Faithlife Sermons

Doubting and rebellion

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It was my last year of college at Ozark and I was returning a couple of bicycles to Campus Christians on the campus of Pittsburg State University when I met someone that I still think about years later. Since it was summer most of the students living in the campus house were Asians. Some were from Japan, Korea, and China. When I was putting the bicycles in their place because you know “there is a place for everything and everything in its place;” well, one of the Chinese students and I started talking. I told him that the college minister was speaking at our Vacation Bible School. The Chinese student seemed interested; therefore, I invited him to church. This opened up the opportunity for a brief friendship. He had recently graduated and was to return to China in a few weeks. Before he left we shared a couple of meals together as well as some meaningful talk. I will come back to him in a little while.


The Israelites had to pay a terrible price for failing to trust in God. He had proven himself trustworthy when he brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. God had proven that he is trustworthy when the destroying angel “passed over” the Israelite families that had the blood smeared on the door post of their houses (Exodus 12:7-13). God proved he is trustworthy when he allowed the Israelites to freely walk out of Egypt after plundering them of gold, jewels, food, and animals just as the Lord had said they would do (Exodus 3:21-22). God was trustworthy when he miraculously parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites walked through it on dry ground but when the Egyptians tried to do so the flood waters came over them and everyone lie prostrate along the banks of the Sea (Exodus 14:21-31). He was trustworthy on this journey when they were hungry and he gave them the bread of heaven called manna, and quail to eat (Numbers 11). God had proven that he is trustworthy time and time again; however, the Israelites often chose to trust in themselves, in the horse and chariot, in their bow, in their bank account, and in their political leaders, rather than trust in God. In our story from Numbers 14 they will say, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Instead they should have said God will deliver us from the giants of the land since he has been trustworthy in the past.

God had given the Israelites Moses and what better leader could they have? And although Moses was the greatest leader this world has ever seen still yet there is One mo betta. One whom died on a cross so that we can be forgiven and made right in God's sight. One whom three days later would rise from the dead! Jesus—no compromise; therefore, do nothing that would endanger, jeopardize, or put at risk your confidence in Christ! However, maybe you are not ready to place you confidence in Christ. If that is the case then I ask you to be patient, open minded, and pay particular notice to the highlighted Scripture passages as you read what I have to say. Thank you!


In Numbers 13 the Israelites put at risk their confidence in the One True God by giving heed to the grumbling and complaining of the ten spies upon their return of surveying the Promise Land. Today, it is only a few hours from Egypt to Israel by car. However, back then the Israelites could only move as fast as the children and livestock traveling with them. Finally, when reaching the border of Israel a decision was made to send twelve spies into the land. They chose one leader from each of the twelve tribes. These spies were sent to survey the land, and the people of Israel. Weeks went by and no one heard from them. Some began wondering if something might have happened; however, after being gone for forty days all twelve spies returned. Out of those twelve we only know the names of two because the others have long been forgotten. The two are Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh. Upon arrival everything the spies had seen in the land was good except the people living there, they were giants! They were numerous, and living in fortified cities; furthermore, they looked like decedents of Anak, these people were real giants. The ten spies said we will match up to them like grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33). These ten had forgotten God and his power; consequently, fear settled in. But Joshua and Caleb remembered what God had previously done and were fully confident that He would continue being with them no matter the circumstance. But fear, moved to doubt and doubt to rebellion and the rebellion began spreading like fire throughout the camp.

Numbers 14:1-12 (NLT)

The People Rebel

14 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. 6 Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. 7 They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! 8 And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

10 But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the LORD appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle.* 11 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? 12 I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”


Did you catch that? The people are ready to take the Promise Land but instead of obediently following God they rebel. Therefore, God has had enough and says, “I will disown them and destroy them with a plague.” God then says to Moses that he will make him into a nation greater and stronger than these people who have rebelled. In Numbers 14:13-19 Moses reasons with God, speaking of the Lord’s fame in all the earth. Chris Tomlin in his song “Famous One,” speaks of God’s fame.

“You are the Lord

The famous one

Famous one

Great is your name

In all the earth

The heavens declare

You're glorious, glorious

Great is your fame

Beyond the earth.”

Later in time, the Israelites find themselves in a similar situation and once again God acts on behalf of his name (Ezekiel 36:16-24). God is glorious. I think Moses understood something of God’s greatness and not his own. God tells him that he will make him into a nation greater and stronger than these people who have rebelled; however, we see Moses perfectly content with God getting all the glory and not himself!

God made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and so from Abraham and Sarah God began forming a people that he could call his very own, the Israelites. Abraham and Sarah would have a son named Isaac, and he would have a son named Jacob who became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel (Acts 7:8). And so from these twelve tribes became a very numerous people called the Israelites. And beginning with them God chose to make his name famous.

The ancestors of these people had once dwelt in the land of Israel; however, because of disobedience God allowed a famine to strike the land which resulted in the Israelites leaving Israel. Joseph lived in Egypt at this time because his brothers had sold him into slavery (Acts 7:9-10). The forgiving Joseph welcomed his brothers, their families, and his father Jacob to Egypt (Acts 7:11-16). However, their welcome lasted only as long as Joseph and those original leaders of Egypt were alive. When these leaders died new leaders arose that did not know of Joseph and how their ancestors treated the Israelites favorably. For hundreds of years the Israelites were oppressed and mistreated in Egypt; however, God heard their cry for mercy. God miraculously brought the Israelites out of Egypt with the assistance of Moses. These people had times of faith in the One True God and there were other times they wandered in the wilderness. There were times of confidence in God and other times their confidence was in themselves, in the horse and chariot, in their bow, in their bank account, and in their political leaders. God wants his people to fully believe that in him they can defeat the giants in the land.


Do you have a giant facing you? It might be a dare to take another step as a follower of Christ. Your giant might seem bigger and larger than life; however, remember Christ (Romans 8:31).

It is easy for me sitting behind my desk and say come on you Israelites! Why is it when faced with a giant you quickly forget that God has defeated your giants in the past? I sit here kind of puffed up thinking that nothing can separate my whole hearted faith in God. Kind of like Peter when he said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” (Matthew 26:31-35). It is impossible to know what we would really do when the time comes for us to cross into the promise land with a giant standing in our way. However, knowing whom you believe in is critically important before going into the land and facing the giant. I fully believe that we must have our mind, our heart, our soul, and all our strength wholly set upon the Lord. Jesus no compromise! This means not endangering, not jeopardizing, and not putting at risk our faith in the One True God. God wants to have a people that are his very own. Today these people are followers of Jesus Christ God’s One and only Son. These people go by the name Christian.


Is there any relationship between Christians and Israelites? I believe God’s purpose for the Israelites was that they would be his very own people and help bring God’s Son into the world. However, God no longer has a specific people group or geographical place of worship as he did before Jesus. Today, God draws followers of his from every tribe, tongue, and nation. And the great unifier is Jesus Christ. It is not easy being a follower of Jesus. Nor is it easy making disciples of his as we are called to do (Acts 1:8). God may not perform the kind of miracles we read about in the Old Testament any longer; however, he continues to make his name great by the things we do in Jesus Name. At the beginning of this sermon I mentioned a Chinese student at Pittsburg State University. This man lived in the Campus Christian house; however, he was not a follower of Christ. This friend once asked, “If Jesus is God then why does he not just show himself to everyone?” God has and it is through the love of Christians that he reveals himself to the world. Christians make God known through word and deed. We show that we are separated from the world by how we choose to live (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians choose to follow Christ Jesus and none other. Christians choose to live according to the Holy Scriptures, Christians choose to not grumble and rebel against the Lord. This is God’s plan for your life and mine too. I have not forgotten my Chinese friend and I pray. Father, keep drawing this man to you so that your name may be made famous in the land of China. In Jesus Name. Amen.


So what have we learned? Had the Israelites been obedient they would have defeated the giants and entered the Promise Land. Brothers and sisters we must determine in our mind, our heart, our very soul, and with all our strength not to compromise our walk with Jesus. What does it mean to not compromise Jesus? It means not putting endanger, in jeopardy, or at risk anything that would cause us to have thoughts of doubt, reasons for losing heart, and giving our soul to another. It means that with all our strength we will trust, hope, and obey Jesus. It means watching our lives that is not only what we put into our bodies but also what come out of them, it means guarding what we believe. Sometimes this may mean going against the grain, going against the flow, not joining in with the majority. I like these wise words from the 33rd President of the United States of America Harry Truman: "How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt! What would Jesus Christ have preached if he had taken a poll in the land of Israel? What could have happened to the Reformation if Martin Luther had taken a poll! It isn't polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It is right and wrong and leadership." Brother, sister if you claim to be a Christian, if you claim to be a follower of Christ then you are a leader. And to someone you are the only Jesus they may ever see.

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