Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Responding to the Promises of God (Pt. 2)

Milk and honey had to sound good to a couple million travel-weary refugees.
That's part of what awaited if they obeyed God's command to take the land.

When challenges arise, we can respond like the 10 spies and the people, with fear and paralysis. Matthew Henry comments- “Giving credit to the report of the spies rather than the word of God, and imagining their condition desperate, they laid the reins on the neck of their passions, and could keep no manner of temper. Like foolish froward children, they fall a crying, yet know not what they cry for. It would have been time enough to cry out when the enemy had beaten up their quarters, and they had seen the sons of Anak at the gate of their camp; but those that cried when nothing hurt them deserved to have something given them to cry for.”

There is another response we can have, by God's grace-that of faith, like Joshua and Caleb.

Fundamentally, when looking at the reaction of the 10 spies and comparing it to that of Joshua and Caleb, it comes down to perspective. Not two equally valid perspectives, but one perspective that is immersed in God’s revealed Will. One that is soaked in God’s Word. The perspective of the Ten spies was finite and limited to man’s ability. Their view of the situation was full of disbelief to which one commentator states- “Unbelief or distrust of God is a sin that is its own punishment. Those that do not trust God are continually vexing themselves. The world’s mourners are more than God’s, and the sorrow of the world worketh death.”

When the faithless spies saw the giants roaming the land they were supposed to occupy, they grew scared and said to themselves, “Wow, they are huge, they are massive, there is no way we could kill them”. When Caleb and Joshua saw the giants, they grew excited and said to themselves, “Wow, they are so big, they would be impossible to miss with a bow and arrow. They are huge, slow targets that will be easy to hit!” (us bowhunter's especially appreciate this !). Remember, the 10 faithless spies have been telling the whole congregation of the daunting and impressive power and protection of the enemy. The crowd is stirred up and discouraged. Out of seemingly no where, Caleb rises in verse 13-
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

Caleb rocks! No hesitation whatsoever. Caleb saw that God was true to His word regarding the richness of the land. Caleb, with the rest of the congregation, experienced the manifold miracles that brought them to this point. It was a no-brainer to expect more of the same if they will be obedient to God and march forth to take the land. What is the fundamental difference between Caleb and the faithless spies? It comes down to faith in God's promises- which gives life a whole new perspective. It wasn't "blind" faith, or a "leap of faith", but rather surety about the character of the One who was making a promise based on perfect past performance. God hadn't failed them before, there was utterly no reason to doubt He would fail them going forward. This is the perspective of faith Caleb and Joshua attempted to lead the people with.

There's a cool story I've heard a few times that illustrates the point- During WWII General Creighton Abrams, for whom the modern American Tank is named, found himself and his troops surrounded on all sides. With characteristic optimism, he told his officers, “For the first time in the history of this campaign, we are now in a position to attack the enemy in any direction”.

Abrams was so confident in his leadership and the ability of the men he commanded that any onslaught by the enemy could be handled. Caleb and Joshua spoke with a much greater authority. They knew that God would be their ally and source of victory. Giants couldn’t stop them, God was bigger than any giant. Fortresses couldn’t protect the enemies of God, God was far more powerful. The fierceness of their foes was nothing compared to the all-consuming fire who would literally wipe them out. Their faithful perspective changed the way they approached life’s situations. Quite frankly, Joshua and Caleb showed their faith as they had no trouble confronting the faithless spies and the whole congregation. After Caleb speaks up in verse 30 the people go on and on about how it can’t be done and how they are all doomed. Joshua takes his turn the next day after the Israelites have been crying and moaning all night. Look at Joshua’s words in verses 6-9:

But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.8 “If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’9 “Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”

The time was right. The Lord had lifted his hand of protection from the enemy. Joshua saw this by faith! Too bad the people didn't listen! They would have 40 years to think about it.

1 comment:

Frontier Forest said...

The steadfast faith of Joshua and Caleb reminds me of a dear brother I recently met on a mission trip to the poor country of Moldova. After “Living the Word” for 9 exciting days, our team traveled 140 miles south, 3 miles from the Romanian boarder. Today, in the village of Kagul, we would have the unique opportunity to bring God’s Word of HOPE and SALVATION, to the hardened criminals, bound in sin, locked inside the walls of a former Soviet gulag. In what was to be a providential move of God, joining us, behind the walls, was a man from Scotland named Don. Little did we know that all of us were there for a divinely orchestrated revival! Faith leads and Brother Don lives undoubting faith. He is a street evangelist who travels the world, sharing the Good News to all who will hear. Don said each day Jesus organizes his mission. The Lord tells him where he will preach, where he will stay and living by FAITH, the Lord provides his every need. He shared, “Today, the Lord moved, and I felt that I was supposed to preach God’s Word to prisoners.” Not knowing a soul, and yet knowing it takes months and many permits to perform such a ministry, by faith he came to the prison. And in faith and said, “Okay Lord, I am doing what You told me to, now it is up to You to get me inside the walls here.”
What a huge encouragement this great man of faith was to us all! In all my years of following Christ, I have never witnessed such unwavering faith. What I learned from Don, was living, breathing and walking by faith, is what Jesus meant when He proclaimed, “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly! For I AM the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down HIS life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11) Faith is abundant life well lived.