Testing the Waters
I have spent many years as a lifeguard whether at lake beaches, pools, or cliffs. One of my favorite rituals to watch is the “testing of the water.” Someone will walk up to where the water is, dip their toe in it, and by that little exercise decide if they will jump in or not. Yet, I have NEVER seen a person stay OUT of the water based upon that little test! They always get in! And they always have fun!
There was a day much like that back in Numbers 13, but they chose not to have fun. God had brought the nation of Israel up to the edge of the promised land, and was ready to bring them in! I am sure the people were much like the person dipping their toe in the water – “It would be nice to see what we are getting into!” God understood that. He is not unreasonable.
Numbers 13:1, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel.”
So Moses did. When the spies got back , their worldly lenses kicked into gear, and things went south fast.
Numbers 13:26 -29, They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 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. 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. 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.”
Remember God’s promise to them?
Exodus 3:8, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
God was not about to leave them all stand high and dry. He told them “way back” that He was going to bring them to a good land. That’s how God is. He is good, and will not rip us off. The parallel is still this: that this new life in Christ is also a good life, flowing with His goodness and grace. But how quickly we forget this! And how quickly the people of Israel forgot this when they took the words from the spies “as-is.” Just like the Israelites, our worldly lenses get in the way sometimes! Our outlook on life – our attitude filters begin to run amuck. Look where it got Israel:
Numbers 13:30-33, “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.” 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.” 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. 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.”
At least Caleb had the fortitude and courage to see with God’s lenses – “All things are possible!” (Phil. 4:13). But like many of us who would rather sit around and argue with God about what He is and is not able to do through us, to us and for us, the Israelites argued with Caleb, and by default, God. The key phrase, “We are not able…” With that kind of attitude, they are right, they will NEVER overcome! With that kind of attitude, they also inflame God’s anger! General Colin Powell is quoted as saying, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”–Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, as quoted in USA Today (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/051031/31powell.htm). These people did not know the power of that idea. They preferred grumbling and complaining.
But what happens next is amazing. Caleb and Joshua again try to address their people through God’s lenses of promise and love for His people. Number 14 records it, and it changes the course of human history.
Numbers 14:7 “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 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. 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.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.
God’s people are so rejecting of God’s word, that they are ready to actually kill God’s messengers! God Himself has to show up to protect His messengers! I wonder how many times we believers do this? Maybe not so outwardly, but inside we let worry and anxiety rule our hearts, instead of remembering that God has told us that HE has come to give us LIFE, and life ABUNDANT. He will not let us fall, He will never leave us nor forsake us. He provides a way of escape. He blesses those who obey Him. He heals us of our diseases. He gives us each spiritual gifts to use to benefit the body. Yet, we rebel, and persist in living a life of “disbelief” (disbelief = faithlessness = rebellion). God’s response is not one of blessing. He intends to give the people what they desire and focus on.
Number 14:32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ I, the Lord, have spoken.
Pretty strong words – consequences for our actions. Notice that they affect our children. Let’s be like Caleb – “We CAN…” Why? Because God told us! Trust and obedience to God is a “Blessing multiplier”!