Friday, April 27, 2012

120426 - Numbers 14 - Fearing the Wrong Thing at the Wrong Time

Thursday SOAP: The Ten Spies demonstrate the danger of fearing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Before they were sent out to conquer the land of Canaan, God commanded Moses to send out a man from each tribe to search out the land and report on it. It is said that they brought back an "evil" report. They moved from news to judgment without considering God. As I'm spying out the land we do warfare in, is it possible for me to make the same mistakes?

S: And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. (Numbers 14:4-10)

O: This is a very familiar story to anyone who grew up going to Sunday School. So familiar, in fact, that it's easy to miss the perspective of the 10 spies - they had seen a rich and fat land (13:27). But they also saw other things that seemed important to report. Strong nations. Fortified cities. Huge warriors.

Our home Bible study (Foundation Crew) has been reading through the book, "Pilgrim's Progress," and there's a point in this book at which it becomes clear in the allegory WHY a Christian is given spiritual armor. Quite obviously, we are given armor because there will be a war. Even in Romans 8, possibly the most thrilling chapter in the Bible, we may read between the lines and see opposition, need, condemnation and attempts to separate us from God by (fallen) angels, principalities, powers and other created beings by trouble, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword and even death itself.

If we reread this story with "natural" and naïve eyes, we might begin to sympathize a bit more with the spies. They were sent to SPY. This implies determining the number and strength and level of fortification of their soon-to-be enemies. (Num 13:18-19) But the congregation of Israel went beyond an evaluation of the strength of the enemy to the conclusion that they were not able to take the land. Further, that Moses and Aaron should be replaced and Caleb and Joshua were to be stoned. Fear may have been warranted. But the fear of the LORD should have been greater than the fear of men.

A: God wants us to spy out the land and estimate the cost of following Jesus. (Luke 14:25-35) But then He wants us to be like Caleb and Joshua, full of faith and the Holy Spirit, believing that DESPITE our weaknesses and the challenges carefuly laid out before us, we can do all things, through Christ who strengthens us (Php. 4:13) and are well able to overcome. (Num. 13:30) That without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5) is only an impediment to those who "spy" with only natural eyes.

We ought to gravely consider the opposition - but also gravely consider the Lord as worthy of more fear than the world, the flesh and the devil. (Matt. 10:28) Even for the saved, it is possible to suffer loss. (1 Corinthians 3:15)

P: Father, as Christ reminded the disciples, without Him we can do nothing. Even the Church of Philadelphia had but "a little strength." I pray for the wisdom to honestly foresee trouble. But give me also eyes of faith to see my Lord as well able to overcome - even through such an earthen vessel as myself.


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