Have you ever caught yourself using a phrase that you then think later, “Is that really accurate? Is it even true?”
Sayings like “God helps those who help themselves.” or “Money is the root of all evil.”
What do these even mean? I have heard such phrases used before and they become part of a conversation with intended significance that I am not sure is truly there.
The problem is that they do not lead us to truth. Jesus never said either of these nor did any writer of the scriptures. But yet we hear them used as truisms.
Another one that I have heard is “God is a God of second chances.” And I get what is intended by that statement. The problem is, like the other two examples, it can subtly lead to poor theology. And Satan loves nothing better than when people slightly skew scripture and present a partial truth amidst some partial error.
If we are not careful, we can make obedience to God like a false start in a race and I simply get a redo for the same race if I leave too early.
Blatant heresy is fairly easy to spot. Error couched in truth is a bit more difficult.
Israel, Canaan, and a lost opportunity
I was speaking to a group of guys at my church this past week and my theme was “Lacking Boldness Creates Lost Opportunities.”
I get what is meant when people say, “God is a God of second chances.” But is He? I would like to press on that statement by looking at a sobering story that involved the children of Israel.
In Numbers 13, Israel is getting ready to head into the Promised Land. Egypt is behind them and God’s promised blessing is right ahead of them. “Just go in and take it!” they are told. Numbers 13:1-2 says,
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.”
It seems here as if God had the idea of sending in the spies to check out the land, to see if it was full of resources, to see what kind of people were in the land. But if you compare this verse to Deuteronomy 1:21-22 you get additional context to this story.
It appears that the “spy out the land” idea was really something that originated with the people of Israel. This seems a bit odd because Israel already had the necessary information to take the land.
Two narratives in Exodus clue us in:
- When Moses was with God at the burning bush, God said that He would bring Israel to “a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7-8)
- When Israel crossed the Red Sea and all the Egyptians were swallowed up in it, the people sang a song about the strength of God and that “the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.” (Exodus 15:15)
Israel knew Canaan was a land full of good things. And though there were giants, the people of the land were scared to death of what they had heard about Jehovah God. So literally, the land was ready to be taken.
But if you know the story in Numbers 13, you know 10 of the 12 spies came back with an evil report of the land. Though it had plenty of good food and resources, there were giants, and the people were afraid.
And the mission stopped before it had even began. The people lacked boldness, called it quits, and wanted to head back to Egypt.
And Jehovah God was displeased, angry enough to destroy Israel. And God tells Moses that because of their unbelief, those 20 years old and up would not be allowed into the land. In fact, Israel would wander in the wilderness one year for every day that the spies were in the land.
And in 40 years, all those 20 years and older would die. Not one would see the land. Their unbelief had hit a climax.
Too little too late
And so the people hear the grim news and suddenly decide that they they will go into the land and will obey.
“We’ve got our swords and shields and spears, God! Let’s do this!”
But it was too late. Because when they went in, they were defeated and came back with their tails between their legs.
Go forward 40 years and Israel is once again getting ready to go into Canaan. But it was not the same group. It was a new generation. Israel inherited Canaan, but it was 40 years later, a new time, a new people.
My point is this. God is a gracious and merciful God. And He is full of steadfast love. And as we confess and repent of our sinful ways, God graces with new opportunities that may look very similar to the original opportunity.
But hear this: it is never the same opportunity. That window closed. And though a new window may open, it is never the same window.
God offers us first-time obedience. Because the joy that we are seeking is in Him and in doing as He has asked, when He asks.
And though you may think this is just semantics, it is much more than that. It is about how we view God, for how we view Him is the most important thing about us.
We just need to make sure we are viewing Him as scripture says and not creating our own rules about God. We must live as He is and not how we want Him to be.
God just being a God of second chances implies that our disobedience is not a big deal. “Hit reset.” But God being a God of additional opportunities reveals His amazing grace and forgiveness in our lives.
And it does make difference which we believe.