Sermon by Tony Hobbs – 8th April 2018
INTO A NEW SITUATION WITH THE LORD
Numbers 13:1 – 14:9
How the Israelites had got to this point
God was ready to deliver on His promises to Abraham and his descendants
God had redeemed His people from Egypt.
He had given the Law and entered into a covenant relationship with His people.
He had made clear how the people were to be organised into a nation.
He had demonstrated His power.
He had taught the people that walking in His ways, obeying His commands, leads to blessings beyond their experience!
All that’s needed …
All the people have to do is to trust in God.
To have their actions defined by trust in Him rather than by fear of circumstances.
A bit of background
We discover from Deuteronomy chapter 1 that there was some background, not mentioned in Numbers, to the sending out of the men.
Had the people simply done what God had said through Moses, they would have entered the Promised Land right away – and no doubt discovered God’s power to deliver.
However, they request ‘advance investigations.’ God, and Moses, allow this.
There is never any sense that this is lack of faith.
Understanding what they do
Some translations call the men ‘spies’ – because their task is to spy out the land. But they are more an investigating party than spies as we understand the term.
We shouldn’t think they are organised in some form of democratic way! Rather, leaders from all the 12 tribes are represented. All interest groups are involved.
The investigation is well organised and well planned. There is a clear strategy defined, in keeping with the bigger picture of what God is calling His people to do and how He wants to bless them.
Confirming God’s promises
Upon their return all the men confirm that the Promised Land is everything that God has promised!
They bring back example evidence of God’s intended blessings.
Fear, not faith
But the majority of the advance party warn against trying to conquer the land. To put it another way, they argue against doing what God had commanded Israel to do.
To appreciate what was going on, we should avoid glib evaluations.
For one thing we should remember that the people involved hadn’t had a long experience of relationship with the Lord. They had seen and experienced His power, but only over a short period.
In particular, they were still discovering that the Lord was not limited to a geographical region. (A common belief in the ancient world.)
Benefits and obstacles
So although the exploration had identified key examples of the blessings associated with the Promised Land, the exploration also identified key obstacles.
The primary obstacles were the Canaanite peoples living in the land, and how their cities were well-fortified.
A key obstacle on which they focus – this seems to have been a focus of fear, although not strategically the biggest problem – are the ‘giants’ that also inhabit the land.
We know little about these giants. Clearly some form of giant people were around this region at the time and later. (Goliath being a later example.)
We’re told these Anakim were related to the Nephilim. But this doesn’t help a great deal as the only information we have about these people is extremely limited (a handful of independent verses) and the Hebrew enigmatic. They are perceived to have some supernatural connections.
Exactly who and what they were isn’t important to our focus this morning other than to emphasise they were BIG AND SCARY!
Faith is not about ‘let’s pretend’
The obstacles the Israelites faced were real.
Faith in God isn’t trying to pretend that obstacles and difficulties don’t exist.
Faith is a conviction that God is powerful enough to overcome the obstacles and difficulties.
The more accurately we face up to the difficulties, the better we will appreciate God’s power.
Faith involves following God’s leading even when it’s tough.
We’re never given promises that obedience to God means everything is easy! (Although there are important Biblical examples of God promising that obeying Him will make things easier than expected.)
The majority of the exploratory group were driven by anxieties and fears. These are conveyed to the people as a whole.
These anxieties and fears prevented them and all the people from obeying God and experiencing the blessings that He had in store for them.
Anxieties and fears are real. They can feel debilitating.
The challenge is not to allow them to define us.
All my life I have been beset with anxiety. Often I have allowed it to define how I behaved; decisions that I have taken. Anxieties have cost me dearly.
People rarely notice my anxieties because I don’t often allow them to show.
But I want to testify about major healing from the Lord in this area.
The healing hasn’t been about not experiencing anxiety, but about not being driven by it.
Into new situations with the Lord
As we move into new situations personally, and a new situation as a church, this passage reminds us of several important things:
It’s ok to anticipate problems.
We should not allow obstacles and difficulties to blind us to God’s power and God’s blessings.
Faith can include real assessments of situations. We mustn’t mistake naivety for faith.
Faith to move involves allowing God to overcome our temperaments, personalities, etc. rather than expecting Him to change them first. However, as we move in faith we may also discover healing.