A Tale of Two Itineraries

“Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt” (Numbers 14:3, esv)?

Have you ever wondered what part of “Promised Land” they didn’t understand?

Israel’s whole objective, after packing up at Mount Sinai, was to head out for “the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your offspring” (Exodus 33:1, csb)—Canaan, their Promised Land. And they were headed straight for it . . . until fear stepped out into the road.

If you’ve ever had a journey or experience in life like that, then you know there are only two choices whenever God says go and fear says stop. And based on what we learn from the Israelites, the ramifications of letting fear become our travel agent can lead to a detour we may never recover from.

The vast majority of the spies who were sent out by Moses in Numbers 14 to investigate the land came back scared of what they saw. And by the time the people had been spooked by this version of the men’s report, they couldn’t even sleep at night for worrying about what dangers they were heading into. But God “heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble[d] against [Him]” (Numbers 14:27, esv). And He decided if they didn’t trust Him to be good to them—if they didn’t trust Him to take care of them—if they didn’t think He had their needs on His heart and was working on their behalf—He would find someone else who did.

Those “someones” turned out to be their kids. An entire generation forfeited their taste of God’s blessing and plenty because they chose to listen to fear rather than lean on His promises.

That’s how devastating fear can be. It leads you toward embracing the negative—viewing any downturns and setbacks as evidence that God’s Word and way cannot be trusted. It leads toward enlarging the enemy—declaring present and future obstacles as unable to be cleared, unable to be conquered. It leads toward engaging fearful thinking—complicating your ability to keep from seeing life any other way than through the lens of dread and hopelessness.

You may call it caution, but it’s more likely fear. You may call it thoroughness, but it’s grounded in dread. When trepidation is driving the show, it leaves no space for faith and trust. And although fear makes its appeal on the basis of protecting you from harm, it really only keeps you from what would bring you the greatest joy.

So with their parents’ graves dotting the wilderness behind them, a new breed of Israelite prepared to enter the Promised Land—forty years and two million other people’s lifetimes later.

Joshua stood on the banks of the Jordan River, saying, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). And this time, rather than falling to pieces like their ancestors did, they pulled up into formation and answered, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go” (Joshua 1:16). They were determined not to revisit the same failed expectations that fear had produced in the past generation.

If you’re standing with fear at a fork in the road, you know which way to go.


  • What’s the most damaging, potentially paralyzing fear in your life right now?
  • How would you articulate your commitment to not being bound by fear in following the Lord?

Father in heaven, thank You for examples in Your Word that speak to real-life situations in my own experience. And thank You for the promises in Scripture that declare what You have committed to doing on Your people’s behalf. Lead me today to follow Your will and trust Your heart, to not choose fear any longer but to walk in the victory You have claimed for Your redeemed ones. I choose You, Lord, completely confident in the mighty name of Jesus, amen.