#1 (THE "DIFFICULTIES ON THE JOURNEY" SERIES)
"DIFFICULTIES ABOUT THE WAY!"
TEXT: Numbers 10:29-11:3
INTRO: Have you ever noticed how exciting it is when someone has just given birth to a new baby? Everyone is excited, the parents are thrilled to have brought a new healthy baby into the world, and the parents are filled with dreams of what this child's life will be like! The relatives all celebrate with great joy and gift giving, they too dream of all the neat experiences this baby will have and how it will grow to be a great success and make the family proud! Everybody is celebrating this new arrival in the family ... then comes the next several weeks as the journey into life begins!
Now these same jubilant parents are awakened during the night with cries, there are numbers of smelly diapers to change, all of life is interrupted by this new demanding life form! The baby doesn't look like all that hoped for success, he learns through pain what is right and wrong, the road to success is long and full of difficult things! The way is not easy! Yet, we see life as fulfilling and joyous overall, we learn to appreciate the good things and keep faith during the bad times.
This is like the journey of faith for believers; the new birth is exciting AND then comes the "living" stuff, which can be difficult!
Israel experienced the same process when they left Egypt; and so their lessons on the way will teach us about our travel along the way! While there will be difficulties on the way to the promise land we can still be victorious as we go. We need to guard our hearts against bitterness and faithlessness along the tough journey!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that the path of righteousness is not always easy, but it is rewarding! There are many difficulties along the way, but faith in Christ will give us victory at all times!
I. PROMISES OF FAITH! 10:29-32
A. Real Future! 10:29-30
1. Moses and Israel had been promised a land flowing with milk and honey, a place of great joy!
2. While they rejoiced over this, Moses is determined not to leave anybody behind, not even those who were foreigners!
a. Thus he invites his brother-in-law Hobab to come along on the journey!
b. This was the first evangelism crusade in the desert!
c. Hobab was a Midianite, not a Jew, but Moses offers him the invitation to come along with God's people!
d. It was not good enough to Moses
that he and the people of
3. Moses was offering a real future to Hobab, rather than just a future of wandering around in a desert without a promise land to look forward to!
a. This is what we do when we share Christ with others; we are offering them a real future, one full of promise -- a place called Heaven!
b. The alternative for unbelievers is simply to exist in the here and now and travel through life as a desert!
4. Moses' appeal to Hobab was sincere ... "come with us and we will treat you well…”
a. This should be the appeal of the Church to sinners today!
b. The Church should be a place of love and support!
c. Moses' faith is expressed in the last line of verse 29: "for the Lord has promised good things to Israel" (and the Church!)
5. Like many sinners who are invited however, Hobab at first refused
a. He rejects the offer outright.
b. But Moses does not give up on him!
c. We should not be discouraged when a sinner rejects the offer, and we must guard against quitting in the effort too!
6. Moses understood that there was too much at stake here to just let go easily, so he continues the effort to try and win Hobab!
a. Evangelism that is successful is rarely easy or quick!
b. Persistence is often required to win the lost!
c. Though Moses had millions already committed to go, he couldn't go knowing even one family or friend might be left behind!
B. Real Fellowship 10:31-32
1. Moses appeals to him again and again, asking him to join the fellowship of God's people, to come along for a journey that will take them to a bright future!
a. The invitation is one of fellowship with them as well as with God!
b. Moses appeals to his usefulness in God's kingdom and to God's people!
2. Hobab had qualities that could greatly help God's people in the journey!
a. If Hobab came along God's people would be blessed and Hobab would experience a life that had real eternal value!
b. But what if he still refused, would God's people suffer? NO! God would lead Israel in some other way, but Hobab would have only been another life that came and went without significance in eternity by not joining!
3. Like Esther, she could allow herself to be used to save God's people, but if she chose not to be used God would find deliverance through someone else!
4. Moses understood already that God would lead Israel through the wilderness; by a cloud by day and fire by night, YET God still needed human resources as part of the process too!
a. Those who participate in God’s will experience God's presence in their lives in a unique way.
b. Those who fail to participate miss out on God's presence and power, but God will never fail His people even when a human fails!
5. Hobab had unique capabilities that could really bless God's people, the offer was to make those talents come alive for eternal results, failure to respond would not rob Israel however of their needed guidance but it would rob Hobab of eternal results!
6. Once again, Moses makes a final appeal to have Hobab join in on all the good things God has in store for His people on their journey to the promise land!
a. What about you?
b. Do you want to come along on the journey of faith to Heaven?
c. You have qualities that could benefit the Church if yielded to God.
d. Why not join the greatest fellowship in the world; God's people are on a journey of faith that will result in a great future, eternal life with God!
7. Moses promises to share all the good things with Hobab if he comes along!
a. God loves to bless His people who journey in faith!
b. Exciting things await those who join the fellowship of God's people!
II. PROCLAMATION OF FAITH 10:33-36
A. Reality Faced! 10:33-34
1. Though Hobab's response to this second appeal is not recorded, it seems to have worked ... from Judges 1:16 it implies that he did go along, he and his descendants are listed here as part of Israel's journey of faith!
a. It was time to move now; faith had embraced the promises of good things from God, now it was time to start journeying!
b. Faith is useless if it is not exercised or tested, or put into action!
c. Even Moses' optimism about the journey of faith and all the good things they were going to receive from God would be tested to the limit!
2. Moving toward the promise land was the reality of their faith, it needed expression!
FAMOUS MISSIONARY TO CHINA HUDSON TAYLOR FIRST TRAVELED TO CHINA ABOARD A
SAILING SHIP THEY ENCOUNTERED A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. THE WINDS HAD GONE COMPLETELY FLAT AND
THE BOAT HE WAS ON BEGAN DRIFTING IN TOWARD SOME ISLANDS WHERE THE NATIVES
PRACTICED CANNIBALISM. AS THE BOAT
GOT CLOSER TO SHORE THE NATIVES WERE SEEN GATHERING ON THE SHORES AWAITING THE
3. It was not enough to hold fast to God's promises without acting on them, so out they went on the journey!
a. It is not enough to know good theology!
b. It is not enough to know the Bible backwards and forward!
c. It is not enough to agree with a Church doctrinally!
d. There must be a willingness to get up and move, to journey by faith in the way God calls us to go!
4. It was time to face the reality of the desert with all the hope and excitement of the promise land ahead of them!
a. Like all deserts, it would mean facing some tough realities along the way!
b. Their faith in God's goodness would be tested time and again!
B. Rituals & Foundation 10:35-36
1. Moses now begins a new ritual, every time the Cloud moved and the ark of God was moved with Israel, he would chant this same prayer: “Rise up, 0 lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.” and when it settled he would chant, “Return, 0 Lord, to the countless thousands of Israel.”
a. Why say this as a ritual each time they moved or settled?
b. To reinforce their faith in God's leadership and protection in the journey of faith!
2. Just because something is a ritual doesn't mean it is always bad! There were many rituals taught in the Old Testament for God's people to follow. These rituals encouraged faith in moments that tested their faith!
3. The New Testament too has rituals, Jesus instructed the church to practice communion on a regular basis, doing the same things over and over again to instill the truth of His sacrifice in each generation!
4. In water baptism we have a formula we use that was given by Jesus in the Gospels, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
5. The believers in the New Testament ritually met each Lord's Day for corporate worship!
6. The New Testament church was instructed to give financially each week as a ritual, teaching God's ownership of all they possessed by giving on a regular basis!
7. Rituals are only bad when they lose their meaning or purpose!
8. Rituals would carry Israel through bad times when they were confused and their faith was tested by a reality that didn't match what they believed, so they recited their beliefs in rituals that challenged reality and gave testimony of their unshaken faith!
ILLUS: A LITTLE GIRL HAD A STRANGE RITUAL WHEN THINGS SEEMED TO OVERWHELM HER, SHE WOULD PRAY RECITING HER ABC'S! ONE DAY WHEN SHE WAS LOST IN A MEADOW A FARMER OVERHEARD HER PRAYING "A-B-C-D-E-F-G ... ETC." AND SO HE CAME TO HER RESCUE. HE PICKED HER UP AND TOLD HER TO STOP CRYING AND PRAYING AND HE WOULD TAKE HER HOME. SHE RESPONDED WITH, "I KNEW YOU WOULD COME TO RESCUE ME!" THE FARMER RESPONDED, "YOU DID, WHAT MADE YOU THINK I WOULD COME?" SHE SAID, "BECAUSE I PRAYED YOU WOULD COME, I EVEN PRAYED YOUR NAME!" HE LAUGHED AND SAID, "PRAYING MY NAME!? ... ALL I HEARD YOU SAY WAS YOUR ABC'S!" SHE EXPLAINED HOWEVER THAT WHILE IT WAS TRUE THAT SHE OFTEN SAID HER ABC'S IN PRAYER, SHE DOES THIS BECAUSE SHE KNOWS GOD KNOWS EXACTLY HOW TO PUT THE LETTERS TOGETHER FOR HER PRAYER BETTER THAN SHE DOES, AND SO HE ALWAYS KNOWS THE PRAYER AND THE ANSWER, ALL SHE HAS TO DO IS SAY THE ABC'S AND GOD PUTS THE WORDS ALL TOGETHER! – Source Unknown
Ill. PROBLEM OF FAITHLESSNESS 11:1-3
A. Rebellion & Fear 11:1
1. Only 3 days into the trip they were already complaining!
a. The initial excitement was now replaced with the reality of the desert experience!
b. Facing a tough environment challenged their faith, and tested their belief in a good God!
c. Their response to this tough reality ... COMPLAIN!
2. A few verses later it is clear that they didn't like to struggle, (Who does!) they thought following God would mean NO struggles!
a. This bred discontent and rebellion!
b. They start looking for excuses to justify their rebellious hearts!
3. They begin blaming others for their misery instead of taking responsibility for their present situation!
ILLUS: LIKE ONE HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE THAT HAD BEEN ASSIGNED A TERM PAPER BUT HAD PUT OFF WORKING ON IT. THE DAY HAD COME FOR IT TO BE TURNED IN, BUT GENE DIDN'T HAVE HIS PAPER. AS THE TEACHER APPROACHED GENE SHE BRACED HERSELF FOR THE EXCUSE SHE WAS SURE WAS COMING! SHE ASKED FOR HIS PAPER AND SURE ENOUGH HE RESPONDED WITH "MY DOG ATE IT!" THE TEACHER WHO HAD HEARD ALL THE COMMON EXCUSES BEFORE, INCLUDING THIS ONE SAID, "COME ON GENE, SURELY YOU COULD HAVE DONE BETTER FOR A FALSE EXCUSE BESIDES USING ‘MY DOG ATE IT!’" BUT GENE INSISTED IT WAS TRUE, HE ADDED, "IT IS TRUE TEACHER, I HAD TO FORCE HIM TO EAT IT BUT HE EVENTUALLY GOT IT ALL DOWN!" – Source Unknown
4. Rather than face reality with faith it was easier to respond in fear and rebellion!
a. The result of this was to arouse God's anger!
b. If it had been years in the desert it might have been different, but this was only 3 days into the trip!
c. God sends them a warning, a little fire at the outskirts of the camp!
d. This was God's grace, a warning sign; they experienced some loss but not a lot!
5. God uses loss in our lives sometimes to warn us of a bitter heart or a complaining heart!
a. It isn't that God delights in bringing pain into our lives; He wants to do so much good but won't act on our behalf when we have a bad attitude!
b. God sends just enough pain to get their attention and to be educational about faith!
B. Repentance & Favor 11:2
1. Awakened to their lack of faith and their grumbling attitude by the judgment fire they quickly turn to Moses for him to pray for repentance and restored favor!
a. Moses is quick to respond to them.
b. He begins immediately to pray for them.
c. This prayer will help restore perspective again.
2. Sure enough, Moses' prayer gets God's attention, and the people's decision to cry out to God for help touches God's heart and the heat dies down!
3. If we are not careful we can lose perspective easily when things don't go our way, but if we can accept struggles with faith we can be quite productive for the Lord!
ILLUS: GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, THE GREAT MUSICIAN, LOST HIS HEALTH, HAD HIS RIGHT SIDE BECOME PARALYZED, LOST HIS MONEY, AND FOUND HIS CREDITORS COMING AFTER HIM ... THEY THREATENED TO IMPRISON HIM. HE WAS SO DISHEARTENED BY HIS TRAGIC EXPERIENCES THAT HE ALMOST DESPAIRED FOR A BRIEF TIME. BUT HE RALLIED HIS FAITH IN GOD AND COMPOSED HIS GREATEST WORK, “HANDEL'S MESSIAH" WHICH INCLUDES THE GREAT HALLELUJAH CHORUS STILL CHERISHED BY THE WORLD TODAY! JUST THINK WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN LOST TO GENERATIONS IF HE HAD ALLOWED HIMSELF TO FALL INTO SELF PITY AND REBELLION IN HIS SPIRIT! – Source Unknown
C. Remembering Failure! 11:3
1. Israel renamed this place, calling it "TABERAH" which in Hebrew means, "burning"
a. They did this so they would not forget the experience!
b. They chose to remember failure, not to depress them but so they wouldn't repeat the experience, or at least they would have to think about rebelling twice before choosing it again!
2. We will repeat our mistakes more if we fail to remember them!
3. It became necessary to make a way to remember their lack of faith here, it would serve as a warning against the same error again!
a. Those who fail to "embrace" their failures repeat them!
b. They had to accept full responsibility for their failure too!
c. Those that embrace and accept the responsibility for their failures are likely to grow from the experiences, however, if they choose to blame someone else for it they are likely to stay the way they are and remain bitter to the end!
4. The best way to destroy the power of failure is to embrace it!
ILLUS: A 16 YEAR OLD GIRL SHARED THIS STORY, "ONLY GOD KNOWS WHAT MY SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER HAS DONE FOR ME! I WAS SAVED WHEN I WAS 14 YEARS OLD, BUT OTHERS MADE FUN OF ME. I RESPONDED BY BEING ANGRY AND REBELLIOUS, LIKE MY OLD SELF. MOST OF THE CHURCH PEOPLE TURNED AGAINST ME BUT NOT MY SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER, “MISS ‘M’ HELD ON TO ME EVEN WHEN I WAS RUDE TO HER AND MEAN TO HER! ONE EVENING SHE CAME UP TO ME AND PUT HER ARM AROUND ME AND SAID WITH TEARS RUNNING DOWN HER FACE, “OH, DEAR, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, AND JESUS UNDERSTANDS ALL YOU HAVE HAD TO FIGHT; SOMEONE HELD ON TO ME TOO WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE AND SAVED ME FROM A LIFE OF SIN, I UNDERSTAND SO WELL!” EMBRACING THIS “FAILURE” OF A GIRL BROKE THE BONDAGE OF ANGER AND WON HER OVER WHEN EVERYONE ELSE HAD REJECTED HER! – Source Unknown
5. Sure the way is tough and difficult ... but the alternative is even worse!!!
a. At least the path of faith has the promise land at the end!
b. And there would be oasis in the desert too, and wonderful provisions like manna from heaven to sustain them on the trip!
c. While there would certainly be tough times, there would also be joyous times of great victories and great fellowship, and great faith!
d. God's promises were still there, they would be woven into the fabric of time and along with the tests in the desert!
6. Our journey is not without rewards, both here and also there! Hang in there Saint and guard your heart against bitterness and anger!
7. It might be difficult along the way, but it will be wonderful in the end!
CONCLUSION: The Christian life is full of great promises and great blessings, and great challenges! God's blessings do come, but usually after our faith is tested and tried! We always are faced with 2 options: "complain and become bitter" or "continue on and be blessed!" The end result will be the "promise land"... it won't always be the desert! Keep the faith!