Comfort is a powerful motivator. It takes many forms such as physical comfort. Think … couch potato. There is also financial comfort, which is really a mental comfort. There is comfort in knowing what we think will happen; predictability. There is the comfort of running with the herd and not holding ideas that the herd does not hold. After all, we like the comfort of being liked. There is also the comfort of safety. We hate to walk into a seemingly dangerous situation without knowing the predictable outcome.
We can each point to many situations in our life where we have desired, sought, or had one or all of those comforts. Comfort is not bad. However, when comfort interferes with our obedience to the Lord, it must be set aside. Consider the story of the 12 spies of Israel in Numbers chs. 13-14. The Lord commissioned Moses to send spies into Israel. The report of those spies was the exceeding goodness of the land. However, 10 of the spies reported their fear over the people who inherited the land, expressing doubt and a lake of faith in God, and from that the people were unfaithful.
Yet in all that tumult, Caleb and Hoshea (renamed by Moses to Joshua) remained steadfast.
“Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.” (Numbers 14:1–10, ESV)
The people could only see the problems before them. Astonishingly to us they looked back on their bondage in Egypt, bondage they had cried out to the Lord to deliver them from, as a desirable comfort over and above God’s covenant promise of land. Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing.
Even though God was visibly and manifestly leading the Israelites on their Exodus the people still lacked the faith to trust God and enter the land he had promised to them. Yet a few spoke up. Caleb and Joshua cautioned them not to rebel because the Lord was with them. Their trust was not in their own ability to overcome the strong and settled Canaanites, but in the Lord who had removed their congregation and would give them victory because he had promised it.
The reaction of the people? They sought to murder them. Except for God’s glorious appearing at the Tabernacle, they might have done it. His judgment followed closely as well. None of those whom he had delivered from Egypt and had seen his miraculous signs, yea, God’s very glory at the tent would step foot in the promised land. For 40 years the Israelites would wander the desert in judgment for their lack of faith at God’s provision.
How do you think it felt to be Caleb and Joshua? 40 years of “I told you so?” I wonder if the people hated them for their faith or if they repented? Did Caleb and Joshua get bitter at their brothers and sisters for having to sojourn in the desert for 40 years rather than taking the land promised to them by God and living in it?
Faith is often uncomfortable. We can be faithful and yet suffer for it. The idea that faith and comfort are tightly related needs to be smashed to bits. At least, comfort the way we rich westerners think of it. There is comfort in obedience, but it is the comfort of an unburdened conscience.
As the west descends into a Judges like cadence with no deliverance in sight, “And every man did what was right in his own eyes,” resolve to be like Caleb and Joshua. Remain faithful to God and trust he will do what he says. The culture is increasingly calling sin good, and calling obedience to God, evil. Whether you are delivered now, or have a wilderness wandering experience for the rest of your life, you are here to glorify God and point others to the salvation offered in Jesus Christ. Live the comfortable life of an unburdened conscience. Have clean hands and a pure heart before God, living as he demands and not as the world demands.