God did not do everything for the Israelites. He certainly did many mighty miracles, and strengthened them in their battles and difficulties, but it is clear that they were to put some effort in on their own. Or at least some faith.
For example, when the Israelites initially arrived at the land of Canaan, which God had promised would be given to them, He did not cause an earthquake or plague to wipe out the existing inhabitants. Instead, God tells Moses to send spies out into the land. One man from each tribe is assigned to go.
Forty days later they return, and the report from 10 out of the 12 spies is very depressing:
And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.
Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great
…We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
Only Caleb and Joshua report that they will be able to take the land from their enemies.
The people of Israel are terrified at the report, and decide they want to go back to Egypt and be slaves
And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
Now on one hand, this seems like a reasonable response. Out of 12 spies sent into the land, 10 of them are adamant that the land can never be taken by their own army. So the choice seems pretty clear: either death at the hands of their enemies, or return to Egypt (their other enemies) and be slaves. Clearly, the “promised land” idea was simply that, an idea, and a foolish one at that.
Now wait a minute. Just wait a minute.
God doesn’t seem to like their tone, so to speak, and for good cause. These children of Israel can never seem to get it in their heads who is really leading them. They can’t even seem to remember the profoundly miraculous circumstances that have brought them to where they are now, considering whether to attempt to conquer the land of Canaan.
How frustrated God must have been! How many miracles had these very people witnessed? The ten plagues of Egypt; followed by leaving that land where they had been slaves with the spoils of their captors. Then the Red Sea was parted. Then the Egyptian army was drowned as they tried to give pursuit.
(At this point, one of the greatest nations in the known world has been thoroughly defeated. So what’s with all the grumbling about these cities?)
But there’s more: The commandments given to Moses on Sinai, and the miraculous food and water provided to an entire nation, time and time again.
How can these people possibly forget? Hasn’t it been shown to them over and over that God is with them as they put their faith and trust in Him? That there is nothing that they cannot do when they are on the errand of the Lord?
And now, here they are, at the very gates of the land promised to them by God. Their land of Promise. And yes, the walls are high, and yes the people are strong. Under virtually any other set of circumstances the task ahead would seem at least daunting, if not impossible.
But it should not be to these people. All they need is faith that God will help them, as He always has. All they need to do is act in faith.
If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.
Fast forward to another pending battle. The Israelites, now in the land promised to them, are threatened by yet another army, the Philistines, who has a mighty champion, Goliath.
This story is much more well known. Goliath comes out every day and taunts the Israelite army, challenging them to choose someone to fight him in single combat, winner-take-all. The army of Israel is terrified of this giant.
Once again, God could do the Israelites’ work for them and take care of this giant in some fashion. But God doesn’t work that way. He expects us to do what we can, and He will bless and strengthen that effort.
So in walks David. He’s not a soldier, he’s a shepherd. But that doesn’t stop him from volunteering.
Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
David is remembering something that the army (and the King) seems to have forgotten. That they are the army of the living God. The same God that led the Israelites out of Egypt, out of the wilderness, and into the land of Canaan in the first place. That same God has made covenants with His people, which He will keep as the people of Israel trust in and follow Him.
And so, against all odds, facing an entire army, this shepherd boy runs toward his opponent, and dispatches the great giant that defied the entire army of Israel.
So, when we who call ourselves Christians are put to the test, what will we do? Will we act in faith, or cower in fear and doubt? Will we remember that there is a God in Israel?
Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.