25 July 2022

Navigating the wilderness: How committed are you?

Bible study by Major Steve Smith

Major Steve Smith considers our response to God's directions.

Key text

In 1911, two teams set out to be the first to reach the South Pole.

The team led by Robert Falcon Scott approached each day according to the prevailing weather conditions and how they felt. If the conditions were favourable and they felt good, they would cover as much ground as possible, sometimes as many as 60 miles in a day. When conditions were unfavourable or they felt like taking a break, they would simply take a day off and rest in their tents.

The other team, which was led by Roald Amundsen, followed an entirely different strategy. No matter the conditions or their feelings, their commitment was to travel 20 miles every day – no more, no less.

Amundsen’s team completed their mission and returned safely. Scott’s team arrived at the South Pole a month later and all died on the return journey.

Pause and reflect

  • How do you approach life?
  • To what extent are you consistent and committed, or influenced by feelings and prevailing conditions?

Maybe it’s just me, but I often wish that God would be a little clearer when issuing directions. Of course, we have – among other things – the Bible and direction of the Holy Spirit; but wouldn’t it be easier if God communicated by text, email or social media like everyone else, to remove any ambiguity as to what he wants us to do?

When the Israelites made their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, God directed them in a clear though somewhat unconventional manner. When he wanted them to stay put, a cloud would remain over their tabernacle. When the cloud lifted, they knew it was time to move on. They set out when God said ‘Go!’ and they stayed put when he said ‘No!’

Pause and reflect

  • If God directed you with unmistakable clarity, would you respond obediently or would you still be inclined to question him?

When the cloud lifted from above Mount Sinai, the whole of the Israelite nation – possibly up to a million people – set out ‘at the Lord’s command’ (v13). Can you imagine the sight? Twelve divisions of people, each with their divisional standard and led by a divisional commander, moving together – united in direction and purpose.

There is strength in united obedience of the Lord’s command. I’m certain that not everyone would have felt like packing up and moving on. I think it’s inevitable that some people would have felt like staying exactly where they were.

Simply put, the command of God does not always line up with what we’d like to do. But God’s command – revealed through either word or the Spirit – must only be responded to with obedience not convenience.

Pause and reflect

  • When it comes to your own faith in God’s commands, which is most important to you – obedience or convenience?

I’d suggest that we could all relate to Hobab, son of Reuel.

We don’t really know anything about him. In fact, he is only mentioned twice in the Bible. Hobab was invited by Moses to join the Israelites on their journey towards the Promised Land. He was assured of good treatment and was reminded that the Lord had promised ‘good things’ (v29).

Someone hiking in the countryside

Numbers 10:30 and 31

Hobab answered, ‘No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.’ But Moses said, ‘Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes.'

Read the passage

Hobab’s initial response was not positive. His first thought was to go back to the familiarity of the past rather than forward into an unseen, unknown and uncertain future, even though God promised that future.

Moses not only recognised that it would be better for Hobab to go forwards rather than backwards, but also knew that Hobab had skills and experience that would be beneficial to the whole community, so he encouraged Hobab to join them (see v32).

Pause and reflect

  • When faced with an uncertain future, how do you respond? What might help you move forward?
  • Can you identify a Hobab to whom you can be a Moses?

As followers of Jesus, we are charged to constantly and consistently set out at the Lord’s command. There will often be uncertainty, and there will sometimes be opposition, but we are under command to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’ (Mark 16:15) and to ‘make disciples of all nations ... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19 and 20).

The culture we live in will often say no, but the Lord continues to tell us: ‘Go!’ Let’s not allow convenience to overcome obedience.

Bible study by

Steve Smith

Major Steve Smith

Divisional Mission Enabler, Severn and Somerset

Let's pray

Dear Lord, give me ears to hear and eyes to see, whatever it is you require of me. Help me respond obediently to all that you want and command.


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