It ought to have been a fairly humble experience to receive that rebuke from Moses. With that said, there is one particular aspect of the people’s shortcomings that is important to point out. The people are not accused of being arrogant or haughty. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The children of Israel are consistently undermining their ability to succeed, and God’s ability to step in when they cannot. One of the primary issues for which they are being humbled is doubt of God’s willingness (or ability) to act.
Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place. Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God, who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.
(Deuteronomy 1:29─33, NKJV)
Your eyes have seen all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings; so will the LORD do to all the kingdoms through which you pass. You must not fear them, for the LORD your God Himself fights for you.
(Deuteronomy 3:21, 22, NKJV)
The challenge to accept God’s empowerment in the midst of our weakness is a major obstacle for many in the world. This obstacle can lead to false notions about God, doubt as to God’s existence, and faith in fear. None of this accurately reflects the true reality of the God of Israel. We mustn’t be haughty, but we are not given permission to live a life characterized by the inertia of fear either. The truest humility is obeying the will of God with the absolute conviction that he will meet us in our weakness. Understood in this light, humility enables us to pursue life with great strength because we aren’t defeated by our own short-comings. We need to acknowledge our challenges and imperfections and work to improve. Nevertheless, he will fight for us when we do not have the strength. God is with us, and this awareness engenders humility. I pray we have the humility to vigorously pursue God’s will for us without the stumbling block of fear.