Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Father, we calm our hearts like a weaned child. We have come, Lord, to be nourished by the words of life. We know, Lord, there are thoughts that are competing for our very attention. I pray, Father, that those would be banished as we bring every thought into captivity of the obedience to Jesus Christ. Strengthen us, Lord, no matter what our situation is and help us see timeless truths to transform our present situations. Realign our thinking, Lord, that it may be more along the lines of your thoughts.
For your Word tells us that our thoughts are not yours, that you transcend. You are greater than how we think, so we want to put on the mind of Christ. And part of our worship, Lord, is that we block out all other forms of input. And as a sacrifice of praise, as was already stated, we give you this time for you to speak to us. And part of our worship is that we will listen, and by your grace, and by the help of your Spirit put into practice the principles that transcend time and geography. Strengthen your people, Lord, in Jesus' name, amen.
When two people get married, they often discover that before long those very things that attracted them, that they actually thought were cute about that other person's personality, begin to annoy them. They're just not as cute as they used to be. They were cute at one time, because they were novel, and you'd never met anybody like that. And then you discover why you've never met anybody like that. [laughter] And that is the adjustment phase of a relationship. I heard about a couple, they were newlyweds.
And on their honeymoon the husband, the young husband said to his young wife as he took her by the hand, and looked lovingly into her eyes, he said, "Sweetheart, now that we're married, I wanted to talk to you about a few of the defects that I have discovered in you since I've known you." And she smiled and said, "Sure, honey. In fact, it's those very defects that kept me from finding a better husband." [laughter] In the Old Testament, Israel as a nation is given a title as the wife of the Lord; the wife of Jehovah, if you have an older translation; or Yahweh, if you have a little bit newer phraseology.
And they've come to a place in their walk in the wilderness where Israel as a nation begins to focus upon what it perceives, they perceive as some of the defects in following this God who delivered them out of Egypt and promised to bring them into a new land. It's not easy. It's a life of faith. And they see some issues and they decide to focus on those problems with them. If you recall, in our study last week as we began chapter 13, and we only went through a few verses, but I quoted to you what C. H. Mackintosh that old commentator of yesteryear said.
He said, "Ten thousand mercies are forgotten in the presence of a single trifling moment." The moment has come, and here the bride, the wife of the Lord sees the defects that they perceive in following their God. And they forget so much of what God has done for them already. Selective memory disorder---we all have it. Right? We have a problem recalling the right stuff. We tend to forget what we should remember, and we remember the stuff we should forget. So too with the nation of Israel. Their memory was short.
In chapter 13 and 14 they come to a place where a decision has to be made. Are they going to enter the land that God said he had for them and promised that they would enter, or will they not enter it? And so they send out spies, representatives from the different tribes of Israel to check it out, to scope it out, to give a report back. And the nation will be confronted with the decision. "God made a promise, shall we go in and take it, or will fear keep us back and will we wander away?"
And here becomes the threshold moment of their history, when their walking turns to wandering; their marching becomes meandering; their witness becomes wailing. It's something that will be immortalized throughout all of their history from this time on. Here's what's interesting about these forty years in the wilderness. Did you know that we don't really know a lot about that time? They're silent years. Oh, yeah, there's a few incidents that we can read about that take place. They're noteworthy and they're written down, but for the most part, the bulk of those years are all silent.
But those incidents that are recorded and do become noteworthy become their shame. For in the book of Hebrews, chapter 3, the very end of that chapter, verse 19, it says, "So we see that they could not enter in because of their unbelief." Unbelief. Unbelief becomes what they become immortalized for. Now the fact that this is recorded does lend to the authenticity and the accuracy of the Scripture. Because, you see, if you were writing a biography about someone, or if you were writing an autobiography, it is typical to want to hide the most shameful parts of a person's story, to sort of embellish other parts and hide those parts that they're ashamed of.
But the fact that the Bible records all of the truth, all of the incidents, all of the good and the bad, lends to the accuracy and authenticity. Nothing is omitted. Their shame and their failure is displayed, and it will be throughout their history. Well, chapter 13, twelve spies are selected from the twelve different tribes. When they come back, only two have a good report, ten have an evil report, which will help you understand why Joshua, when he decided to send spies out to the land, he only sent two out.
He thinks, "Why should I bother with the other ten? They were worthless to begin with. It was only myself and Caleb that had a good report. All you need is two witnesses, 'by the mouth of two witnesses,' not twelve, 'every word will be established.' " So, Joshua sends only two out into Jericho to look at that city before they take it over. So we read the names in chapter 13, the two notable names, one comes from the tribe of Judah, the other comes from the tribe of Ephraim. You'll notice in verse 6, "From the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh"; in verse 8, "From the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun."
Verse 16, "These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, and Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua." Hoshea means "to save." Joshua means "He saves," the Lord saves. Joshua is the English pronunciation. The Hebrew pronunciation is Yeshua. It's the name of Jesus, Yeshua. It's really a contraction of the Hebrew word Yehoshua, which is "Yahweh saves," the contraction Yeshua, or as I pronounce it as it is written, Joshua. Verse 17 is where we really begin.
"Then Moses sent them out to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, 'Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains.' " Now, they're at a place called Kadesh Barnea. It is like the El Paso of Israel. It is a border town. It is the port of entry into the new land. And they would go through the south land, which is the desert, the Negev Desert. And as they would go in further penetrating the land, they would get up to the hill country as you shall see.
" 'And see,' " verse 18, " 'See,' " he tells them, " 'what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage,' " he tells these twelve spies, ' "And bring back some of fruit of the land.' Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes." So it's midsummer, around mid-July.
"And so they went up and they spied out the land from the Wilderness of Zin," that's way down south where it's really barren and ugly, nothing much grows, "as far as Rehob, near the entrance of Hamath." That's way up north. If you've been to Israel, if you've ever been with us on a tour and we've taken you to the area of Dan or Mount Hermón, Mount Hermon, that 10,000-foot peak, it's lush and green and beautiful. It's so different from the South, the deserts. I remember being struck when I first went to the land to live.
I was struck, first of all, because it reminded me of my home. It reminded me so much of Southern California, being around the same latitude; California having the lowest place in the continental United States, Death Valley. Compare that with the Dead Sea region, the lowest place on the face of the earth, 1,290 feet below sea level, to not only the coasts and the deserts, but then also the forests and the mountains up north. The mountain ranges and the rivers that flow and just so beautiful and lush in certain parts. So, I can only imagine what the spies must have felt like.
At first they're going through, you know, the El Paso region. They're down south, and they keep going up north. They get up to the mountains, and they start climbing around the waterfalls, and going, "Wow! This place is awesome!" "And they went up," verse 22, "through the South and they came to Hebron; Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)" They come to Hebron. Hebron is beautiful. Unfortunately, even if we were there, if we were on a tour there right now, I couldn't bring you to Hebron.
It's closed because of the conflicts. But it has one of the oldest landmarks of Israel. It's where Abraham and Sarah and the patriarchs are buried. If you recall, back in Genesis---do you remember when Abram argued with the sons of Heth over a cave to bury his wife in, the cave of Machpelah? Herod the Great has built a walled enclosure, still to this day in almost perfect tact, built 2,000 years ago around the cave of Machpelah. But Hebron itself is lush and beautiful in the hill country of Judah, similar to Jerusalem. But it's about nineteen, almost twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem.
So they're going from the desert up into the hill country. But there's a little note, and I want to draw your attention to it. It says, "(Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)" Let me tell you why this is important. Zoan is more famously known as Tanis, T-A-N-I-S, in Egypt. Now, for some of you the only reason you would know that is if you've seen the Indiana Jones movies, and you remember Raiders of the Lost Ark. And they were digging around the city of Tanis, the ancient city of Tanis. Well, that's a fictitious movie, but Tanis was a real town.
But its original name was Zoan. Here's why it's important: Zoan was a secret resort for the pharaohs. Nobody knew about its existence until much later on. The Egyptians didn't even know about Zoan. The only ones that knew about it were the pharaohs and those within the family of the pharaohs. Why am I bringing this up? Because so often the first five book of Moses are talked about as not being of Mosaic authorship, that Moses didn't write them. "Moses didn't write this. Somebody else wrote it. Moses couldn't have written it." And they have a number of reasons.
Whoever the author was had to have inside knowledge, had to, in fact, be in the inner circle to even know what Zoan was. In fact, I contend, would have to be in the royal family to know what it is. And one thing we know about Moses is that he was adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh, raised in Pharaoh's household, would have had intimate knowledge of Zoan. The place where they kept the documents of the pharaohs, the chronology of the pharaohs, important dates, etcetera, were all there in that secret refuge of Zoan. So whoever wrote it, and we know it's Moses, would have had to have the inside-circle knowledge as he did.
So he brings that up, here's Hebron, it was built some years before Zoan in Egypt. Now the reason Hebron is here is you need to remember Hebron, and you need to stick it in your mind. Because when we get to the book of Joshua, chapter 14, which we looked at a few Sunday's ago, but when we get to it here---which who knows when that'll be. But eventually we'll get there. Caleb will be forty-five years older than he is here. He's going to be eighty-five years old. And he's the guy who saw Hebron and it so impressed him, and he knows that now at eighty-five years of age there are still giants that inhabit it.
And he says to Joshua, "Look, Moses promised me Hebron and these mountains. I know there's still giants in the land, but I'm a strong, man. Give me the giants. Don't give me the easy life." He didn't say, "Now that we're on the Promised Land, I want a sea cottage over in Tel Aviv with a view." "I don't want an easy life now that I'm eighty-five, I got fight left in me, man. I've got vision. Give me this mountain!" Love his attitude. And then it mentions some of the folks that were there. The NBA would be all over these guys, the sons of Anak, these giants in the land.
Something else about Hebron: the spies who went in, unlike you and I, had a daily working knowledge of their own history. They would have remembered---they should have remembered that Hebron way before this was important in the days of their great-great-grandfather Abraham. That Abram, when the five kings attacked and took Lot as a captive---do you remember that story back in Genesis? That Hebron called Kirjath Arba, now called Hebron, was the place where Abram staged his attack and defeated the five kings to the glory of God.
They should have remembered that portion of their history as they went into that same geography thinking this: "If God could be that faithful to our great-grandfather Abraham who conquered the land against five kings with his 318 men, then certainly God will be faithful now to give us this land once again." They should have remembered that portion of their history, but, unfortunately, it will be eclipsed. "They came," verse 23, "to the Valley of Eshcol." Now if we were in Hebron today, I would tell you to get out on the road and go toward Jerusalem.
And the first valley you come to, leaving Hebron, on your way north to Jerusalem, that's the Valley of Eshcol. Still there today, very lush. It still is used for growing agriculture. The word eshkol means "cluster." And you'll see why it's important as they say, "They came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there they cut down a branch with one cluster [eshkol] of grapes; and they carried it between two of them on a pole. And they also brought some of the pomegranates and the figs." So that's one big cluster of grapes, if it takes two dudes on a pole to carry it. They're big.
That's another thing that really struck me as I went to Israel. I went over and worked on a kibbutz, and my job, one of my jobs. was to carry bananas. I thought, "Oh, how hard can that be, bananas? They're really light." Well, I discovered that when you hug a cluster of bananas and put it on your shoulders, the average weight is 110 pounds per cluster of banana. I had no problem as a young man doing that---my first carry. Second one was a little bit, well, I took a breath. And by the end of the day it wiped you out. I'm thinking, "These things are big."
One cluster of grapes carried between two men, their prize trophy, the fruit of the land. Now, if you do go to Israel at any time, look for the taxi cabs or the cars, the official cars that are the Ministry of Tourism vehicles. To this day the Ministry of Tourism vehicle has as its insignia two men carrying a bunch of grapes. You see it all over the land, and it harkens back to the story that you and I are reading here tonight. But, just so you know, it's not all about grapes, there's some pomegranates and figs. And I don't know how you are with those things, but bring it on, man.
Freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice---yeah! Yeah, baby. [laughter] "The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the men cut down there. And they returned from spying out the land after forty days. Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh." So they're back in El Paso. [laughter] "And they brought back word to them and all the congregation, showed them the fruit of the land." What would their reaction be? Here it is: "Look at the size of these grapes, they're humongous."
"And then they told him, and they said: 'We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey.' " Now, you know that's a term for abundance, "milk and honey." It's good for an agrarian lifestyle. You can have lots of cattle feeding; hence the milk. And then the honey. Now the honey that it speaks about in the Bible isn't like the honey you and I think about, but it's date extract. It's the date, the syrup that comes in the dates that they use to make honey still to this day.
Probably when you think of honey, you think of date honey, rather than the honey that you would see from bees and flowers. It's that kind of honey. But so they say it's truly a land that flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Watch this: "Nevertheless"---uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh. "Look! Look at this fruit! But," or "Nevertheless." That means I'm going to say something different than what you see. You see the fruit, but words of contrast are going to go in a different direction. They've got the fruit, but fear will keep you from really seeing the fruit.
You are either filled with faith or filled with fear. And they get so filled with fear they can't see the fruit. It blinds them because they've seen something else, and they'll make mention of it. " 'Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south; the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites.' "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! [laughter] " 'They dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.' "
"The Amalekites"---go back to that verse. The Amalekites, the descendants of Amalek, settled in the southern desert regions, El Paso and upwards. Thinking from Kadesh Barnea and upward, that Negev region. That's where the Amalekites settled. Notice next it says, "The Hittites." The Hittite civilization originated in central Anatolia. Do you know where that is? Turkey, modern-day Turkey, and about 1800 BC they started expanding their borders moving south and southeast, and they settled in this land. And that's where this civilization in the Canaanite land, or in the land of Israel came from.
The Hittites made their journey. Then notice next on the list are "the Jebusites." The Jebusites, we believe, are part of the Amorite group, but they settle in the hill country of Jerusalem. Okay? There's a very important town called Jebus. Does that ring a bell, Jebus? It's a Jebusite stronghold. Jebus is the ancient name of Jerusalem, because it was the Jebusite stronghold until King David kicked them all out. He moved the Jebusites out of Jerusalem and established that as the capital of the land. Then "the Canaanites," that's just the indigenous population of the land, they dwelt "by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan."
"Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and he said, 'Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.' " Now there's a man of faith. He's forty years old, when he's eighty-five he'll sound even feistier. He'll grow in his faith. "But 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.' " Now stop right there and let me ask you a very important question: is the majority always right? Not at all. And, yet, so much of life is majority rules.
We vote and whoever gets the most votes, the majority wins. Or if there's a policy, "What does the majority think? What do the rest of the people think?" But the majority can't always be trusted to be accurate, especially when you consider toward the end of First John when it says, "For we know that we are of God, little children," listen to this, "And the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." What John is saying is the minority who follow Christ are right; the rest of the world is deceived and are wrong. The ten, the majority, are wrong.
God made a promise---Moses knew it, Joshua knew it, Caleb knew it. But they're not even looking at the fruit that's sitting, staring at them in the face. " 'They're stronger than we.' And they gave the children of Israel," verse 32, "a bad [or evil] report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone as spies, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.' "
What an interesting contrast: giants/grasshoppers. They saw giants, and they saw themselves as grasshoppers. Now grasshoppers, interesting fact, was considered the smallest edible creature. Yeah, they have a great source of protein, ask John the Baptist, he lived on those babies. So, it would be the equivalent of saying, "Those dudes are so big, and we're like shrimp, you know. We're like shrimp cocktail compared to them, just little bitty, edible creatures." " 'So we were in their sight as well as our sight.' " Now, these ten people, you know who their faith is in? No, it's not in themselves.
Their faith is in the giants. Am I right? Think about it. They believed the giants would win. "If we go in that land, the giants are going to win. They're going to beat us." Their faith is in the giants. Joshua and Caleb, their faith is in the giant God. Those ten saw big people and a little God; Joshua and Caleb saw big people and a bigger God. How do you see? What's your perspective? It'll be very similar when David goes out and faces Goliath, and he says, "Pfft! Bring it on! I have a few stones, no problem." And the rest of Israel if going, "What!? You, little, shrimpy David, grasshopper David, next to giant Goliath? He's too big to kill."
You know what David's thinking? "He's too big to miss. [laughter] You see him as a big terror; I see him as a big target. I mean, I've shot little lions out in the field. I can't miss that guy, he's so huge." Nailed him. All a matter of perspective. How big is your God? "Oh, but this situation is so bad, so big, so dreadful." Perhaps it is. Is your God bigger? That's the perspective change that needs to occur. Now before we move on, I just want you to see, once again, in verse 33 what they say. " 'We are like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.' "
Do you hear that? So they're saying, "Look, we know they're big and that we're small. And you know what? They know they're big and we're small. They are so not afraid of us, and we are so afraid of them." Okay, so that's what they say. That is not the truth. Later on---it's going to take them forty years to get through this episode---when they finally enter the land under Joshua---this is Joshua, chapter 2. You can turn to it if you want. It's just a couple of books away. Joshua, turn to it, chapter 2, for just a moment. Now there's two spies that are sent into the land, right, Jericho?
The two spies come to the house of Rahab the harlot. Rahab the harlot hides them under some flax. Joshua chapter 2 verse 9, now I want you to hear this. Here's the truth, the real report on the ground, boots on the ground. Verse 9, Joshua 2, "And she [Rahab] said to the men; 'I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.' " I think these two spies are going, "Really? That's really how it's been?"
" 'For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.' " Wow! That's the testimony of the Canaanite enemies. So these ten were all bent out of shape going, "Man, we're I like, so small, and they're going to eat us for shrimp cocktail."
The reality is God had readied their enemies by putting a dread and a fear in them when they saw that scouting party come through. If only they would have just believed and taken that step over the El Paso line and inherited the land. H'm. In reality, as history marched forward, Israel at its peak under David and Solomon only occupied one-tenth of all that God promised them that they would inherit. God marked out the borders of the land; north, south, east, and west; at their peak they only had one-tenth of all that God promised.
I'm just wondering, here among us as believers, of all the promises that God gives to us, how much are we claiming, walking in, enjoying the fullness of the Spirit in our lives? Maybe 10 percent? Maybe far less? for some perhaps more, walking really by faith. How much of God's fullness and promises that he has for you in the life of Christ are you enjoying? Charles Haddon Spurgeon said this: "Most Christians, as to the river of experience, are only up to their ankles; a few others find it up to their knees; still few and much less can wade up to their waist; but---oh! how precious few---" he continued, "find the river above their head, the bottom of which they cannot touch."
I wonder what your river of experience is in what God has given and promised to you. A lot depends on your attitude, like this: "We can take it. We can do it. Let's go for it!" or, "I don't know, this is tough." So, what happens? Well, verse 14---verse 1 of chapter 14 says, "So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night." Why? What's the deal? They're crying because they're thinking, "God has brought us here to El Paso, and we've longed for that land all of our lives, we're not going to be able to get in. It's a hoax. It's a trap. It's not a reality."
The bad report has gone into their hearts, it's feeding their souls. Fear is contagious, just like faith is contagious, but there are more people spreading fear than faith in this chapter. And they cried and they wept all this night. "And the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation and said to them, 'If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!' " Be careful what you wish for. That's exactly what's going to happen to them. They're going to die in that wilderness.
Proverbs 18 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." "If only we had died in Egypt! And only if we just die in this desert." "Okay." Uncontrolled emotion often leads to bad decisions. They're not thinking clearly, they're not thinking of their history, they haven't got everything in the proper perspective, and they're believing the reports based upon fear. So, here's the deal for you and for me: whenever the chorus of despair goes up around you for whatever reason---stock market is falling, your house is not worth what it was supposed to be worth, you lost your job, this disease has come into your family.
When you hear that chorus of despair, you need to pause, take a step back, and get the bigger picture. And what is the bigger picture? Here it is, Isaiah, chapter 6: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. And above it stood seraphim; and one cried to another, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory!' " That's the bigger picture. "In the year that King Uzziah died," Isaiah chapter 6 verse 1, was a year of despair for the people, because Uzziah was a good king and brought prosperity to a great nation.
It would be like having a good and godly president who had been in the White House for fifty, sixty years suddenly die. And you're thinking, "Oh, no. Now what? Now who's going to lead us? Now who's on the throne of the country?" And it was in that year when the despair went up that King Uzziah died that God reminded Isaiah, "Uh, I'm on the throne of this country. I'm high and lifted up. The train of my robe the fills the temple." And the ultimate reality is that there is glory that fills the earth, not despair. That's the bigger picture.
Folks, this is why worship is so important. This is why a worship service, when we begin singing, it's not like, well, "I'll come two minutes before the Bible study. I don't like those songs anyway." You're missing out on the perspective-adjustment phase, where all that you have gone through, and all that you have thought suddenly gets changed with the emotion created by music and the powerful truths that are in that hymn or that song. And they give you a perspective correction, and you're reminded God is on the throne. He's in charge. He's high and lifted up. It readies your heart, opens your heart to receive truth.
Verse 3, "'But why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?' " Do you hear what they're saying? "You know, uh, we're bringing this up, Moses, because we're really concerned about our kids. We don't like the policy that you have here with our children's ministry out here in the desert. And we have a real concern for our children." They're using their kids as an excuse for their unbelief. You know what they're really saying? They're really saying, "We don't trust that God can take care of our children."
They're revealing their belief system about God in this statement. Oh, it sounds so holy, "We're just really, really concerned about our wives and kids." You don't believe God can take care of your wives and children, that's what this is about. A. W. Tozer said, "What a person thinks about God is the most important thing about that person." They don't think God can take care of their wives and kids, which is ironic, because who are the ones who will enter the land? Their children; the adults will die. "We're just worried about our kids." "Well, don't worry. I'll get them in the land, you'll be dead." [laughter]
"So they said one to another, 'Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.' " Ooh, again, this becomes immortalized when Nehemiah comes back to rebuild the city and they share that cry, that prayer of repentance. The elders in Jerusalem, they bring this up, and they go, "O God, we're sorry. We know how our fathers have sinned against you. And we remember how in the desert they selected a leader and said, 'Take us back into bondage. Yeah, we gotta find somebody to lead us back to slavery. Any takers?' "
"And Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh were among those who had spied out the land, they tore their clothes." That's an expression of grief, as well as intercession. "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. And 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." ' "
Such clear, logical thinking, and theological thinking. Theological thinking is logical thinking. Clear, logical, theological thinking. Here's the thought: "If God went to all the trouble to send those plagues and those miracles and open up the sea and bring us this far, if he can do that, and he's done that, he didn't bring us here to die." "He brought us out," as Moses said in Deuteronomy, "that he might bring us in." It's just good, logical, theological, clear thinking. " '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."
" 'Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread." ' "We're not shrimp cocktail for them; they're a hot dog for us." " 'Their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.' " I just want to say, preach it! Keep going. Don't stop. "And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now, the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before the children of Israel." Uh-oh. You know have you noticed how the Lord appears when there's a rebellion or a challenge against Moses, like Miriam and Aaron?
Sounds like God heard and goes, "Hi. I'm here." "Oh!" Remember in the New Testament when the disciples were on that boat in the Sea of Galilee and the storm kicked up the waves, and the disciples were filled with fear? Jesus calmed the sea. And the net lesson, the net effect of all that is: it's better to be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without Jesus. So, too, it's better to be out in the desert facing giants in a new land with God, than anywhere else without his presence. It's really the same lesson in two different Testaments.
Now verse 11, "The Lord said to Moses: 'How long will these people reject me?' " "How long?" is an interesting biblical query. It's a question that is found often in the Bible, "How long?" Usually it's a question that people ask God. It's in the Psalms quite a lot. "How long, O Lord? How long?" It's the longing of humanity to their Deity, saying, "Lord, we've waited, we've been patient, when are you going to show yourself?" But here it's a question that God asks, "How long?" " 'How long will these people reject me? How long will they not believe me, with the signs which I have performed among them?
" 'I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you [Moses] you a nation greater and mightier than they.' " Do you hear the proposal, "I'm going to start all over with you"? "And Moses said to the Lord: 'Well, then the Egyptians will hear it, for by your might you brought these people up from among them.' " See, the Egyptians are going to scratch their head and go, "So, if God killed them all out there, why did he deliver them from us? Maybe that really didn't happen. Maybe it's not as they said it happened."
" 'And they will tell it to the inhabitants of the land. They have heard that you, Lord, are among the people; and that you, Lord, are seen face to face and your cloud stands above them, and you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.' " Now, as you and I read through this, it appears that God is mad. It appears that God is upset. And it appears that God wants to destroy his people. But it appears like Moses comes in to save the day and talks God out of this rash plan and sort of calms God down.
Like a skillful attorney, he just turns the whole court case around, until finally God surrenders, and Moses gets what he wants. That's how it might appear on the surface, but don't let appearances deceive you. Let's keep going and you'll notice something. " 'Now if you kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of your fame will speak, saying, "Because the Lord was not able to bring out these people of the land which he swore to give to them, therefore he killed them in the wilderness."
" 'And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as you have spoken, saying, "The Lord is long suffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but he by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation." Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of your mercy, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.' And the Lord said; 'I have pardoned, according to your word.' "
First, I'd like you to notice whom Moses understands God to be. Number one, God is patient, longsuffering. He understands that's part of the nature and character of this God. "Lord, wait a minute, you told me, you've revealed yourself as somebody who is patient and merciful. That's who you are." Another thing he notices about God is that God forgives again and again and again. It's part of God's nature and character. Number three, he understands that God is a covenant God. God keeps his covenant.
"You made a covenant back in Egypt. It was sealed by that Passover blood. You brought us out. This is all part of the covenant. You promised a new land. You don't break your promises." He understood that about the God he was talking to. So, I mentioned, it appears as though God is mad, and it appears as though God wants to destroy them. And Moses, this skillful attorney, talks God out of it and calms him down. That is not the case. First of all, Moses gets his inspiration to pray based upon what God revealed about himself previously.
"This is what you said, this is who you revealed yourself to be. It's on the basis of that revelation that I come to you." What I believe we have here is the Lord posturing a situation. Saying it the way he said it to draw Moses out to inspire him to pray, because God's intention was to do it all along. And so he gets him drawn out to pray for his people. And in that inspiration, based upon the character and nature that God revealed to him about himself, God says, "That's what I'm going to do then."
It's not, it's not unlike that passage in Ezekiel 22, where the Lord said, "I searched to find a man who would build a wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, lest I destroy them; but I found none." In other words, God is saying, "Part of my plan includes intercessors. I look for intercessors. I look for people who will pray the kind of prayers that cooperate with my wisdom and my will, and I'm going to work through those prayers." So, in justice God must punish sin; in mercy God forgives sin and brings blessing---all because of intercession.
Which makes me wonder how many times has the Lord laid something on my heart, and I just sort of pushed it off and didn't pause and go, "Lord, are you trying to get me in tune with something that I might pray for that person or this situation? You want me to stand in the gap. You want me to be the intercessor." So it says Moses prayed, "According to your greatness and your mercy, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." He says, "Pardon their iniquity." So prayer begins with God and ends with God.
"And the Lord said: 'I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.' " I'm glad he said that. The Lord brought them out of Egypt. The Lord promised to bring them to the land, the new land, the Canaanite land. He's going to do it. And eventually one day the entire earth, the whole world will be filled with God's glory. Habakkuk, chapter 2, "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as waters cover the seas," the prophet said.
The millennial kingdom will be glorious. Israel will be paramount. The Messiah will rule and reign from Jerusalem and God's glory will rule and reign over the earth, and you and I with him. Make this personal. God has begun a work in you. He is going to continue that work in you until the day of Jesus Christ. He hasn't given up on you. You failed---he hasn't given up on you. You blew it---he hasn't given up on you. God is going to get glory out of your life. He's going to magnify himself in you.
" 'The earth will be filled with the glory of God---because all these men who have seen my glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, they have put me to the test now these ten times.' " I can recount the ten times. The first time was in the Red Sea, they tested him, they questioned him. The second time was in Ramah. The third time was in the Wilderness of Sin. The fourth time was in the Wilderness of Sin. The fifth time was in the Wilderness of Sin. The sixth time was in Rephidim. The seventh time was in Kibroth Hattaavah. And there's a couple others, I won't bother.
But you could count them all, and there's ten times they questioned or complained or tested God. Can I just give you a little corollary? I may be out to lunch, but in Egypt there were ten plagues all designed to build up the faith of the children of Israel. It's as if they've used all those ten times up and complained against the Lord in unbelief. Where God built up their belief, their faith, they've complained, they've argued, they've tested ten times. There seems to be a threshold where God says, "You know what? Now it's even. It's been ten times, and I'm done."
The Lord's Spirit will not always strive with man, the Bible tells us that. Verse 23, " 'They certainly shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected me see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow now turn and move into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.' " So now he's bringing them back to where they came from a little bit. They're going backwards.
"The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 'How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against me. Say to them, "As I live," says the Lord, "just as you have spoken by my hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above." ' " In the wilderness the rest of the time they're in there, people are going to be dying off, the whole generation of people twenty years old and above.
Now, if that represents a population, an adult population of twenty and over, let's just guess of 1,200,000 people that will die off. That will be an average of eighty-five funerals every day or seven funerals every waking hour for the next thirty-eight-plus years. In other words, and I don't know how many at one time, because there was also episodal death. Right? When there was the rebellion against---by Korah against Moses, you'll get to it in chapter 16; the rebellion at Baal Peor in chapter 25; numbers of people died at once.
So here's the point: there was a constant reminder that "the wages of sin is death." They saw it every single day for years. They will die. Interesting that it's age twenty and above. We often ask, "What is the age of accountability?" Back then in this situation it happened to be twenty; not twelve, but twenty. That's how God held them accountable, and they lost their lives. " ' "Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.
" ' "But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know my rejection." ' " Or the RSV, the Revised Standard Version says, "You will know my displeasure."
Galatians, chapter 6, "Whatever a man sows, that he also shall reap." God is never mocked, whatever you sow will show up. There will be a harvest that is reaped later on. " ' "I the Lord have spoken this; I will surely do so to this evil congregation who are gathered together against me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and they shall die.' " Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord."
"But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land." So those ten seemed to die rather rapidly; two were left. The congregation looked at that and now they have a change of heart. "Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, and the people mourned greatly. And they rose up early in the morning and they went up to the top of the mountain, saying, 'Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised, for we have sinned!' " So now they're ready to go in. "We're going, we're going to take the land."
"Moses said, 'Now why do you transgress against the command of the Lord?' " What command? God said, "Turn back and go back. You've already had your opportunity. You spread fear throughout the congregation. The sentence has been passed. I've said that your children are going to inherit the land, so it's not that I'm rejecting you totally, but a whole generation will die and I will fulfill my covenant eventually. But why are you doing this and disobeying again?"
' 'For this' " Moses said, " 'will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. For the Amalekites, the Canaanites are before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.' But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop; nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed from the camp." God wasn't on the move. They're moving apart from his will. "Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwell in the mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah."
Now, I covered a lot quick to finish the chapter and I can go back and remark a little bit before we get into chapter 15 next time. This episode becomes so---how shall I say it?---the fulcrum point of their history, that it will be mentioned time and time again. Psalm 95, "Come, let us worship and bow down. For he is the Lord; we are the sheep of his hand. Harden not your hearts, as they did in the rebellion." This is called "the rebellion," and it will be forever seen among the Israelites as the rebellion. It doesn't mean these people are not God's people anymore, they are.
There is a covenant. But listen, here's the fact: those who are pardoned can sometimes become hardened. You, as a believer, can harden your heart so you don't even resemble a person of faith. You sound more like an unbeliever than a believer. Those who are pardoned can sometimes become hardened. "Don't harden your hearts," we're warned over and over again. Because God seeks to bring you up to the highest possible level, and do for you at that level as much as you will allow him to do. He will do for you whatever you, by faith, allow him to do, but is limited only by your sin.
So a person can settle for second best as a believer, not God's highest. They can settle for second best. They can do certain things and by the things that they do, their behavior, their choices, go several steps down the line of what God originally purposed and intended for that life. Now, God will complete his work in you, but it's not the highest. Don't you want the very best that God has for you, and all of the land, to possess all of those blessing he has promised? I do. It was not God's purpose that they die, but that they live. And, yet, they will die.
As we close tonight, I want you to think about your life before God. Let's just make it very simple. I'm speaking to some people who are churchgoers and religious folk and are interested in Bible stuff. They go, "Yeah, I'm interested. I've always wanted to learn the Bible." And, yet, in your heart there's an emptiness. It's like a vacuum. There's like this big black hole and nothing satisfies---your career won't, relationships won't, money doesn't. You may have not yet entered into a covenant with the Lord your God yet. You may not be a saved man or woman.
The very best God has for you begins with receiving Jesus Christ. So then you're not just a person, you're a person in Christ. The Bible says "in Christ" God sees you in his Son, and all that comes with that: the blessings, the purpose, the direction, the satisfaction, the joy. It's part of the package of being in Christ. Are you tonight in Jesus Christ? If not, that's where you begin. Let's pray. O Father, we---there's so many thoughts in our minds because of the lessons we have learned in this chapter.
But these lessons become those threshold, instructional lessons that are referred back to by Paul the apostle when he writes to the Corinthian believers; the writer of Hebrews when he speaks about the new covenant versus the old, and he compares these very situations with our present-day lives. Father, I pray for brothers and sisters who are struggling with issues in their lives. You know the issues in my life that I struggle with. And you seek, Lord, to bring us to the highest possible level that we will allow you, that we will cooperate with your will in.
I pray that our choices, our sins, will not limit that blessing. And if we're in that place, Lord, of second or third best, Lord, that you would by your redemptive hand just bring us higher. Help us, Lord, to inherit all that you have promised us in Christ Jesus. Father, I pray for those who may be here tonight who are religious folks. They have a belief system of some kind, they believe in a God, they're interested in Bible things, but the reality of forgiveness and a walk with you is just not a present reality yet.
I pray you would change that. I pray that you would come in by invitation, because you only come by invitation only. I pray that you will be invited into hearts and to lives, to forgive and to assume kingship and control. As our heads are bowed and we're about to close this service, if you, as yet, have never given your life to Jesus Christ---I was raised in a church. I went to church every week, but I had not given my life to Christ until a certain moment in my life where I made a choice to make Jesus the King of my heart.
And this is the night for some of you. Is it really real in you? Or have you wandered away for him and you need to come back? Whatever is that situation, if you are willing and ready to cross the threshold into the Land of Promise, the life of faith and follow Christ, I want you to raise your hand up as our heads are bowed. Just raise your hand up, and you're saying, in effect, "Pray for me, Skip. I want to give my life to Jesus right here tonight." Slip your hand up in the air. God bless you, sir; on my left; toward the front. Anybody else? You raise it---in the balcony; toward the back on my right.
Who else? I see your hand right there in the middle, on my right; over here to my left, thank you. Way in the back to my left; in the middle toward the rear. Father, we pray for these, those hands that have gone up, those lives, those hearts. Give them, Lord, a whole now reality, change from the inside. May Jesus reign supreme in these men and these women as they come to Jesus? Make this real for them. Make this a night they look back on as their spiritual birthday, where all things become new and old things are passed away, in Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand to your feet. We're going to sing a final song, and I'm going to ask you if you raised your hand to put feet on your faith, so to speak, and to find the nearest aisle and walk down that aisle to the front really quickly. I'm going to lead you in a prayer to receive Christ. Jesus called people publicly, not unlike this. And I'm going to ask you to make a decision publicly for Christ. If you're in the balcony and you raised your hand, just come down the steps. We're going to wait for you. We're going to sing. And you just come and stand up here.
I'm going to have some of my counselors, hopefully, show you how this is done. Come right up and just stand right up here in the front. [worship music plays] If you're on the side or the family room, just come on, come on over. We'll wait for you. If you're in the back or in the middle, we'll wait for you. Come right up to the front. God bless you. Come on up. Come up to the front. It's just us, just us. God bless you. Come on right up here. Awesome! [applause] Way to run, young man. You got idea. Come on up.
Maybe you've been wandering in the wilderness for way too long and you need to come to the well of refreshment. Maybe you've wandered from him, you get up and come. Yeah! [worship music continues to play] Those of you who have walked forward, there's a whole bunch of you up here, and we're so glad for that. We're glad for you. [cheers and applause] Now I want you to hear this truth, I believe it to be true: if you were the only person on earth, Jesus would have come to die for you. God loves you. He sent his Son for you, and you have responded to his call, and you've walked forward.
So I'm going to pray right now out loud. I'm going to ask you to pray after me. I want you to say these words after me. Say them out loud like couples do at a wedding. Say them out loud, say them to God. Pray these words for your heart. Let's pray. Lord, I give you my life. I admit I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe you sent Jesus, that he died on a cross, that he shed his blood for me, and that he rose from the dead. I turn from my past, I turn from my sin, I turn to you as my Savior. I want to follow you as my Lord, help me, in Jesus' name, amen. Congratulations!