I've been thinking about the difference between the Israelites who left Egypt, and those who entered Canaan. Why did one set always complain, alway grumble, always doubt God?
The contrast between the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan is stark. Sure, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan there were no enemies chasing them, but I can't shake the feeling that if the original generation had been confronted by the Jordan, they would have complained.
So, why the difference?
The best I can come up with is that the original Israelites suffered under slavery to the Egyptians. They were the people of God, yet they still suffered greatly. Sometimes we have to forgive people even if they haven't actually done anything wrong. What if the original Israelites never forgave God for their captivity? He is God, after all: He doesn't need to apologize. Everything in creation is in submission to Him. But what if the Israelites never willfully submitted themselves?
What if they took the mentality, "We are Your chosen people, yet You let us suffer. You owe us!"
That would explain their sense of entitlement, their ingratitude, and their lack of wonder at everything that God was doing for them.
Ever since I read a passage in Beth Moore's "Believing God", and she pointed out that the new generation hadn't been circumcised when they entered Canaan, I've been deeply bothered. This lack of circumcision and upholding the covenant with God seemed like the older generation's final insolence: "If You won't let us go into Canaan then we won't circumcise our children!"
But now I believe there's another dimension: "You let us suffer in slavery in Egypt, and then You brought us out to suffer in the dessert. You promised us Canaan, but then You wouldn't let us enter. You owed us, but You broke Your promises. You called us Your chosen people, but You have broken Your covenant with us. We are no longer Your people, and we refuse to mark ourselves as Your people."
These attitudes, of course, ignore all of the Israelites' disobedience, ingratitude, and lack of trust. But that's how we get when we start to feel self-righteous. Even as I write these words, my soul is pricked with pain. How deceived we can become when we allow a sense of entitlement to govern our outlook.
An Interesting Note:
The scripture would seem to imply that the generation that fell in the desert was the first generation not to circumcise its children (Joshua 5:2 says, "circumcise Israel a second time", implying that before the Israelites stopped, circumcision was continuous since Abraham; in Exodus 4:6, when Zipporah circumcises Moses' son, it seems that this was the expected norm).
If so, this means that all of those generations who suffered slavery without being freed were more faithful than the generation that was actually freed (and thus should have been most grateful).
Another lesson here is: we need to be careful not to let God's blessing and deliverance engender entitlement and ingratitude rather than humility and thanksgiving.
A Clear and Present Danger...
During lockdown, we’ve seen kindness proliferating. But when this is over, it’s far more likely that we’ll simply revert to our old ways and experience little, if any, lasting change. The danger is not that we'll go back to all the old nastiness of our former lives. It's that it will get worse.