The Cost of Delayed Obedience

I was reading Numbers 33 this morning and found myself asking a question I had never asked before. Was there a greater price paid for the delayed obedience of Israel in entering the Promised Land? Let me explain: In Numbers 13 & 14 the Bible tells a story in which God calls his people to conquer the promised land. 12 spies enter Canaan (the Promised Land) and come back with a report of the greatness of the people who are living in the land. 10 spies recommend leaving while 2 recommend following God’s instructions. The people rebel and refuse to enter the promised land. So God decides to make them wander in the wilderness till the old generation has died off and then let the new generation enter the promised land.

But are those 40 years wandering in the wilderness the full extent of the cost? Think about it. As a nation, they did ultimately obey what God called them to, but was their time in the Promised Land the same that it would have been? Consider this, had they entered when they were supposed to, they would have had 40 years or more to settle in the land with Moses and Aaron, their leaders still around. 40 years! I have to think that this cost them more than just 40 years of time. I think the repercussions reverberated through the history of Israel.

I saw a sermon on Jonah last night and had the same thought. Jonah did ultimately do what God called him to do and God did a great work through Jonah’s obedience, but in the end, there was no joy and no peace in it for Jonah. His story ends with him pouting on the side of a mountain.¬†Jeremiah and Jonah and lived very different lives. Jeremiah saw little fruit from his work but obeyed and followed God faithfully and he found peace and joy in God. Jonah delayed obedience and found none.

Delayed obedience, another form of disobedience, has serious ramifications to our spiritual lives. As I look through scripture and back at my own life, I can’t help but think…what might have been had ________ acted when God called as well as how God called. In both stories, Numbers and Jonah, there were factors other than delayed obedience, but I truly believe that delayed obedience has an immeasurable cost.


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