel is no longer in the position to conquer Canaan.

Perhaps Israel was hoping to avoid the punishment of wondering in the desert for 40 years. Maybe their confession of sin was genuine, but once again they failed to listen to God. They wanted to march into Canaan without God’s blessing and Moses correctly rebukes them. “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies” (Num. 14: 41-42). 

Looking Ahead

Now that we’ve identified some of the obstacles toward surrender, I want to next turn our attention toward how we can chose surrender. Jesus provides the perfect example during his time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Come back next week to read about the three things Jesus did when choosing surrender. 

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