AGCC Sun. a.m. 10/10/99
TEXT: Num. 13:17-14:45
INTRO: Another great danger in the desert is fear! What we get into our heads usually shows up in our actions, and fear can drive a man or woman away from God and from God's best in their lives.
Fear can be so powerful that it can totally eliminate faith. Even when we know the truth it can be obscured by fear!
ILLUS: On Halloween night my three-year-old grandson, Brian, couldn't sleep because he was convinced ghosts were in his room. "It's all in your head," his mother reassured him. "Now go to sleep."
Before she got down the stairs, his voice called out again. "Mom, the ghosts have left my head and are running around my room!" -- Ann C. Ayler, North, Virginia. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom."
The thing that gets more Christians into trouble in their journey of faith is fear! Fear is the foundation for rebellion and disobedience in our walk with God.
Once fear takes hold rebellion is not far away! Since fear and faith are opposites we cannot be obedient to God when we are full of fear, only when we are full of faith.
PROP. SENT: The bible teaches us that fear unchecked will lead to rebellion in our lives, only faith will keep us obedient to God's ways.
I. TRUTH ABOUT FAITH 13:17-33
A. Reality 13:17-25
1. Moses wants a real picture of what they are going to face in the promise land before they enter it.
a. 12 spies are sent out with clear instructions - find out the truth about what we will face and come back to tell us.
b. Moses wants a full real picture of everything, the type of obstacles, the size of the enemies, the fruitfulness of the land, etc. - both positive and negative!
c. Real faith doesn't deny the negative, it is challenged by it!
d. Real faith isn't afraid of the truth, it can stand up to it.
2. Moses also wants the spies to bring back some fruit from the land … to help inspire Israel with the positive side of the territory as well as the truth about the enemies there.
3. Moses wants Israel to have a clear picture of what God has in store for them, he wants their faith however based solely on God though, not on what they find in the promise land.
a. Israel's faith wasn't suppose to be based on the findings of the report, but on God's character and promises.
b. Israel's faith however was based more on what they hoped they would find rather than on the character of God … so it wasn't really faith!
ILLUS: If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. - Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 588.
4. After 40 days the 12 spies brought back their report and it was quite factual:
a. They told about the fortified cities with a race of giants that lived in them.
b. They told about the huge fruit grown in the land, and how productive the land was - as proof they had a huge cluster of grapes and other fruits taken from the territory!
5. They had the facts, now they needed the faith!
a. There were huge enemies
b. There was huge fruit!
c. Faith could allow them conquer the enemy and enjoy the fruit.
d. Fear would allow them to run from the enemy and miss the fruit.
6. They had a choice to make! (as we always do!)
B. Response 13:26-33
1. With the facts it was now time for a decision.
a. To respond with faith
b. To respond with fear
2. What Israel failed to understand about faith is that FAITH IS BEHAVIOR, NOT JUST BELIEF!
a. This is commonly a mistaken notion about faith by Christians today too!
b. While we are ready to confess what we BELIEVE as our faith we are not always ready to BEHAVE according to those beliefs!
c. Real faith is just as much BEHAVIOR as it is BELIEF!
3. While Israel was quick to assert that they believed in God their behavior spoke otherwise!
a. As soon as the report was out, 10 of the 12 spies bred fear into the hearts of Israel by saying that they couldn't take the land with all the giants that lived there!
b. Feared changed their behavior … and thus destroyed their faith!
c. Their hearts became gripped by fear, and this determined their responses and behavior.
4. Tragically, they succumb to fear and choose to ignore God's mission, the lack of faith meant a lack of obedience!
5. Our responses will be determined by either our faith or our fear!
ILLUS: Fear is the darkroom where the devil takes you to develop your negatives. -- Vern McLellan, The Complete Book of Practical Proverbs and Wacky Wit (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996).
6. Their response in fear indeed develops a negative response from them, and their choices from this point will cause some of the greatest suffering Israel will know.
a. How careful we need to be in the journey that we don't despair when the obstacles seem so huge … remember the fruit is huge too!
b. Keep your eyes on the abundant fruit and not the obvious enemies.
c. Remember, God keeps His promises … so a few enemies and obstacles will not keep us from the abundant fruit He has promised us!
7. Israel chooses FEAR over FAITH and the results are disastrous.
II. TRAGEDY ABOUT FEAR 14:1-45
A. Rebellion 14:1-16
1. Fear drives Israel to choose the another way out!
a. It also drives them to whine - "if only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!" 14:2b
b. This will be a wish God will grant!!!
2. They decide it would be easier to appoint a new leader and go back to Egypt though they had finally arrived at their destination, the doorstep to the promise land!
a. God had brought them all the way through the desert.
b. They had seen great miracles along the way.
c. God had given them everything they had needed in the journey so far.
d. Fear was about to get them to give in at the moment of triumph!
3. Fear will drive you to settle for less than God has in store for you!
ILLUS: In his book, Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes, "There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller, I would give it to him.
"Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons, but the instructor wanted $5 a lesson. It was cheaper to pay the bully, so I gave up karate."
Too many Christians believe it's easier to pay the bully than learn how to defeat him. -- Sherman L. Burford. From the files of Leadership.
4. How many times have you let fear cause you to settle for less than what God intended for you?
a. Fear will drive us away from God.
b. Fear will keep us from experiencing God's best fruit.
c. Fear will result in behavior that rebels against God's ways.
d. Fear and faith do not mix!
5. Israel rebels against God and His servant Moses.
a. they saw themselves as victims instead of victors.
b. they would not have to face the enemies, but they would still face the desert - for the next 40 years they would wander in the very place they hated!
c. Fear will keep you trapped in the very place you hate!
d. Rather than see the wonderful fruit God had for them they would continue to struggle with desert rations - fear kept them from God's best fruit!
6. Rebellion doesn't gain us one thing, in fact, it will cost us everything!
B. Repentance! 14:17-25
1. Moses intercedes for Israel in prayer, asking that God not destroy them in a moment or the other nations will not come to understand the true God.
a. Moses is more concerned about God's name than his own!
b. Remember, Israel had just rebelled not only against God but also Moses … and Moses is praying for their recovery!
2. While God is ready to forgive them He tells Moses that those who rebelled must still face the consequences of their lack of faith and disobedience.
a. Forgiveness does not mean there are no consequences for our disobedience.
b. Too many Christians fail to understand this principle … God may forgive but there may also still be consequences to our sinful behavior that may continue.
3. God declares that this older generation that had continued to respond with unbelief demonstrated in their constant behavior against God's will through the journey will never come into the promise land, they will get their wish in 14:2b "if only we had died in this desert."
a. However, they would not all die at once, in grace God would allow them another 40 years of wandering.
b. This would allow their children to grow up and be ready to receive the promise land.
c. Hopefully their children will learn from the older generation the terrible price tag of sin and so not repeat the errors.
4. Only two men of this older generation would live to enter the promise land, Caleb and Joshua - the two spies who had encouraged Israel to trust God and obey - they had not given in to fear but had stood with faith!
5. Israel had failed to follow God in one giant leap of faith and they had discovered that it had been a deep plunge!
6. Sometimes we try and obey God by little steps when one giant leap of faith is required, this won't work!
ILLUS: Don't be afraid to take a big step if it's required. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps. -- Vern McLellan, The Complete Book of Practical Proverbs and Wacky Wit (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996).
C. Rejection 14:26-45
1. God's rejection of this constant rebellious older generation was final.
a. They had repeatedly expressed their lack of faith in their behavior although they often said they believed.
b. It is our actions that tell others about our real faith, not our ability to repeat our doctrines!
2. God however will not reject their children, they will also face the same tests of obedience, and if they respond with faith they will discover the promise land as theirs!
3. God will hold each person responsible individually for responses of faith:
a. Caleb and Joshua were allowed to enter the promise land even though the other 3 ½ million of their peers were rejected because they had stood up for faith and were ready to obey when the others were not!
b. It doesn't matter what others do, it is what we do that counts!
c. Don't base your faith and obedience on what others around you do, not even those in the Church, trust and obey the Lord no matter what others do!
4. The younger generation would face the exact same choices in the desert their parents did - and their choices would determine their destiny also.
5. What about us, do we say we have faith and yet our behavior says otherwise?
ILLUS: The drought of the past winter threatened the crop in a village of Crete. The priest told his flock: "There isn't anything that will save us, except a special litany for rain. Go to your homes, fast during the week, believe and come on Sunday for the litany of rain." The villagers heard him, fasted during the week and went to the church on Sunday morning, but as soon as the priest saw them, he was furious. He said, "Go away, I will not do the litany. You do not believe." "But Father," they protested, "we fasted and we believe." "Believe? And where are your umbrellas?" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 188.
6. Tragically, even when Israel is told their punishment they refuse to accept God's Word again, and they decide now they will go and take the promise land even without God's help!
a. Moses does not go with them.
b. God does not go with them.
c. The Ark of the covenant is not permitted to go with them.
d. YET - they go in rebellion again!
7. Their behavior once again demonstrated that they only REGRETTED THEIR SIN, not REPENTED OF THEIR SIN. They served God when it was convenient or gave them what they wanted, not because they believed God and wanted to please Him.
a. Each time they did what they felt was best, this behavior was usually based on their fears.
b. Their fears drove them to constantly disobey God.
c. Fear kept them from a life of faith … and it still will today!
d. And, the lack of faith kept them from experiencing God's promises, as it does today too!
8. What about you, have you fallen to the danger of fear in your journey?
a. What does your behavior say about your faith?
b. What will your children see as the legacy of your journey?
c. Will you continue to wander in fear or will you be the Caleb and Joshua of your generation?
9. It is always a great danger to fall prey to fear in the desert … and the results will be tragic if we do, keep ACTING in faith and God's promises will be ours!
CONCLUSION: When Israel's life was governed by faith great things happened, when it was taken over by fear they discovered great losses. Fear not only keeps us from God's best, it introduces us to this world's worst realities. Israel's second mistake was to only regret her sins rather than repent of them. This changed nothing and their losses continued. Trust in God and obey, for there is no other way!