The Dangerous Hypothetical

I wonder what it was like to be a hand-selected part of the twelve. 

No, not that twelve. The twelve before them: the spies sent to the Promised Land. 

I think I would’ve been excited. I mean this is it: the end of the whole journey, the promise that parents lull their children to sleep with, and the apex of the hope of a nation. I would gladly have been a part of that dozen. 

What I’m not sure about, however, is what report I would’ve brought. Of course, I’d like to think I’d be on Team Caleb, but…would I have been? Or would I have barely spoken praise over the land only to color it with deep hues of danger and impossibility? Would I have scoffed at the upstart minority overlooking the blatant obstacles that seemed to cut us off from the promise? I don’t know. 

binoculars looking over a misty forest
Photo by Matt LaVasseur on Unsplash

Is it any surprise, then, that Numbers 14 begins with an Israel-wide-rebellion in response to the majority report of “ the promised land is impossible”? The grumbling, the “why couldn’t you have let us just suffer in Egypt,” the weeping. But verse 3 gives evidence of something more subtle and, worse, relatable:

“Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

Numbers 14:3, ESV

The complaining turns predictive: this isn’t a current suffering (we’re fine, just listening to dismal reports is all), it’s a projected suffering (this and that evil with certainly befall us). 

Thinking about the future isn’t a problem. Worrying and stressing about hypothetical futures is, because the vast majority of the time our hypothetical futures are godless futures. 

This nation that had been miraculously delivered from the most powerful nation on earth at that time, who had walked through the dry bed of an ocean that was there mere moments before, whose thirst had been quenched from a rock, who had been fed bits of bread condensation daily—this nation imagined a godless future to the problem they faced. 

We are not so different from our spiritual ancestors. God came through this time, sure, but what about next time? Instead of becoming stepping stones to greater faith, we seem to use His blessings as nothing more than pastimes. When the money comes just in time, when we pull off that out-of-reach grade, when the conversation goes miraculously well, our spirits soar—maybe a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days. But as the next unknown dawns on the horizon of our consciousness, we grasp at a hypothetical future: what if?

May the Lord change our godless hypothetical futures to ones of faith and God-dependence. What if God comes through in a way that I cannot even predict right now? He’s done so before, hasn’t He? Instead of will He come through again say, why would He not come through again? 

Our God is a God who knows the future. And He can be trusted even there.