According to tradition, it was on this day that the last of the Exodus generation – those who were barred from entering Canaan – died in the wilderness. These are the people who refused to enter the land of Canaan at the time God had appointed and, according to Moses, they rebelled against the commandment of the LORD (Deuteronomy 1:26). Their rebellion goes beyond refusing to go into the land; in reality, they refused to function in their purpose. Canaan, a land situated in the midst of the earth, is where God had ordained that His people would dwell. Not only were they to dwell in the midst of the nations, they were to dwell in the midst of their enemies.
This fact speaks to the mandate given to God’s people: that they would be a light to the nations. To do this, they could not dwell in some far, remote corner of the earth where there was little if any interaction with the nations. Light is to be situated in the midst of the darkness, or in this case, the midst of the nations. Accentuating this point is the fact that the Mediterranean Sea borders Israel on the west. “Mediterranean” is derived from Latin words that mean “middle earth.” The point is, God has always intended that His people be in the middle of what’s going on in the world in order to be a light to the world.
When it comes to inhabiting the land of Canaan, there was something that the people of Israel needed to do, as well. They were to keep God’s commandments as a lifestyle. Moses told them:
“So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (Deuteronomy 4:6)
When Israel was in the land, where they were supposed to be, and keeping God’s instructions – doing what they were supposed to do – they were functioning in their purpose; they were being a light to the nations. So when the Exodus generation refused to enter the land, for fear of the giants and the fortified cities, they were refusing to function in their purpose. They were refusing to be a light to the nations. Sadly, the consequence was that there were many people living among the nations who, presumably, never saw the light.
The commission given to us is no different. We are called to be a light to the nations in that particular place He has called us to, doing what He’s instructed us to do. Its not just for our benefit, but for the benefit of those who are in spiritual darkness, many of whom we’ll never meet or know their name. Because we are to be that light, we can’t afford to make the same mistake the children of Israel did. We can’t allow ourselves be immobilized by fear of the darkness and the threats that the world presents to us. We shouldn’t hide our light because, if we do, we are guilty of the very thing that the Israelites of long ago were guilty of. And remember, they were forced to wander in the wilderness as a consequence.
In these troubling times, we must recommit ourselves to our purpose and be like Caleb, a man who had a different spirit than his contemporaries. His attitude was, “Because the Lord said we can do this, we can do this. We can possess the land.” That needs to be our attitude, today. Because He has said we can possess the land, we must boldly engage this culture and do so. We can do what we’ve been designed to do. We can be the light to this generation. People, many of whom we will never meet or know their name, are dependent upon us to keep our focus and function in our purpose. Be salt and light. Be strong and of good courage for the LORD your God goes before you.