Faith or Fear
A week ago, I had my car in the shop for some minor work. Fortunately for us, it was all covered by the warranty, so it was little more than an inconvenience. But while Ann and I were in the waiting lobby we overheard the service manager talking with another customer and it caused both of us to moan out loud.
From only hearing one side of the conversation it was clear that a passenger had run into unexpected mechanical problems which required an overnight stay. Mike, the service manager, explained that they had received the part and had it installed. This would have been good news, but he went on with, “after we got that part installed we discovered another problem. That problem will require another $800 for parts and labor and we won’t be able to complete it until tomorrow.”
My heart sank for the person on the other end of that phoneline. An unexpected overnight and $600 repair is now a 2-night delay with $1400 repair. It made me wish Mike had stopped with “we got the part installed.”
Last week we read in the first half of Numbers 13 how God told Moses to send explorers into the land He had promised in order to convince the people that His promises were good and about to be fulfilled.
As we concluded last week the scouts were returning with grapes, pomegranates and figs as symbols of the stability, fertility and abundance in the land that flowed with milk and honey.
Assyrian Relief from 7-8th Century BC in Nineveh.
Just as Mike’s report to the unexpecting traveler took a turn when he continued with “we discovered”, today’s text takes a serious turn with the first word of v.28.
Transition: All appears to be good as we start reading in v.25
Numbers 13:25–27 ESV:2016
25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.
Transition: The problem becomes clear as they continue in v.28 with the word “However”
Fear increases when we Disregard God (Num 13:28-29)
Numbers 13:28–29 ESV:2016
28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”
1. The report of the spies has NO mention of God. Notice v.27 where the spies state is was Moses who sent them. They conveniently leave out that it was God who told Moses to send them in v.1.
2. God’s invisible presence is a repeated theme of OT narrative.
a. Gideon – Judges 7:22
b. David vs. Goliath
c. Elisha – 2 Kings 6:17
d. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego – 4th in the furnace.
3. V.28 mentions the descendents of Anak. Since I’m sure they didn’t take opportunity to do genealogical research amidst their 500 mile journey, the reference to Anak is speculation. Besides the Anak is a vague reference to people whose defining feature was their necks. The history of this word is unclear as to if it is describing people with long necks, or people whose necks were adorned as signs of military conquest.
4. V.29 speaks of the Amalekites (Gen 36:12 says these are descendants of Esau) in the South. 3 people groups in the North; and the residents of Canaan in the central to the West and East.
Route of the Spies
5. The two mentions of Hebron in 13:22 are totally absent of their report. The spies are not only disrespecting God, they are disregarding His faithfulness and His reminders of the promises made to the Patriarchs of Genesis.
1. The problem with their report is that it is purely horizontal—dealing only with the human perspective and totally disregards all that God had just done for them in delivering them from the Egyptians who had established a multi-generational ability to dominate.
2. If God could deliver them from the Egyptians, why would they try to engage the Canaanites without him?
Transition: The disregard for God’s deliverance is bad enough, but when they are filled with fear we find that…
Fear increases by Distorting the Challenges (Num. 13:30-33)
Who is in your “we”? (v.30)
Numbers 13:30 ESV:2016
30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
1. Caleb’s we included God (v.30), cf. Josh in 14:6-9
2. The Ten’s we excluded God (vv. 31-33)
Numbers 13:31–33 ESV:2016
31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
1. When God is absent, the imagination runs to all kinds of myths and legends.
2. The land that provides nourishment in v.27 is the same land that is now described as devouring. But this is inconsistent because it appears to sustain the people who are there.
3. Nephilim was the stuff legends were made of. The only other place in Scripture where they are named is in Gen 6.
· How would the Nephilim have survived Noah’s flood?
· Possible recessive gene in Noah’s daughters-in-law.
· OR, I believe they just had military skills that seemed to defy description, so they were attributed to a legendary, “super-human” people.
4. Notice in v.33 the words “we seemed to” occurs 2 times. Which tells me they are allowing fear to shape their perception more than reality.
1. Perception and distortion are fears that every single parent has had to deal with at one time or another.
Whether it is ‘monsters under the bed’ or a little leaguer who stands 3 feet out of the batter’s box because he is afraid of getting hit by a pitch, or the student who develops acute stomach problems whenever an oral book report is due, distorted perceptions that are magnified by fear afflict us all.
1. One commentator describes the distortion of the 10 with these words, “they characterized Canaan as a jurassic park inhabited by humansauruses (Nephilim), who made them look like grasshoppers (13:33)”[i]
2. This exaggeration would be hilarious if it were not for the real fear that it elicited in the people.
Transition: The fear of the 10 leads to the fatality of a generation. This is why I say…
Fear’s increase Damages Others (Num 14:1-4, 11)
1. The people rejected God. The disregard by the spies has now spiraled into defamation as the only mention of God in 14:3 is negative.
Numbers 14:1–3 ESV:2016
1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
2. They had seen God protect them through the plagues, but they were unsure if God would protect them against Canaanites.
3. Deuteronomy 1:28 reviews this incident and describes the “melting of their hearts”
Raiders of the Lost Ark – what happens when the Nazi’s open the Ark”
4. God was ready to reject them – start a whole new nation through Moses. (Numb 14:11-12)
Numbers 14:11–12 ESV:2016
11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
1. The general negativity that had been spreading through the people ever since the golden calf was the fertile soil in which fear germinated and took root.
2. In response to this fear Numb 14:5-9 describes how Moses, Aaron, Caleb & Joshua plea with all they have that people would weed out the fear and cultivate faith.
Numbers 14:5–9 ESV:2016
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. 6 And 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 said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”
3. But v.10 describes that fear had totally replaced faith in the hearts of the people to the point that they were willing to murder the ones calling for faith.
1. This is where the Father’s Day application comes in. Parents, Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles, we have an opportunity to influence the next generation. We have an opportunity to foster their faith by testifying of the Lord’s goodness.
2. Or we have the ability to melt their hearts and crush their spirits if we live in fear.
A song was written the year my son was born. Listen to these lyrics and consider if this resonates with the prayer of your heart. Sing “I Want to be Just Like You”
3. Thursday of this week I was visiting with one of the participants in the Grace-Based Parenting study group. She was telling me how she has noticed the importance of modeling for her kids because so much of what they become is shaped by the examples they see.
Transition: The Hebrews camped at Kadesh had 2 sets of examples. One set cried out in faith. The other set cowered in fear.
This account pivots with the conjunctions. 4 words you may want to underline are:
· “However” in v.28
· “But” in v.30
· “Then” in v.31
· “Then” in 14:1
With these 4 flip-flops we have a story that starts good, then turns to fear, Then Caleb tries to turn it to faith. Then the scouts turn it back to fear, then the people take it to out-and-out despair.
My question for you today is, “Will you follow God’s promptings in faith, or will you shrivel and die, paralyzed by fear?”
[i] Roy Gane, Leviticus, Numbers, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 601.