Did the second generation of Israel after the Exodus have more faith than their parents? We generally think so, because they were willing to enter the Promised Land, while their parents had balked at the report of the spies. But maybe this emphasizes the faith of the first generation. It may also show that their faith was even greater than we normally think.
How can it show the faith of the first generation? Weren't they always complaining? Did they not fashion the golden calf? Did they not trust God to give them the Promised Land? Nobody said they were a perfect generation. They had their faults, and frequently showed a lack of faith. On the other hand, they had their moments of glory.
This was a generation that had an excuse, if there is excuse, for little faith. They had spent so much time in Egypt that it was no longer a foreign land, but their homeland. They had almost forgotten God. Moses had properly expected them, when he said God sent him to free them, to say, "What is his name?" (Ex 3:13) And yet, once Moses had taught them about God and told them to pack their bags, they were ready to follow him. Granted, they had seen a few miracles, and granted, they had been maltreated. But they had the faith to leave a place that had been their family home for about as long as some current members of the DAR. Beyond that, when they were told that God had a law for them, rather than asking what it was, they said, "we will hear it and do it." (Deut 5:27) They promised to obey even before they had heard the details.
But how does the next generation show the faith of that generation? By their own faith. How easy it is to fail to pass on what faith we have. It could have been easy for that generation to say that this was a new God, and they would instead teach about the old gods of Egypt. They did not do that. They taught about their re-found faith in the true God. It would have been easy for the next generation to see their actions and discount their faith. In spite of their doubts, they obviously taught the new generation the Law and the faith. It would be easy to have stopped teaching when they doubted, but they taught through the doubt and into the faith. Do we have that much faith, ourselves?
How could the second generation's faith be greater than we think? Because they entered the Promised Land. Consider what they had. They didn't have to work for their food; they just had to gather it every morning off the ground. They didn't have to worry about water. Apparently the rock from which Moses first got water for them followed them throughout the desert, giving them water. (Paul attests to this in 1 Corinthians 10:4.) They had a cloud to give them air conditioning by day, and a pillar of fire to drive off the wild animals at night-the ultimate night light. They didn't need J. C. Penney because their clothes never wore out (Deut 29:5). They averaged over a year and a half at each stop (Num 33). If anyone had it good, it was the generation of Israel in the wilderness! If anyone had a reason not to enter the Promised Land it was that generation. How much they had to lose by crossing the Jordan. As soon as they ate of the produce of the land the manna stopped (Josh 5:12). And yet they entered the Promised Land.
Do we have the faith of that generation? In America we have it good. Some have even called it the Promised Land. When the time comes, as it will come, for us to leave this land of plenty and cross over into the true Promised Land, will we be ready? Or do we cling to this life? May we have the faith of both generations-the faith to teach our faith, and the faith to willingly leave a life of ease for the unknown of the Promised Land.