“And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned. And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies.”
In Numbers 14, the Israelites chose to believe and act upon the evil report of the fearful spies and reject the report of faith given by Joshua and Caleb. As a result, the older generation would perish, wandering in the wilderness, never seeing the Promised Land. After Moses pronounced this judgment, our text tells us that the children of Israel attempted to go forward “early in the morning.” Now that they had rebelled and heard their sentence, they wanted to do God’s will. “Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.” Moses spoke to them directly. “Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the LORD is not among you.” They did not listen. They marched forward in their stubbornness and were defeated by the enemy.
On the surface, one might question why God would not bless their attempts to move into Canaan since they had confessed their sin and were now ready to obey. For one thing, they still had not learned their lesson. Initially, God would not let them go into the Promised Land because they would not do as He said and they insisted on their will. The next day, when they demonstrated an interest in going into Canaan, God gave them another command, “Go not up, for the LORD is not among you.” Had they really repented of their stubbornness, they would have obeyed Him. What did they do? They ignored God’s command and insisted on their will and were discomfited by the opposition.
Partial obedience should not be confused with true obedience. Genuine obedience means that we do what God wants, as He wants, and when He wants. We should not believe that we could postpone our obedience until it is convenient for us, and then assume that God will bless our actions. On the surface, this may appear to be obedience, but in reality, it is not.