Why Believers are Defeated at Kadesh Barnea

by | Sep 1, 2010

Like the Children of Israel at Kadesh Barnea, God’s people often reach a place where divine commands and promises, as well as the testimonies of those within the land of perfect love, convince them that they are upon its very verge. Yet these believers are often confronted by defiant and boastful giants who, if feared, will conquer, but if faced, will fall. Some of them will be noticed:

1. Giant Ignorance. He seeks to shut out all knowledge of the goodly land of perfect love and will not scruple to use any means to accomplish his design. He tells his victims that the “wilderness” life is good enough for this world and induces them to view the “walled towns” and ‘giants” with a magnifying glass and God’s provision for their victory with one that minifies even more mightily.

2. Giant Prejudice. He makes the realities of the Canaan experience look distorted and repellent. Those victimized by him are sometimes heard to say, “I don’t like the word sanctification,” or, “I don’t believe in instantaneous and complete cleansing after conversion.” Prejudice has deceived many and then jeered at them as they have lingered on the borders of the land or staggered backward into the wilderness of sourness, doubt, and despair.

3. Giant Legality. He seeks to lure into the belief that entire sanctification is “of works” and not “of faith.” Many under the delusive spell this giant has thrown over them have had to confess like one who afterward became a mighty soul-saver: “I am sorry that I stayed away, distrusting Christ…doing everything I could but the one thing that would have brought the blessing to my poor heart.”

4. Giant Inbred Sin. He was crippled and put in chains at conversion but at this point appears in strength to dispute future progress. He declares himself unconquerable by any power short of death. Pride, envy, petulance, ill-temper, selfishness, unholy ambition, and fear are his children and join their father in his defiance of any power that would put them to flight.

5. Giant Indefiniteness. This giant tries to prevail upon people to substitute an indefinite experience for the work of entire sanctification and then to seek it in an indefinite way. His victims are afraid of making a “hobby of holiness” and instead make a hobby of getting “more religion” or some other indefinite religious experience.

6. Giant Emotion. This giant attempts to persuade his victims that they must have the witness of the Spirit before they believe God’s promise. He blinds their eyes to the fact that their part is complete submission and trust in God’s Word. But this giant fools them into clamoring for “good feelings” before they have taken the medicine of complete submission and trust.

7. Giant Unbelief. His is commander-in-chief of the “great legion” and is continually straining all his power to invent and execute new expedients for keeping his victims from the realms of perfect love. He is procurer for Giant Despair of Pilgrim’s Progress fame, and most of those vanquished by him die in Doubting Castle.

All the giants threatening Israel at Kadesh were of heathen extraction. So all of these just mentioned who seek to frighten believers from a life of perfect love are born of Satan and a corrupt heart. Israel was frightened by the bluster of the giants and fled without even trying to conquer them.

Instead of following in the footsteps of defeated Israel, let us adopt the God-honoring, giant-defying report of Caleb and Joshua:

“Let us go up at once and possess it;


for we are well able to overcome it.”

Martin Wells Knapp (1853–1901), the founder of God’s Revivalist and God’s Bible School, was a Methodist minister, writer, and educator who took a prominent role in the development of the early holiness movement. This selection, condensed by Larry D. Smith, is from Knapp’s Out of Egypt into Canaan, copyright 1887