I. Faith: The Good Report
“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
In the Book of Numbers we see how God brings the children of Israel to the edge of crossing over into the promise land. Here God presents them with the opportunity to believe that “with God all things are possible”. Joshua, Caleb and others went to “spy out” the land that God intended to give to them. When they returned Caleb came back with a good report in faith encouraging the people to get ready to go and take this land.
II. Unbelief: The Evil Report
Sadly enough there were others who were with them that had an opposing view. Their eyes were focused on the natural realities rather than the greatness of God. They were more self-conscious, being focused on the obstacle, rather than focused on the bigness of God, saying they themselves were like “grasshoppers”. This was their self-perception. They did not have a life with God but were depending on their own strength.
“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.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad 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 the 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.”
After this we see the natural gravitation of Israel, not to believe Caleb’s report, but rather the evil report of the others that created this downward spiral of actions that was hugely displeasing to God. It is important to note that all of the actions that followed begin with “not believing the good report”. As the Book of Hebrews explains, they had an evil heart of unbelief that departed from the Living God.
III. A Huge Pity Party
“So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.”
The first thing that happens as a result of their unbelief is that they had a huge pity party, weeping all night long, not because they could not go into the promised land – but because they choose to believe the wrong report.
What can we learn from this all night pity party?
The answer: “It is better to believe!”
IV. Blame Shifting
“And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 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?”
The second thing that happens is the congregation of Israel complained “against” Moses and Aaron. Instead of owning up to their own problems, mistakes and issues that they have in their hearts they chose to blame someone else instead. After all, it is much more convenient to do that. It is the blame game in full force because they refused to see that it was their issue. Sounds a lot like what happened when Adam and Even fell in the Garden of Eden doesn’t it?
What is the sum lesson here from all of this griping and complaining going on?
The answer: “It is better to believe!”
V. Delusion & Presumption
The next thing the people do is start entertaining the idea that the grass was greener in Egypt, where they were slaves in bondage making mud pies. This is like a dog going back to vomit! In their minds they had believed a lie with the result being a warped and twisted fantasy that “it was better in the olden days”. God brought them through the wilderness to bring them into the Promise Land – a land prosperous flowing with milk and honey. Yes there were adversaries to overcome, anything good has a price, but at least they woudn’t have a chain around their neck! They get a sword and shield to use as needed – much better plan. Numbers 14:4a So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt. In this deception not only do they want to go back to Egypt, they are now falling into a much deeper and presumptuous sin by thinking they can actually select their own leader. They do not have this luxury or appointment. Now they are delving into dangerous territory. This is the downward destructive spiral of an unbelieving heart. Now we see delusion, fantasy and presumption setting in.
What could possibly be a good nugget to glean from this?
The answer: “It is better to believe!”
VI. Face Down
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.”
This is what God’s leaders should always do – fall on their faces in humility before God. Moses and Aaron knew enough to know that they were in their positions by God’s grace and appointment. Moses had been on a long, long journey and knew the Lord on an intimate friendship level. Joshua and Caleb again encourage the people not to fear but to have faith in God, telling them of the goodness of the land and that God is with them to deliver it into their hands.
“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 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. 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.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD, (BELIEVE!) nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”
VII. Crossing the Line
Now the people have spiraled down to the lowest level, even as to stone Joshua and Caleb – these men who following God with their whole heart. Have you ever had someone say you are just being “super spiritual” or riding some “spiritual high horse” just because you believe God to go beyond your natural limitations? This is what is happening to Joshua and Caleb simply because they believe the Lord. But now the congregation has gone too far. The glory of the LORD appears before them. God is not pleased. The people thought they were just rejecting men, but they were actually rejecting the Lord.
And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel. Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
About now Israel could use a really good intercessor that has some insider secrets with God – in good standing with the Man upstairs!
VIII. Intercession & Consequences
What started with a simple act of not believing God ended up in a disaster – because that is where an evil heart of unbelief will lead you. Moses pleads for God to forgive the people. Then God gives the decree that they will not enter the promise land and yet at the same time makes it clear of His intention to fill all the earth with His glory. This shows just how passionate God is about filling the earth with His glory – even through His people, for He raises up another generation to go into the promise land in their place.
(Moses says…)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.” Then 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— because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of 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…”
Because Joshua and Caleb believed – God made sure that they crossed over into the promise land. God is faithful to those who believe His words. Those who brought the evil report were destroyed by a plague. How important it is to simply believe God and to spread the good report of His faithfulness.
“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.”
When the children of Israel had finally figured out what they did was wrong the damage had already been done. They mourned they tried to go into the promise land and failed because God was not with them. (Num. 14:39-45) They were not able to discern whether God was with them or not. How essential it to have God’s Presence in our lives.
Believe God’s promises today with a heart of thanksgiving… Why? For He will do above and beyond all you can ask or think. It is better to believe!