You cannot have a healthy relationship without trust. God can be trusted, but do you trust him?
This week the movie Aladdin came out in the theaters. Perhaps one of the most famous or memorable parts of the movie is when Aladdin is on the magic carpet and he wants Jasmine to get on with him. What does he ask her? “Do you trust me?” If the answer was “no”, the movie never happens. ? But she proves by her actions that she trusts him and get on the carpet – even though it makes no sense, humanly speaking, that the carpet can actually fly.
That is a pretty good picture of what faith and trust are.
So, now to the book of Numbers…
In Numbers 13 we read one of the more famous stories of the book of Numbers – the 12 spies who are sent to scope out the Promised Land.
Numbers 13:1–3 || 1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 “Send men to scout out the land of Canaan I am giving to the Israelites. Send one man who is a leader among them from each of their ancestral tribes.” 3 Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran at the Lord’s command. All the men were leaders in Israel. [CSB]
Numbers 13:17–21 || 17 When Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, he told them, “Go up this way to the Negev, then go up into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 Is the land they live in good or bad? Are the cities they live in encampments or fortifications? 20 Is the land fertile or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not? Be courageous. Bring back some fruit from the land.” It was the season for the first ripe grapes. 21 So they went up and scouted out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob near the entrance to Hamath. [CSB]
Numbers 13:23 || 23 When they came to the Valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, which was carried on a pole by two men. They also took some pomegranates and figs. [CSB]
Numbers 13:25 || 25 At the end of forty days they returned from scouting out the land. [CSB]
God commands Moses to send out 12 men to spy on the Promised Land and bring back a report if the land was everything God said it was.
So, 12 spies head out for 40 days and collect fruit from the land and come back with a report.
Numbers 13:26–29 || 26 The men went back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They brought back a report for them and the whole community, and they showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They reported to Moses: “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit. 28 However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites are living in the land of the Negev; the Hethites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.” [CSB]
Numbers 13:30–33 || 30 Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” 31 But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!” 32 So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: “The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size. 33 We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim! To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.” [CSB]
There are two very different responses from the spies, isn’t there? Twelve spies, 40 days and then a report. 10 said “we are doomed” and 2 said “God will give it to us”.
Can you guess which response dominates the masses?
Numbers 14:1–9 || 1 Then the whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night. 2 All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to die by the sword? Our wives and children will become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole assembly of the Israelite community. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite community: “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. 9 Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” [CSB]
Joshua and Caleb try to reason with the people by reminding them of what God said. It has never been about their ability: do escape, to provide, to fight. It has been about God. But the people want to stone them – to kill them!
Last week we talked about being careful what we wish for. The Israelites asked for quail, got it for a month along with a plague that killed many of them off.
Well, this time is far worse. The people complained “it would be better if we die in the wilderness” (vs 14:2) In verse 10, God threatens to wipe them all out and start over with Moses. Moses begs God to spare the people. God does spare them, but then casts his judgement:
Numbers 14:26–34 || 26 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long must I endure this evil community that keeps complaining about me? I have heard the Israelites’ complaints that they make against me. 28 Tell them: As surely as I live—this is the Lord’s declaration—I will do to you exactly as I heard you say. 29 Your corpses will fall in this wilderness—all of you who were registered in the census, the entire number of you twenty years old or more—because you have complained about me. 30 I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 I will bring your children whom you said would become plunder into the land you rejected, and they will enjoy it. 32 But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years and bear the penalty for your acts of unfaithfulness until all your corpses lie scattered in the wilderness. 34 You will bear the consequences of your iniquities forty years based on the number of the forty days that you scouted the land, a year for each day. You will know my displeasure. [CSB]
There really two totally different ways to live highlighted in these verses. It comes down to what you and I choose as the basis for our decision making.
The first one is fear. Joshua and Caleb call this out:
Numbers 14:9 || 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!” [NLT]
The people believed the 10 spies. Though they saw that the fruit of the land was good, they also saw the problems and their weaknesses. Fear always looks through the lens of self.
Fear cripples. Fear keep us from becoming and experiencing all that God as for us. Listen to the fear responses:
Fear not only leads to wrong thinking; it also leads to wrong actions. We see this in 14: 1-4
These are the indicators that I am living in fear. I often cannot just my own heart and what I am believing until my actions show up. When I start complaining about leadership, complain, start living in the past and talk like a fatalist – these are indicators that my focus is on me and not on God.
The second response is faith.
Numbers 14:7–8 || 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. [NLT]
If the Lord is pleased. What pleases the Lord? Have you ever wondered?
Hebrews 11:6 || 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. [NLT]
When God leads it will most likely require faith. Why? Because without faith we cannot please Him. That means that you and I should expect to face situations that are bigger than us, possibly even terrifying, and way beyond our ability. If we only face situations that we can handle, faith is not needed.
God does not get the credit when I do “Mike-sized” stuff? God gets the credit when He enables me to do “God-sized” stuff.
Joshua and Caleb said, IF God is please, HE WILL… That’s the point! It is not what we can do it is what God can do if we trust Him.
Faith has different responses than fear:
Blind faith is not faith at all. For us to have faith in God we need to make sure we are doing the things that please him and we need to remember what he has promised.
One of the ways we learn to live by faith and trust God is to look at his track record. Look at what he has done so we can trust what he will do.
Joshua and Caleb said, “the land is God and God will bring us to it!” God told them the land would be good. God promises to take them into the land.
The quest of the 12 spies was “go scout out the land I AM GIVING TO YOU”. The question to be answered was not, “can we conquer”. The question was, “is the land good like God said it would be?”
The big picture is obvious – of COURSE God is going to take them into the land! God has been prepping for this for hundreds of years. This crew in the wilderness is going to see the fulfilment of the promise God made to their descendant Abraham!!!! Well, actually, only two of them are going to, because the people believed their own eyes and their own heart instead of God’s heart and the eyes of faith.
They were an army, a great nation, with God at the center, God providing for their daily needs, and God leading the way to enter a land that God promised them.
The majority of the Israelites lost sight of the big picture. They got bogged down in their own interests and complaining and lost sight of what God was trying to do. They failed to see what God had accomplished and how God had been working everything up to this very moment in time.
By now you know that my brain cannot come to a passage like this and not ask, “Why?” Why did God send the spies in the first place?
If God was just concerned with results, he could have just wiped out the enemies and removed all the obstacles. He is God after all. If God was just concerned with keeping his promises, he could have just forced them into the promised land.
God is interested in relationship.
ALL OF THIS was to demonstrate the heart of God! He wants to be among his people, and he wants to lead them to the place of blessing. BUT, for that to happen, his people must learn to trust Him.
Numbers 14:11 || 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people despise me? How long will they not trust in me despite all the signs I have performed among them? [CSB]
Do you see God’s complaint? What will it take for them to finally trust me? When God gave Adam the command in the garden it was because he wanted man to trust Him. When God told Noah what to do, He wanted Noah to trust Him. Abraham had to trust God when he set out from him homeland in the first place.
The journey is as important as the destination.
God wants us to experience life with him, in relationship with him. It starts by trusting him for the gift of forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection. It continues every day after that with the choices we face.
Daily, we are faced with dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions. It is each of these little things that our direction and future are formed.
As we face each decision, we can do so in fear or in faith. What leads you? Fear or faith? The outcome is radically different!
Do you trust Him?