Today we examine Numbers 13. This chapter tells about a crucial event in the history of Israel. And I believe it is relevant to us because the way they reacted in doubt is too often the way we react today.
This is the story of Moses & the people of Israel as God freed them from their slavery in Egypt & led them to the border of the Promised Land. When they arrive, God gives the command, & Moses tells the people, “It is time for us to go in & take the land which God has given us.”
But first, he chooses 12 men – one from each tribe – & tells them, “Go & spy out the land. Observe the people, their cities & fortifications, & their produce. Then come back & tell us what the land is like.”
So these 12 men take off & spend 40 days spying out the land. When they come back they reported, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” (Numbers 13:27)
God was right! “We looked at the land & it is exactly what God said it would be. But from that point on, their report was no longer unanimous. They were divided 10 to 2, & the majority begins the rest of its report with the word, “But“.
Have you ever noticed how often the word, “But,” is used when we don’t want to do what God is asking? “I know you said this God, but.” “I know your word is clear on this, but.”
That is exactly what was happening here in verses 28-33 where their report continues: “But the people who live there are powerful, & the cities are fortified & very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.
“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses & said, ‘We should go up & take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’
John Gardner said, “We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted, and God tests our faith to help us make sure it’s genuine.
- God places regular tests of faith before His children.
“But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ . . . ‘All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the descendants of Anak there. . .’ ‘We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, & we looked the same to them.'”
Oh, no, the majority is recommending they disobey God! Why? Doubt that expresses itself in fear, worry and anxiety.
Caleb & Joshua, even though they are in the minority, urged the people to do what God wants them to do. They argued, “If God is leading the way, then why should we be afraid?”
- Doubt sees obstacles, faith sees opportunities.
After all, look at the miracles God had already done on their behalf. He had sent the plagues upon Egypt & forced Pharaoh to let them go. He had divided the waters of the Red Sea, & then closed those waters upon the chariots of Egypt.
He had given them water in the desert when they were thirsty, manna when they were hungry, & quail when they wanted meat.
God had been with them all through the wilderness. He had led them with a pillar of cloud by day, & a pillar of fire by night. They had even heard His voice in the midst of the thunder & lightning & smoke on Mt. Sinai.
After witnessing so many miracles, why did they stop trusting God? Why did they refuse to enter the Promised Land when that had been their goal since leaving Egypt? They had fear and doubt. Often we do the same thing. We trust God to handle the smaller issues but doubt his ability to take care of the big problems, the tough decisions, the frightening situations. He brought me this far and won’t let me down now. We can continue trusting God by remembering all he has done for us.
But sadly, ten of the spies were so afraid that they were not willing to obey God.
“We are not able” is the cry of doubt (Num. 13:31), but, “Our God is able” is the affirmation of faith.
Vs. 31-32 says that “they spread a bad report” among the people, and each time they told it, their description was exaggerated, misrepresented or flat out lies. When our eyes are on ourselves and our circumstances, we lose our perspective and say and do ridiculous things.
And in vs. 33 they say, “We saw the descendants of Anak there!” The “descendants of Anak” were a race of abnormally large people. The family of Goliath may have been descended from these people.
These 10 spies are saying, “We don’t stand a chance because there are giants – fearsome warriors – in the land! Everywhere you go there are giants!” They saw themselves as grasshoppers. They saw the enemy as giants. And they didn’t see God at all!
The negative opinion of 10 men spread doubt among the people.
- Doubt is contagious.
Because it is human nature to accept opinion as fact, we must be especially careful when voicing our negative opinions. What we say may heavily influence the actions of those who trust us to give sound advice. The ten spies spread an evil report among the people. They exaggerated and distorted the truth. They became stumbling blocks to Israel. Scripture is clear: we are not to be stumbling blocks, not to cause people to stumble and fall.
Now let’s apply this to our lives today. To the children of Israel, the Promised Land represented their future. And God gave them the opportunity to go in and start a new life.
As you look into the future, what do you see? Do you see giants, or God?
There are crises in our world, a crisis in the family, a crisis in morality and a crisis in government. Integrity and morality has been shoved aside. We are a people living as if there is no God.
Those are some of the giants we face. But as we look into the future, I think that sometimes we become so overwhelmed by the giants that we are like these 10 men, & we think that there is no way we can take the land.
But if there has ever been a time when our world needs Christians who care about people who are hurting, who will reach out to a lost & confused world, who will live out and speak the simple Bible message without compromise, now is that time.
We must not retreat. We must not be intimidated. And don’t ever forget, our God specializes in slaying giants. David slew Goliath. So what do you see when you look into the future? Do you see giants, or do you see God? God is bigger. No obstacle is too big for God..
Finally, as you look toward the future, where are you going? Isn’t it amazing how short a memory the children of Israel had? For over 200 years they had suffered as slaves in Egypt, & complained bitterly to God about it.
So God heard their cries, set them free, & led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. But now they’re afraid to go in. And they’re saying, “Maybe it would be better if we went back to Egypt.” What??? How sad, how defeating!
- Doubt can lead to despair.
For some people they would rather suffer in what is familiar than trust God in what is unknown. They were ready to give up their freedom & become slaves once again, just for a measure of security. Our security is in God.
What do we do if we are gripped with doubt?
- Doubt must be replaced with faith.
If your life is in the wilderness, if you feel doubt, then Jesus Christ is the one who goes before us! He conquers the giants of death and sin. Jesus Christ is the one to deliver us from bondage and take us into a growing relationship with Him, a promise land that starts now: a life of faith, with growth and struggles, but leads to victory and ultimately heaven. It all starts with faith in Jesus.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
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