Even after God forgives our sinful failures, there may be lingering consequences. On the 150th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1995, the denomination officially lamented and repudiated its slaveholding history. Pledging to work toward racial reconciliation, they apologized “for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty.” Our sinful failures can affect others, sometimes for years to come. In today’s narrative, Joshua and Caleb were condemned to wander in the wilderness with their fellow Israelites, even though God promised to spare their lives and allow them to enter the promised land.
Joshua and Caleb themselves had done nothing wrong. Their faith and obedience were exemplary. However, the other ten spies and the people made the sinful choice to decline to enter Canaan. In doing so, they disobeyed the Lord and showed a deplorable lack of faith. Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, had argued against the nation’s decision so forcefully that they’d been threatened with death by stoning (14:10).
Joshua and Caleb did what was right. But they were members of a community that chose to do what was wrong (v. 35). As a result, they suffered consequences for the nation’s collective sin. Specifically, they, along with the next generation, spent 40 years wandering in the desert because of the people’s disobedience (v. 34). God punished the people, but less than they deserved (vv. 20–23). And He continued to faithfully protect and provide for them during their wanderings, including the daily provision of manna.
>> Our sin, even when forgiven, can have consequences, for ourselves and for others. Daniel is another Bible character who did what was right but who was negatively affected by the sins of his community. He responded with confession and intercessory prayer (Dan. 9:1–19). How can we follow his example today?