The Scriptorium

Unbelief and Rebellion

God hates them both. Deuteronomy 1.19-33

From Egypt to Moab: Deuteronomy 1, 2 (3)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 78.7-16

That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;
And may not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not set its heart aright,
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows,
Turned back in the day of battle.
They did not keep the covenant of God;
They refused to walk in His law,
And forgot His works
And His wonders that He had shown them.
Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers,
In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
He divided the sea and caused them to pass through;
And He made the waters stand up like a heap.
In the daytime also He led them with the cloud,
And all the night with a light of fire.
He split the rocks in the wilderness,
And gave them drink in abundance like the depths.
He also brought streams out of the rock,
And caused waters to run down like rivers..

Psalm 78.8-16

(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Our fathers were stubborn; they would not obey;
when faced with their foes they in fear turned away.
God’s work of redemption they wholly despised,
forgetting the pow’r He had shown to their eyes.

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 1.19-33

1. What happened when the people arrived at Kadesh Barnea?

2. Why did the people fail to enter the land?

It took eleven days of trudging through the wilderness to arrive at Kadesh Barnea, which was on the southern border of the land of promise. At that point, Moses reiterated God’s command to “go up and possess” the land (v. 21). At that time Moses urged them to recall the promise of God to their forefathers – reminding that generation of their history, even as he was reminding the generation before him of theirs. The implication was clear: God had promised to give this land to their fathers, and He would not fail to keep His Word.

But the people hesitated, asking that spies be sent out into the land to “bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up” (v. 22). Moses agreed, and twelve spies were sent out, one from each tribe, to view the land and bring back samples of its bounty (vv. 23-25). The spies admitted that the land was indeed good; however, they frightened the people by their report of the fortified cities and strong people who lived in the land (vv. 25-28). We remember that only Caleb and Joshua, out of the twelve spies, encouraged the people to go forward in conquest.

The people blamed the Lord for wanting to destroy them (vv. 26, 27); and they refused to enter the land of promise. Though Moses urged them on, reminding them that God was with them, that He had carried them through eleven hard days of journey, and led them by the cloud and fire, still, the people refused to go forward (vv. 28-33). Their unbelief was seen by God as rebellion (v. 26), as all unbelief ultimately is.

God had promised. He had delivered them with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. He had been with them and provided for them throughout their journey through the wilderness to Kadesh Barnea. But upon arriving at that good land, the people said, “Thanks, but no thanks” and rebelled against the Lord. How often do we do the same? Knowing the commandment of God and remembering His promises, when the opportunity for obedience arises, we turn back to the wilderness of unbelief, rebellion, and sin.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Indeed, how often do we judge the Israelites for their unbelief? Their rebellion? Their lack of trust? Their astonishing disobedience? They had seen God’s work “carrying them to this place” (Deut. 1.31), going with them “in the fire by night and in the cloud by day” (Deut. 1.33), going before them to fight for them. “Yet for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God” (Deut. 1.32). And…here we are. Knowing that Jesus has suffered for us. Knowing that He rose from the dead. Knowing that He has already fought the giants of sin and death and won! Knowing He is going before us into Galilee (Mk. 16.7). Knowing that He tells us He is going to prepare a place for us, that “where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14.3). And God tells us, “Go up and possess it…do not fear or be discouraged” (Deut. 1.21). “There’s a crown and you can win it/if you go in Jesus’ Name” (Suffield).


1. Why did the Israelites fail to go into the land of Canaan? Do you ever allow the fear of people to keep you from doing God’s will?

2. What great and precious promises does God hold out to us? How can we lay hold on them?

3. What can we expect if we fail to obey God’s clear Word to us?

He accuses them of unbelief with reference to the promise; for, whilst faith is not only prompt and ready in obedience, but invigorates and quickens the whole mall, so the cause of their inertness was that they gave no heed to God who had promised to bestow upon them the land of Canaan, and did not rest upon His covenant.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 1.32

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief today as I…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 78.65-72
Plead with God to send revival to His churches, and to renew us in our witness for the Lord Jesus, our King.

Psalm 78.6-16.
(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
While they were still suff’ring, He rose in His strength
and fought for His people and saved them at length.
From Judah a king He set for Israel,
a temple He built with His people to dwell.

Now Jesus, God’s servant, is King evermore,
and we are His people, and He is our Lord.
His heart is upright as He leads by His hand
and causes us ever before Him to stand.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore