Do you ever fantasize about a dream house? Or is there a certain community you’d love to move into? Maybe you’d like to build on a wooded property with a lake or on that hilltop acreage with views for miles?
Just for a moment, let’s pretend that a wealthy benefactor offers you that chance. Money is no object. Build what you what, where you want. The perfect spot and a house that suits you. Whatever you’ve always thought would make you happiest—we’ll make it happen.
The house is finally finished and furnished. The landscaping is done. All’s ready and it’s all yours. When are you going to move in?
Would you be there this afternoon? Or would you start thinking about practicalities—taxes, utilities, upkeep, moving the kids to a new school. Or might you start worrying about the possibility of legal fine print that you have yet to discover—what if it’s not really yours? Maybe you even start feeling sentimental about that old house you’re crammed into now and wondering if you really want to leave it. Besides, you’ve got a lot on your plate and you aren’t sure when you’ll find time to move …
In the meantime, you look at pictures of the house and think about how great it would be to live there. You savor the satisfaction of knowing that someone has said it belongs to you. Sometimes you drive by and admire the place and determine that you’ll get there … soon. But it never happens.
Does that story seem ridiculous? Read this story–
Then the LORD said, “I will pardon them … But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (Numbers 14:20-23)
The children of Israel have seen God’s mighty hand at work in their lives; He saved them from a hopeless slavery and destroyed the Egyptians who pursued them. He forgave their many and recurring sins—even idolatry—and did not rejected them as His children. He was leading them to a land they would call their own, a good place where He would bless them.
But now as they’re poised to enter the land God has promised them, they react in fear and distress when ten of their spies come back and predict problems ahead. And because they listen to the voices of men and do not listen to God’s voice and believe His promises, He declares they will never set foot in the land He wanted to give them. They have treated Him with contempt. They’ll wander and die in the wilderness, within sight of a promise that will never be fulfilled!
As we read the stories now, we can be pretty hard on the Israelites… with manna appearing every morning and miracle after miracle providing for them and that cloud and pillar of fire constantly with them – how could they doubt God’s care and protection and promises?
Yet we do the same thing. We forget all He has already done for us, and we don’t believe His words to us. Even though He has forgiven our sins, if our hearts will not trust Him, we can never live in the land He’s promised us. It’s very much like never moving into that dream house. Our lives here will never be what the Creator wants to give His children.
God says, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me’ (Psalm 95:10). I believe this is not talking about those who reject God, but about those who call Him Savior but will not trust Him in daily life. Their hearts are not centered and anchored to God.
I see this as a matter of focus.
Do our eyes focus on what’s going on in the world or on what God is doing in our lives?
Are we tuned into what human thinking promotes or are we listening to what God is saying?
Do we build our bridges to tomorrow and lay our stepping stones to the future on the groundwork of worldly logic and practicality or do we move ahead by building on the foundation of God’s promises?
Have we turned our hearts away from Him? Have we treated God with contempt?
The same phrase is used in Jeremiah 17, the very descriptive passage that contrasts two ways of living:
This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the LORD.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited and salty land.”
Turning our hearts away from the LORD lands us in a barren wilderness with no hope for the future. Believing Him and trusting His promises, Peter writes, is what enables us to escape that wilderness and actually enter into the life God has promised us (2 Peter 1:4). The next verses in Jeremiah 17 describe the secure and fruitful life of those who put all their hope and confidence in God. Where is my heart, my hope, my confidence?
If I put my faith journey into a very simple timeline it would be this: First, I believed being a Christian was all about what I did—I must live up to God’s standards. Then, I learned through painful lessons that we can never be good enough and it’s only God’s grace that makes us His children. And now, I’m concentrating on living my inheritance, believing and living the promises God gives His children. I want to know all those promises. I want to move into that house He’s promised me. I have no desire to wander in the wilderness with His promises unfulfilled.
I believe it’s a matter of turning my heart. Where does my heart turn? May it always turn to God’s promises and His unfailing love and care.
Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,
for He is our God.
We are the people He watches over,
the flock under His care.
If only you would listen to His voice today!
If only we would listen to His voice today!