cat hanging by a rope March 4 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Numbers 13, 14, 15

Faith or Fear?

When we encounter some giant challenges in our lives, how do we respond? Do we respond with faith or fear? What do we hang on to? It is only natural to respond in fear, but what if we knew God was directing our path, and we already had a history with him acting mightily on our behalf - would we still fear and rebel or would we act in faith?

The moment of ultimate testing arrived for the Israelites. After two years and a few months traveling in the wildernesses of Sinai and Zin, they were at the southern border of Canaan in Kadesh Barnea. The people of Israel were ready to enter the land long promised to them by God. That must have been exciting!

Under the direction of the LORD, Moses sent twelve spies to explore the land of Canaan, one leader from every tribe, before going in to conquer the land. The spies went from Kadesh Barnea all the way to Lebo Hamath, Zedad, Ziphron and Hazar Enan in the extreme northern borders of Canaan, into areas called Lebanon, Syria and parts of Jordan in today's world. The trip took forty days by foot. They surveyed the people, the cities, their fortifications, and the fruit and trees of the land.

What was the report of the twelve spies? The report was that this was indeed a prosperous land! They brought back a single cluster of grapes that was so big and heavy that it was put on a pole and carried between two of the men! (Numbers 13:23). That was the good news. The bad news was that the cities were large and well fortified, and there were giants in the land. What giants do we have in our lives? Are there problems that seem insurmountable that keep us from enjoying what God wants to give us? What is often the real problem? It is fear.

The report of the spies caused great murmuring and fear in the congregation of the Israelites. But not all the spies acted with fear. One of the spies spoke differently than ten of them. “... Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it,’” (Numbers 13:30, NIV). Though he did not speak up at this occasion, Joshua was in agreement with Caleb (Numbers 14:30, 38) .

The other ten spies responded, “we can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31, NIV). They did not have confidence in God; they only had confidence in their own strength, which was lacking.

An insurrection was building up against Moses. The report from ten of the spies discouraged the people, and they wanted to appoint someone else to lead them back to Egypt.

Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly,

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.

Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:6-9, NIV)

In whom was Caleb and Joshua's confidence? Their confidence was in the LORD, the almighty and powerful God who was with them. In whom is our confidence, in our own abilities or in God's abilities?

Unfortunately, the people believed the report of the ten spies (Numbers 14:1-4, 10). They lost faith in God and in their leaders, Moses and Aaron, and proceeded to make plans for returning to Egypt.

God was angry with their rejection.

The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they” (Numbers 14:11-12, NIV).

Moses was concerned about the Israelites and God's reputation. He begged God to forgive the people so that other nations would not mock Israel's God for failing to bring them through the desert.

In response to Moses' plea, God forgave them. However, in the congregation all who were at least twenty years old would die in the desert over a forty year span. These were held accountable. Those born in the desert and those under twenty would have to be shepherds, wandering around in the wilderness because of the unfaithfulness of their parents and grandparents. It must have been difficult for the children to watch their parents and grandparents die wandering around in the wilderness without inheriting the Promised Land. It must have also been difficult for the parents and grandparents to watch their children suffer the hardships of desert life and not inherit the land for forty years because they (the parents and grandparents) had rebelled against God. Furthermore, those ten spies (respected leaders of the people) who brought a message of fear and discouraged the people from following the LORD were killed with a plague. What can we learn from this? It is dangerous to discourage faith in God, and especially if you are a parent or are in other leadership roles.

When the people of Israel heard of God's judgment, they mourned and then acted in presumption. They presumed that if they would now act, God would change his mind (Numbers 14:44-45). God did not change his mind and so they were defeated. The Israelites tried to attack Canaan in their own strength, but God was no longer with them. They suffered heavy losses. We cannot make God bend to our will; we must bend to his. God is pleased with those who are faithful, not rebellious.

Nevertheless, despite the judgment against the Israelites, God was gracious. Numbers 15 gives instructions from God about sacrifices the Israelites were to make when they entered the land. The instructions for their future in Canaan brought hope to the people; even though the parents and grandparents would die in the wildernesss, still their children would have a future in the Promised Land. God disciplines us for our good and to share in his holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Disobedience has consequences, but God is merciful and gracious and forgiving to his people (Numbers 14:18-19). When we discipline others, we should be like God and forgive, and then encourage their hearts by speaking of a future.

Lessons to live by:

  • Do not give into fear. Remember your great God is with you - have faith in him. He gets the glory when he conquers the giants in our lives. If we could do it ourselves, we wouldn't need God.
  • Do you know God? He offers us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life. Through Him we can gain victory (more...)
  • It is dangerous to discourage faith in God, especially if you are a parent or are in other leadership roles.
  • Sin does not affect just us; sin also has consequences for others around us.
  • We cannot make God bend to our will; we must bend to his. God is pleased with those who are faithful, not rebellious. Do not act on your own. Let God lead you and then obey.
  • God is merciful and gracious. We may, like the Israelites, rebel and mess up and suffer the consequences. If we repent, however, we, too, can know God is still gracious.
  • When we discipline others, we should be like God and forgive, and then encourage their hearts by speaking of a future.

Today's Bible memory verse:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NIV).

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