Kadesh Barnea—How to Follow and Not Get Ahead of God’s Will

Why our goal is not a place to go, but to journey beside God.

Which seems worse to you? Refusing to follow God even though He promises success, or stubbornly pressing forward without Him? Sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference.

Kadesh Barnea—How to Follow and Not Get Ahead of God’s Will

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

God’s people swung on both extremes of this pendulum in the course of one day.

What their experience teaches us can guide us as we anticipate the future God has for us.

Refusing to Follow God at Kadesh Barnea in Spite of His Promises

The young nation of Israel stood on the edge of Canaan, poised to take possession of the land God promised them. They stood at Kadesh Barnea.

Poised at Kadesh Barnea

(Map courtesy of Satellite Bible Atlas)

At Kadesh Barnea, the 12 spies Moses sent to scout out the land returned with a mixed report. The future God had for them had giants in it.

  • This report shot so much fear throughout the nation that they plotted among themselves to choose a leader and head back to Egypt (Num. 14:4).
  • They refused to follow God on a mission He had guaranteed to succeed, preferring bondage to a future requiring faith.

Because of their refusal to follow God, He announced that they would have a 40-year hiatus in the wilderness before their children would enter the land (Num. 14:33).

Pressing Forward without God’s Presence

Amazingly, the people then announced a change of heart and a resolve to enter!

But Moses warned them:

Do not go up [into the land], or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. —Numbers 14:42

At first, the Israelites had refused to follow God, but now they refused to wait on Him.
 Moses’ warning proved true. As they ascended the hill country— without God—they got the whipping they initially feared.

Kadesh Barnea from northeast

(Photo: Kadesh Barnea from northeast. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The author of Hebrews later concluded: “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).

How to Follow (and Not Get Ahead of) God’s Will

God’s people failed to grasp that the land was not theirs for the taking but God’s for the giving—in response to faith in Him.

God is our reward and not simply the means by which we get what we want.

  • Our goal is not a place to go, but to journey beside God—wherever we go.
  • What good would we have anywhere without God? The real blessing is simply His presence.

A life that glorifies God comes when we walk beside Him in faith—not ahead or lagging behind.

Question: How do you walk beside God and not get ahead of Him? To leave a comment, just click here.

Going Places with God- A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the BibleLike This Post? Get the Whole Book!

This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible.

  • • These 90 devotional readings, each based on a specific place in the lands of the Bible, will help you apply the truths of God’s Word to your daily journey of faith.
  • • You’ll enjoy pertinent Scripture, inspirational quotes, photographs, maps, and a daily prayer.

After going places with God, you’ll never be the same.


Get Encouraged the Easy Way!


When you subscribe to my blog, I’ll immediately send you a FREE e-book, Grow Strong: 30 Devotions to Deepen Your Christian Life. You'll also receive fresh content each time I post. It's easy!

Thanks for subscribing to my blog!

With one click, please share with others so that they also can get my FREE e-book:

Share on Facebook! Share on Twitter!

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just keep it kind and relevant. Thanks!

  • Loved this post. My favorite part was:
    “God is our reward and not simply the means by which we get what we want. Our goal is not a place to go, but to journey beside God—wherever we go.
    What good would we have anywhere without God? The real blessing is simply His presence.”
    You’ve articulated the secret of the peace that passes all understanding! His presence, not our circumstances, is what gives us security and peace.

    • Thanks for pulling that quote for me, Laura. It did me good to hear it again! Which really shows how often we have to return to the basics that our walk with God is our goal in this life. The destination occurs after death. Thanks for your words today, Laura.

  • Mary-Beth Goetzke

    I look forward to the responses to this question. I constantly struggle with pushing to move forward, ahead of God. I am better than I used to be, but still it is a struggle that I must be vigilant about. The comment “God’s people failed to grasp that the land was not theirs for the taking but God’s for the giving—in response to faith in Him.” is now in my journal to remember that it’s not about me getting but God giving. Great blog. 🙂

    • Thanks, Mary-Beth. I think we all struggle with waiting on God and not rushing ahead of Him. How we want Him to bless our plans (rather than seek Him for His plans). Thanks for your words of encouragement.

    • K Boone

      Mary, your response says everything that was in my heart after reading this devotional. That very quote I put on a sticky note on my desk as soon as I read it and will be tweeting it shortly for those that were not blessed with this devotional this morning. It is such a constant struggle to remember “faith first.” But depending on the circumstances our flesh yells “react first.”

      I needed this conviction

  • Kachi

    this post reminds me of “Ways to beat a complaining attitude” from the devotional. what struck me in it is how my heart wants to yield to the pleasures of captivity while forgetting the bondage God redeemed me from. Its a daily struggle and it constantly reminds me of how much of a human I am and how much GOD He is. so I pray that He constantly directs me in the way I should go. If there are giants in the future then He knows it and He has already prepared a way of escape. All I need to tell myself is KEEP CALM!

    • I’m really glad, Kachi, you’ve read the devotional! I understand the tension you describe. It often helps me to remember how it feels on the OTHER side of compromise. Those giants are there, to be sure. Thanks so much for your comments.

      • Kachi

        Yeah. The other side of compromise which for me is removing the ‘com’ in compromise and rest on the words that is left: promise, HIS PROMISE!

  • Denise


    Just this week I watched a pastor teach on this very topic. Harsh as it may be, he summoned Christians to examine any area in their life where the focus is not God. No matter what area. He also spoke on idolatry and idols before him. Idolatry can be marriage, family as well as money and greed. Thoughts?
    I really came away convicted as I am not moving forward unless I have the ‘perfect’ assurances…therefore I ‘stay in stuck’…missing the victory Christ has already won.

    • It can seem complicated, Denise, but I’ve come to a place I think is both biblical and balanced. It seems wisdom tells us to examine to see if we are ignoring any command of God, and if so, confess and repent. However, even if there is an area we aren’t aware of (and there likely is, as we aren’t perfect), we move, and then we let God guide and redirect. I wrote a post on this you might check out. You’ll never have perfect assurance to move forward. What would that look like? That’s really tough to answer. Thanks.

  • Felicia

    Thank you for this reminder! It was at the right time, in a moment when big decisions are to be made in my life. He reminded me once again that He is with me and He is my reward!
    The best way to follow God is to regularly read His word with prayer and seek good advice from faithful people.

    • Yours is simple, sound counsel, Felicia. May the Lord guide you as you seek Him in these significant decisions.

  • Bugg Dalma

    Its obvious that God has blessed your message to all of us Wayne, so thank you for being open to His leading as you studied this event. The important lesson for me was that timeliness is of the essence, only when it is God’s timing. Yes, He gives us great blessings in our lifetime, but if we don’t see them for exactly that, and fuss about – trying to mould then into our version of it – then we have miss the point in every single one. They are little tasters of what is in store, if only we forget what is behind (and our own head) and run the race He puts before us and strive to reach that promised Eternal prize.

    • You’re welcome, Bugg. Yes, timing is important as we follow God. I always try to remember the principle of “immediate obedience,” rather than thinking it through. If I wait and do not follow God’s clear will, I can find myself rationalizing around it. Thanks.

      • Bugg Dalma

        Yes Wayne, I get the point there, and agree it’s the best way, though for me, it’s a bad habit of 60 odd years of overanalyzing to get rid of. Maybe it’s part of my lesson with the blessing I was referring to, as I know one lesson is patience.
        This has been a very.insightful discussion with.everyone’s input so far.
        By the way, my name has been entered reversed – Dalma is my Christian name and Bugg my Surname. Don’t know why it got reversed.


    How do i walk beside God is what i’m still learning right now Wayne ,it is not easy and confusing,the mistakes i have made in the past about walking ahead of Him was actually based on necessities and not because i didn’t want to wait on Him,and also because of my age,there are many things in this world that we can’t reverse right?,such as age,opportunity etc,but yes i’m in the process of learning to wait on the Lord,but of course with the expectation that i will still get what i have been dreaming about from God Himself .

    • I’ve experienced the struggle of waiting on the Lord when it seemed necessary to press ahead without Him. Perhaps the difference comes from asking Him to stop you, redirect you, and help you when you have to make a decision and the direction isn’t clear yet.

  • Michelle thick

    Im learning that now and its just being in his presence all the time. Its all his decisions. I have been there and did not follow him and do not like it. Im getting closer to Him and i know his presence now and im trusting him. Its different and somewhat scary to totally follow him. But i now know he is good and loving and will guide me in a life that is better than I can imagine. He is guiding me in every decision. Help me with temptation and giving me comfort. I love Him now with all my heart and soul and work hard to please him everyday. Thanks Wayne for your reads. Sure do keep me on the right path.
    God bless