Monday, August 06, 2007

Message August 5, 2007

Almost Persuaded
Numbers 13:16-14:44
1. Introduction—the setting
It was the end of a forty year journey. Now in the Bible anytime you see the number forty that is “Bible speak” for “a long time”. You all remember the story from Sunday School. YHWH (God) forced Pharaoh to change his mind about keeping the people of Israel in slavery. Then when they got started on their journey, Pharaoh changed his mind again and went after them. Then YHWH managed to mire down the Egyptian army and drown them.
Next YHWH fed, watered, and clothed a people while they wandered the Sinai Peninsula for “forty years”. Oh and they were cantankerous! If you left them alone for a few days they would create their own god. He lost his patience with them a time or two and some of them did not live to regret it.
Now here they are on the verge of having everything they had been looking for. Here they were at Kadesh Barnea, just across the river from the Promised Land. They were on the verge of greatness. They were just across the river from the “land that flowed with milk and honey.” Now, again, that’s “Bible speak” for “fine.” It was to be the culmination of all their hopes and dreams.
2. The scouting party
No military expedition can commence until one does proper reconnaissance. Moses picked a man from each of the twelve tribes, one of which was his personal assistant, Joshua, to do the recon. They set off to be gone for a long time (remember 40) to do a thorough reconnaissance.
The instructions from Moses were very specific. Go up through the Negev into the hill country (what today is known as the Golan Heights) and see what the land looks like. Are there a lot of people in it or just a few people? Are they strong or weak? What is the soil like? Is it fertile or poor? Are the cities fortified? Are there trees on it or not? Bring us back some fresh grapes.
3. The report
The contrasting reconnaissance reports were interesting. The spies returned with a cluster of grapes big enough that it required two men to sling a pole between them to carry it. There was some other fruit. They stood before all the people and said “Mo, that land is finer than frog hair split four directions. But there are guys living there that would be first round draft picks in the NBA. Their legs are bigger than most NFL linemen and we personally do not have the gumption to face them. Those guys will rip our heads off.”
4. The argument
Caleb and Joshua silenced the panicky people and said, “You boys need to grow a little hair on your chest. We can do this thing.
“‘We thought surely God promised us the land,” the ten replied. “But we did not expect to have to fight for it. We supposed God would just give it to us without any fighting or trouble on our part.”
“Oh, no, God never promised Canaan without a battle,’ Caleb replied. ‘But He will help us fight, then we shall properly appreciate both God and Canaan and the fighting will make us stronger.”

Then the people lost what little vestiges of faith they had and the situation degenerated into a general panic. These people whom YHWH had brought out of Egypt with a series of miracles. These people for whom YHWH had fought. These people whom YHWH had fed and clothed. These people wanted the land of their Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob returned to them without their having to do anything for it.
The people had no faith. Faith believes, and doubt does not believe. One is the opposite of the other, just as heaven and hell are opposites. Considering doubters more closely, we find that doubters believe; but they believe the opposite of what they should believe. Doubters believe the wrong thing. A doubter is one who could and ought to believe facts, but for some reason or other cannot bring himself to do it. Instead, he believes another set of things, which appear to be facts but are not.
Faith and doubting is a little like a set of twins. One was born an optimist, the other a pessimist. They were so extreme in their views that the parents consulted a psychiatrist. After much counseling and many thousands of dollars, the psychiatrist was in a quandary. No progress was made. He finally settled on a course of action and informed the parents that for their upcoming birthday they should give the optimist the worst gift they could think of. The pessimist was to receive the most wonderful gift he could imagine.
Not being able to stand his curiosity the good doctor went to their house on the given day. Out front, he found the little pessimist with a wonderful bicycle. It was state of the art and had all the bells and whistles. When asked about his beautiful gift, the little boy replied, “It’s not the right color and I will probably break a leg or crush my skull on it if I ride it.”
Disheartened, the doctor found the little optimist out back. The boy was sitting in the middle of the yard with a shoebox full of horse apples. The doctor asked him about his present and the little optimist replied, “It’s wonderful! I got a pony; I just haven’t found him yet.” That’s the way this scouting party was. Two had faith. Ten did not have faith.
5. On the verge of greatness—rebellion
The people, on the verge of greatness, rebelled against their leaders and their God. A mob mentality ensued and the people spoke of stoning Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua. To Moses they said, “Why didn’t you and YHWH just leave us alone back in Egypt? We were slaves but at least we were alive!” They continued to rant like petulant children.
God became upset and was content to blast all but these men and their wives and children. He would then raise a whole new nation to have the benefit of his promises. A new nation from these men would be the ones to inherit the Land of Promise; the land of their Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“As surely as I live and as surely as the glory of YHWH fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times, not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”
6. Loss and wandering
So they turned and retraced their route. They wandered in the desert for another long time. They had been on the pinnacle of greatness. They were there where they could have received their promise. They were SOOOOOOOOOOO close, and they missed out. Not just for now but forever.
God wants a people who will believe in him. He wants a people who will trust in him. If you think about it, these people were very much like babies. They were little tyrants whose hand was always out. They always expected YHWH to meet their every need. They were content as long as he would meet their every need. It was when he required some effort on their part that the trouble started. We parents will do that for our children until they are able to do for themselves. At that point most of us can let go.
Today, we can go to Fayetteville and watch the Hogs play. It’s entertaining to sit in the stands and watch Darren McFadden run the ball. I never understood the entertainment of NASCAR but some find it entertaining. Sometimes it’s entertaining to go to church.
The difference is that this business of Christianity is not a spectator sport. We have no business “going to church” to be “entertained”. God send his son. They called him Jesus. He came to love, heal, and forgive. He lived and died to buy our pardon. This is a time for us all to search our hearts. The business of having God do all the work is a dangerous one.
We stand on the ground of Kadesh Barnea. God calls us to go over and be about the business of “being” Christians. He calls us to go forth and conquer. He asks for great risks to be taken in faith. He offers great reward. It requires us to get off the couch. You men will have to put down that remote. We must be about the business to which he calls us. Will you cross over the Jordan, or will you go back to the desert? There was so much that could have been. There is so much that could be. It is a choice each of us must make.


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