Recently our church looked at the story of the Israelites rejecting the scouting report of Canaan, the land they were promised by God. This is recounted in the book of Numbers, chapter 13. A focus in the sermon was on God being faithful to His people, both then and today. As with any wisdom from scripture, there are some other lessons we can apply to our lives as well. One lesson that came to mind for me is to consider the consequences of our decisions in all aspects of life; faith, family and work. Work includes business decisions, especially important for a business owner to consider, since consequences can affect multiple families, not just yourself.
Here’s a summary of the story of the scouting report and the Israelite’s response. God told Moses to send out twelve men, one leader from each tribe, to explore Canaan. Moses gave them specific instructions to see what the land was like and what the people were like, as well as the type of towns they lived in. They did an effective job exploring and brought back a detailed report, as well as some samples of the crops growing there. They reported a bountiful land, but populated by strong people. Two of the leaders, Joshua and Caleb, focused on the land and God’s promises and were ready to go and take it. The other ten, focused on the challenges and forgetting or ignoring God’s promises, disagreed and counseled to not go in. In addition, they not only gave this counsel to Moses, who had sent them, they spread the negative news among the rest of the people (one of the first instances of using the “grapevine” to spread rumors).
What were these guys thinking when they decided to go against Moses, Joshua, Caleb and most of all God? Did they have a plan B? Did they forget everything that God had done for them since they walked away from slavery in Egypt? Did they forget about the past consequences when people among them rebelled, making poor choices? Where did they think they were going to go instead of Canaan? Weren’t they worried about the response from Moses, Joshua and Caleb or more importantly the response from God?
When we make a choice in life do we consider the possible consequences of our choice? Are we making a wise choice? Did we get counsel from reliable, trustworthy sources and then go against that advice? Did we spend time in prayer and reading what the Bible has to say about our choices, so we have some idea of what God wants us to do? Sometimes, I am as guilty as these guys were, focusing on the challenges and the possible bad outcomes of failure instead of success. I give in to worry and fear instead of spending more time on the potential good outcome. I also forget to consider the consequences of making the wrong decision. Those consequences could be as bad as or worse than if I had the faith and confidence to go where God and trustworthy counsel tells me to go.
What consequences did these guys suffer? You have to continue the story in Numbers chapter 14. God’s first response is to tell Moses He’s going to wipe out everyone and start over. Moses intercedes and God relents, although He does kill the 10 leaders who rebelled. Instead, He makes the Israelites wander around in the desert for 40 years, one year for each of the 40 days they were in Canaan scouting. The only two leaders who make it into the Promised Land are the two obedient, faithful, optimistic ones, Joshua and Caleb.
How do we avoid consequences in our lives? First is to be obedient to God, so that we are in His will for our lives. Remember to apply this to all areas of our lives; family and work, including business decisions. How do we know if we are being obedient? Prayer and Bible reading are the primary tools. Next, you need to have a circle of wise advisors who are trustworthy, evident by their use of those same primary tools and by the lack of consequences in their lives from poor choices. When you are seeking advice from those counselors, talk about the potential consequences of making a poor decision. We tend to have blind spots in those areas. Learn from the mistakes and suffered consequences of those who have gone before you on this path.
Not every trial or tribulation we face in life can be attributed to consequences of poor decision making. Enough can be though that we need to seriously consider them every time we make a decision that is either going against a leader’s instructions to us, advice and counsel we’ve sought out, or God’s evident will. Consider the consequences and make the right choice!