As we talk about what it means to understand that what God says to one person (or one people) in one place and time may not be a word He has given to all of us forever - and may not even be the word that He has given to that person/people forever - we have to address the elephant in the room:
How are we supposed to deal with a God who is ready to lead us into battle and five minutes later, will not go with us?
How are we supposed to accept a faith that, in the blink of an eye, can go from "I can't lose" to "I can't win"?
It's troubling. It's perhaps one of the most troubling things that we encounter in our faith, this notion that...is God wishy-washy? Does God change His mind? How are we supposed to know what God is feeling in this particular moment? How can we ever act if God could require something completely different from us in our next breath? The questions can be paralyzing.
Add to that the Scriptures that we have that assure us that God doesn't change His mind like a human and that He is the same yesterday and today and forever and...what are we supposed to do with this?
Too many Christians have simply accepted the notion that God is unpredictable. And that when we talk about God's consistency, what we mean is that God is consistently unpredictable. We have accepted the idea that because God is all-powerful and all-mighty and all-everything else, He can do whatever He wants, and we are supposed to just feel blessed to be along for the ride, however bumpy it might be. Oh, how sweet it is to trust in Jesus. Oh, how good it is to be doing...whatever He's doing.
But it doesn't have to be this defeating. Not by a long shot.
What we have to understand about this story, about this idea that the very same God who was set to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land with assured victory now seals their defeat, is that it wasn't God who changed His mind. In fact, if you read the Scriptures, you see plainly that as soon as God says that it's not happening now, He affirms that it is, in fact, still happening later.
It was Israel who changed their mind about the timing of it.
It was Israel who followed God (sort of) through the wilderness, all the way to the edge of the Promised Land. It was Israel who decided they could not follow God into Canaan. It was Israel who decided they were too afraid. It was Israel who grumbled and groaned and wished they would die in the wilderness.
God simply gave them what they asked for. Without, we must acknowledge, giving up on what He planned.
So then, the question becomes not, what do we do with a God who changes His mind? but rather, what happens when we change our minds about God? Is it God who has changed, or is it us? When we stand on the edge of all that God promises us, is our greatest fear that God will not go with us...or is it that we are not prepared to go with God?