Let me read a story that illustrates why some eagles don’t fly. I alluded to it in our last session entitled, With Eagles’ Wings. The story goes like this:
A man found an eagle’s egg and put it into the nest of a prairie chicken. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle, thinking he was a prairie chicken, did whatever the other chickens did. He scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. He clucked and cackled. And he flew in a brief thrashing of wings and flurry of feathers no more than a few feet off the ground.
After all, that’s how prairie chickens were supposed to fly.
Years passed. The eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings. "What a beautiful bird!" said the eagle to his neighbor. "What is it?"
"That’s an eagle...the chief of the birds," the neighbor clucked. "But don't give it a second thought. You could never be like him."
So the eagle never gave it another thought. And it died thinking it was a prairie chicken.
(Larry Tomczak, Last Days Magazine, 1989, pp. 23-24.)
The questions that arise from this story are pretty obvious. If we apply them to ourselves, the questions might be:
- How often is this the biography of Christians?
- How far below our potential are we living?
- How would we live at the end of our lives if we had a biblical view of ourselves and God’s intention for us?
In summary: What would we accomplish if we lived as God intended?
Today we hope to discover the answer to these questions as we look at the life of one who soared with the eagles. His story is in Numbers 13-14.
Israel: eagles or prairie chickens?
(Or if we contemporize the question, could be "Hillcrest Chapel: Are We Eagles or Prairie Chickens?")
The challenge from God—13:1-2
In Numbers 13:1-2 we have an amazing challenge from God. (See also Deuteronomy 1:6-25.)
Israel had come out of Egypt after hundreds of years of captivity, having gone through the Red Sea and seen the entire Egyptian army die in it. After that, God provided for them in miraculous ways and brought them on eagle’s wings to Mount Sinai, where they received the Ten Commandments. What a journey they had been on.
Now it was time for them to go into the land the Lord had promised them. The "Promised Land" was not far away. Would they be prepared to enter it? God thought they were ready! Here is what God said to Moses:
1] The LORD said to Moses,
2] "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders."
Think of the opportunity these men had! They were honored to be the first children of Israel back in the land after four centuries. (How did this command come about? See appendix: The Command to Enter.)
The instructions of Moses—13:3-20.
So how would these men respond to their opportunity? After God’s general commands were heard, Moses gave some very specific instructions to the representatives of each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Before we look at the instruction, take a close look at these men. If we read theses verses we see:
- They had the promise of future success—v. 2
- They were men already appointed and distinguished as leaders in Israel—v. 3
- They may have already served as judges over their tribes—Exodus 18:25
- But now they had the opportunity to go down in history as those prepared for battle and ready to lead Israel to victory!
Sadly, that’s not what happened. Not all leaders/believers will distinguish themselves and fulfill their calling. Many will look only to their abilities and wisdom and never accomplish supernatural victories. They may accomplish one area of ministry, but when the call comes to mature and take on greater responsibility/ difficulty, they may resist or falter. I hope as a church and as individuals, we understand that if we don’t take advantage of the challenges that come our way, we do not assure the status quo or that things will go on as before. If we fail to take advantage of the challenges God sends to us, we may enter into meaningless wandering, and possibly the end of life as we know it.
The stakes are very high. If we have an opportunity from God, it is essential we take it and not say, "well, maybe another time when things are easier for me... or, "...when I have things lined up like I want it, and when I am more financially secure, then I’ll be better equipped to do what God is calling me to do."
We have no guarantee that God will keep asking us to stretch ourselves in ministry and that we will eventually find something we like and are ready for. The point this example makes is, we are never ready to do what God asks us to do. We will need God’s power and wisdom to be equal to any challenge He brings our way. If we don’t say yes to the opportunity, we may lose even what we have!
Now, is God being hardnosed? No! He knows what is in the promised land and what it will mean to us. If we refuse His blessings, on the other side of the refusal we will sadly see the logical consequences of our lack of action—unfulfilled wandering!
With that understanding, here are the spies’ tribes, names and meanings of their names:Tribe: Name of spy: Meaning of the name: Reuben Shammua Heard Simeon Shaphat Judge Judah Caleb Dog, raging with canine madness Issachar Igal He will redeem Ephraim Hoseah or Joshua Deliverance or help Benjamin Palti God’s deliverance Zebulun Gaddiel God is my fortune Manasseh Gaddi Good fortune Dan Ammiel God is my kinsman Asher Sethur Hidden Naphtali Nahbi Hidden Gad Geul Majesty of God
Wouldn’t you like to work with a bunch of people whose names meant: heard, judge, dog—raging with canine madness, He will redeem, deliverance, God’s deliverance, good fortune, God is my kinsman, hidden, and majesty of God.
A person’s name is to be an indication of their character, and I would love to have those people on my team—if they lived up to the meaning of their names! By the way, if you look at this list you will notice there are only two men in this list, after whom parents still name their children—Caleb and Joshua. They met the challenge before them. You don’t hear of children named Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddi, Nahbi or Geul—those men didn’t meet the challenge, as we will see.
Looking at verses 18-20, what did Moses tell these 12 leaders to do?
Here’s the main instruction—vv. 18-20.
18]See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19]What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20]How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land." (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
They were to go through the Negev and into the hill country and see what the land and people were like—13:17-20a. Were the people strong or weak? Few or many? Was the land good or bad, fertile or poor? Were the towns/cities unwalled or fortified? Were there any trees? Finally, they were to see if they could bring back some evidence of the fruit—13:20b.
The exploration is carried out—13:21-25
With those questions in mind, off they went.
21] So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo [or toward the entrance to] Hamath. 22] They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23]When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, [Eshcol means cluster; also in verse 24.] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24]That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25]At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
The spies covered the area from the extreme south (wildernesses of Zin) to the North (Hamath), and especially concentrated on the area later known as Judea (13:21-25). The results of the investigation are very important, for it confirmed what God had said all along. From the time of the burning bush (Ex. 3:8) until this point, God had repeatedly told the people and Moses what to expect in the land; He let them know in advance!
He told them it was a good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey. He listed the people living there and made it clear they would be fierce. God didn’t keep anything from them, but though He communicated clearly, it was still appropriate to investigate and confirm His word. He’s not upset by spying out the land then or now! God welcomes our investigation, but the critical thing is what we do with the facts we acquire. How are we going to respond once we know we can trust Him and His Word?
The exploration recounted/interpreted to the people—13:26-33; 14:1-9
How were the spies going to interpret what they saw? This is always very critical when we know what God wants us to do. Are we going to act (or present the facts) with faith, or fear?
First the spies displayed the evidence of their investigation—13:26-27.
25]At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. 26]They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27]They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit."
Then they gave an account of the land and the people from two viewpoints—13:28-14:9.
The majority report—13:28-29,31-33.
28]"But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.
29]The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan."
The focus of the majority report was very obvious: it was a negative approach. The positive side of the report took 22 words in the NIV—v. 27—but it took approximately 50 words to describe the negative things they saw. Their reporting revealed the die is cast, that the majority of spies had chosen to concentrate on the difficulties.
Here’s the principle we can observe here: If our observation of possibilities, plans and dreams is based on our own wisdom, understanding and strength, we will always say no to our opportunities. God’s opportunities always demand His help—always. If we look at our opportunities and view them in the light of our strength and wisdom, we will always say no, because they are impossible and demand God’s assistance to fulfill!
Some of us just don’t get it. We are still deciding if we are going to do what God asks of us, based on an evaluation of our strengths, preferences or interests. God, however, wants us to soar in His strength even when we can’t see how we can do it ourselves. Obviously this is what happened here in Numbers.
The particulars of the report were not positive or faith-filled:
- They said the enemy was powerful—v. 28a.
- They reported the cities were fortified and very large—v. 28b.
- They saw the descendants of Anak there—v. 28c. Can you hear the collective hush/gasp of the people as the spies recalled the people’s size and where they lived? I’m sure they all began to talk to each other even before the report was finished.
Thankfully, the negative report was interrupted in verse 30, but the people didn’t listen to it and the majority report continued in verse 31. Here they gave a negative evaluation of how successful an attack might be:
31]"...We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 32]And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size."
So in review, this is what they said and saw:
- The enemy is stronger—v. 31.
- The land devours people—v. 32. (It sort of chews on you all the time.)
- All the people are of a giant size—v. 32b "...All the people we saw there are of great size." In other words, there are giants there. v. 33—"We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim).... we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
Wow! It makes you want to take this trip, doesn’t it? "Hey, we better not go into the land of milk and honey and giant fruit the Lord has promised us. Obviously He wants us to do something we can’t do! Think about what might happen. The ground will be constantly trying to eat us up, and if the ground doesn’t get us, then the giants will squash us like little grasshoppers."
This is such a great study in human behavior. It is very typical when churches or individuals begin to take steps of faith, that we come up with fantastic reasons why we shouldn’t do whatever it is! Thankfully that hasn’t happened in our Legacy campaign here at Hillcrest Chapel, nor does it happen when we list our ministry goals and objectives.
When God asks us to do something as a group, or as individuals, the negative response often takes on the following characteristics:
"I can’t" fills the excuses of the negative. v. 31a—"We can't attack those people..."
New York Governor Martin Van Buren said the following words in the winter of 1829, to warn against a grave national danger: the railroad. His letter to President Jackson pointed out the obvious hazard. "The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed. As you know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock, and frightening women and children." Van Buren preferred the canal boat. It was safer, more dependable, and had already been tested. It worked. No risks. In his opinion, the canal system was "absolutely essential" for the nation’s welfare. Had President Jackson listened to Van Buren’s advice, modern transportation could be quite different. Manhattan executives would line up on the docks after work to take the canal boat across town. Taxi drivers would paddle passengers in canoes through rush-hour spray. The modern can would be nothing more than a dream...or a nightmare. (Larry Tomczak, Last Days Magazine, 1989, p. 18.)
"We simply can’t do this. It is impossible. We are being foolish if we try!" are the common words of the faithless or the negative reports.
The strength of the enemy/problem/obstacle is evaluated only from a human viewpoint, and God’s strength is minimized or overlooked. v. 31— "But the men...said, ‘We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’"
In essence, David said just the opposite when he faced Goliath. Everyone declared how big Goliath was but David in essence said, "Yes, but look how much smaller he is than God."
Exaggeration is frequently used to bolster their findings/assessment—vv. 32-33a.
32]And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33]We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim)..."
Think about the exaggerations in these verses:
- Are all the people giants?
- How does the land really devour people? (Hungry dirt?)
Mark it down—people exaggerate when they are trying to justify their cowardice or lack of faith!
They overlook their enemy’s vulnerability and weakness—vv. 32-33.
There was no mention of the sheer number of the Israelites; nor the fact that the people living in the land might be frightened of them; nor that God had defeated the armies of Egypt in the Red Sea. There was no rehearsal of the miraculous intervention they had already seen. Because they were enamored with the enemy’s strength,
They recall the enemy’s size, not how hard they will fall—vv. 32-33. "This problem is just too big for me and my faith to handle. I’m outnumbered!"
Self-evaluation is usually low.
v. 33b—"We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes..." (We’re little bugs just waiting to be crushed!)
Assumptions/guesses about the enemy or the risks involved are stated as facts. v. 33c—"We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them." The faithless were experts on the enemy’s power and what they could do; but did they really know how they were perceived by the people in the Promised Land? They were wholly ignorant of the Lord’s army and His strength.
The negative majority, therefore, isn’t always right in its assessment of a faith venture—vv. 27-33. (It is not looking at its resources, only the obstacles!
Spiritual risks-takers are often not appreciated by the comfortable/ faithless majority—14:10. Sometimes only in retrospect do people appreciate their creativity, risk-taking, faith. Obviously the spiritual risk-taker has problems too, but a church without faith and risk accomplishes nothing; it is dead.
The sad impact of the majority report—14:1-4,10.
1]That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2]All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3]Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" 4]And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt."
This to me is such a sad picture. The results of disobedience look the same in our lives as well.
We need to learn from this example. I want you to think about some area in which God has called you to obedience and you have refused to obey.
- You may have been convicted about the need to begin tithing, but as of yet you haven’t done so, because you have a huge list of excuses as to why it would be impossible.
- It could be an area of ministry you feel God calling you to do, but you feel very negative about doing it (maybe fearful of it, too).
- Maybe you’re in disagreement with God and spiritual leaders as to whether you should marry a nonChristian. You know what the Scripture says about being yoked together with nonbelievers, but you are going to do it anyway.
- Maybe a business relationship is destroying your faith, but you refuse to give it up because you are fearful you might be lonely or lose a lot of money.
These examples are very typical of the challenges to obedience in any church. As pastors we hear of these struggles all the time. What happens to us when we decide to disobey God and do what we want? At a certain point we have to deal with the guilt of disobedience, so we may try to convince ourselves it is okay to disobey like Israel in Numbers 13-14.
Observe again the spies' actions, then, and learn about the human behavior of the disobedient. (Maybe it will be a window to our past, present, or future actions.)
If we are living in disobedience, this is how we will act:
- Emotions are often exaggerated—14:1.
- Grumbling is usually in the background—v. 2.
- Spiritual leadership is attacked/questioned—v. 2b.
- We assume the worst is about to happen—vv. 2b-3a. We even make plans for it.
- We question the wisdom and direction of God—v. 3a.
- As doubters/resisters, we regress into a fanciful recalling of the past. v. 3b—"My life was better before God."
- We want to pick leaders who will please us—v. 4.
- We often move back into old sins/bondages—v. 4b.
- We use rumors, exaggerations and lies to spread our perspective to others—13:32.
I think you can see and imagine how much impact this negative spiritual account can have; it is far-reaching. In this case in Numbers, because the statements were from the majority, the results were even more devastating. Oh, the power of the destructive word. Ten men can turn a nation of two million into cowards.
The method often used to counteract public statements of faith that are clearly God’s will (Numbers 13:30; Ex. 3:8-10) is through the spreading of bad reports among the people. It's easy to view the harsh realities of the present as more difficult than the past dangers God has brought us through. In fact, Israel at this point would rather have gone back to slavery than accept the challenge and the blessing God had in mind.
This section of Scripture is a reminder to anyone tempted to go back to his/her old life. This passage shows us if we choose to disobey, there is only one way we will go: backward. People who should be ready to fly like eagles are acting as if they were prairie chickens.
Merl F. Unger once said: "For the believer, the choice is inevitable - either he/she must go forward in Christ (to possess the land, 13:30), or go back to the world (Egypt), or die in defeat in the wilderness (14:2-4). Against this unbelief and its dire results are directed all the warnings of the book of Hebrews—2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11-6:12; 12:25-29."
Well, let’s move on; that whole scene is pretty depressing to look at. Thankfully, as we look further in this passage, there is another report for us to consider. It’s a faith response to the challenges of their Promised Land.
The minority report—a report from Joshua and Caleb—13:30; 14:5-9.
The particulars of the report are really inspiring:
These two men thought they should take possession of the land (13:30) and that they would be victorious in the battle (14:6-9c). Their report was very positive. First Caleb spoke, and later Joshua, too. Listening to Caleb, it is obvious he was a tough guy. He probably came from a tough neighborhood in Egypt where any kid with more than one ear was a visitor; any cat with a tail was tourist. He was tough! He probably had barbed wire around his playpen. He would have loved one of my favorite sayings, "You have to be tough to be in the ministry. You have to wear your diapers low and drink your milk straight."
Look back at 13:30 and see what this tough and faith-filled man said:
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we CAN certainly do it."
So praise God, all was not lost—Caleb was there. The man whose name means "dog, raging with canine madness" still had faith! (Mad dog would lead the charge.) Why was Caleb so filled with "raging" faith? Very simply, it was because God had promised them the land—13:1-2. Caleb responded with faith to the very same experience others saw as impossible.
Notice an interesting fact here. 13:30 says: "Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses..." Faith brings silence—v. 30. Fear brings a loud cry. 14:1—"That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud." Remember when Jesus was sleeping in the boat with the disciples, and they were fearful and crying out? Whenever people are crying out, arguing, and fighting, I promise you they are concentrating on the negative, and possibly motivated by fear. For those motivated by faith, on the other hand, there is calm!
The specifics of Caleb and Joshua’s report were as follows:
They (Caleb and Joshua) reported on the goodness of the land—14:6-7.
6]Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7]and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good."
They then gave an evaluation of the potential attack.
14:8—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.
They followed that evaluation by instructing Israel about rebellion and fear—
9] "Only do not rebel against the LORD..."
They assessed the enemy's strength.
14:9b—"And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up." (The ground doesn’t swallow up, but we do...in God’s strength!)
They gave a faith statement.
14:9c— "Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them." Let’s take a few minutes and look at what Joshua and Caleb said.
Could you take some time to pray about this list? This is more than a sermon; this list will help us all evaluate how we are responding to what God is asking us to do. Please take the time to review it.
When God asks us to do something as a group or as individuals, a faith-filled response often takes on these characteristics:
"Can" fills the words of the positive—13:30.
I know this could sound like just another motivational speech; please don’t put this observation in that category. If God promises to do something through us and then promises us success if we do it, we can say "can" with faith. Success comes in "cans."
The strength of the enemy is only evaluated from God’s viewpoint—14:8-9.
(This viewpoint is the only way to see an enemy or obstacle in the path of doing God’s will.)
Faith in God is repeatedly used to bolster their assessment and conversation.
14:8—"...He will lead us into the land...and will give it to us...the Lord is with us." (This is only possible because we have faith in God.)
Assumptions about victory or the risks are based on God’s promises and presence—13:1-2; 14:8-9.
In other words, if we do accomplish anything, it isn’t because of our prowess, it is only because of God’s presence and power.) Who was Israel? Who was with them? Was there ample evidence of God’s power and presence? Yes!
The positive minority may be right in their assessment of a faith venture—14:9.
They should be listened to, when it comes to faith ventures. The loudest and most sensational reasons for not doing something often create fear. Spiritual risk-takers are often not appreciated by the comfortable/faithless majority—14:10. Some of the greatest hindrances to reaching our potential in God are our tendencies toward familiarity, comfort, convenience, and fear of the unknown. Anyone who challenges us to reach beyond the familiar can be seen as a threat to our comfortable lifestyle.
Faith ventures can be delayed by a faithless majority—14:20-25.
This is the saddest thing about this incident. Millions of people paid the price because of the negative report of 10 vocal leaders. Sadly, all who were disobedient were forbidden to enter into the land of promise—Numbers 14:21-23.
21] Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22]not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—23] not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.
Think of it, Joshua and Caleb had to wander for 40 years with the faithless! It is important for us to remember that our disobedience can cause pain and suffering to the faithful—to the innocent.
On the other hand, the final outcome of the faithful should be an inspiration to us all—14:24.
"But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it."
Here is the summary of Caleb’s life:
- He had a different spirit.
- He followed wholeheartedly.
- He would enter the Promised Land.
- He was an example of one who takes on the ministry mountains and is successful.
Caleb: an eagle who loved the high places— Joshua 14:6-15
Caleb was a man of conviction who followed the Lord wholeheartedly. He believed the promise of God and was rewarded for that. So what was Caleb’s attitude when it came time for him to receive his promise after a 40-year delay—Joshua 14:10-12? Did he lose his desire to possess the land?
No! You can almost imagine Caleb, like a child in the front of a class, at 80+ years old with his hand up saying: "Hey, give me the hill country where the giants are located." Here’s what he actually said:
10]"Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11]I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12]Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said."
What is the result of this kind of consistent faith?—Joshua 14:13-15. Our old eagle found a place for his nest up high in the mountains.
13] Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14]So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15](Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war.
Caleb’s life should cause us to ask: what will we be like?
Christians: eagles or prairie chickens?
Are we mad dogs who are unafraid of anything, or are we grasshoppers giants squash? Are we people of faith, or people of fear? Are we people of the promise, or people of the desert? What will determine the answer? We will only soar like eagles when we say "yes" to God’s commands. We will fly only when we are being lifted up in the strength of God.
It’s when we catch the wind of God’s Spirit that we will be able to soar and do the impossible. The Old Testament can be a tremendous help to us in learning how to fly. (See Romans 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:1-6,11-13 for a summary of what we should learn from all Old Testament examples.) Unlike Caleb, however, we not only have God with us, we have Christ in us, and He has given us numerous promises of victory and success. As we learn our lessons and the promises from scripture, then, we should see success.
For emphasis' sake, then, let me restate the lessons and principles once again so we will have the maximum benefit of Caleb’s example.
Here is what we should have learned and how we should act as faith-filled believers:
Principle #1: Before we enter into a faith venture, we must be sure it is in keeping with God’s Word, and there is a promise or command from Scripture motivating us.
Principle #2: Rather than focus our attention on our enemy’s power, or the obstacles to God’s plan, we should put our wholehearted faith in the Lord’s promise and the Lord’s power.
Principle #3: Replace exaggerated statements of the enemy’s power with a thorough knowledge of, and faith in, the Lord’s promises.
Principle #4: We should never use rumor or pressure techniques to accomplish God’s work when we have opposition. Prayer, a compassionate presentation, and patience are our best strategies.
Principle #5: Remember, our self-evaluation is based on God’s presence and His person. The awesome Creator God is with us. Who does that make us? Friends of the Creator and children of God.
Principle #6: We can say "can" rather than "can’t," not only because of who God is, but because we have comprehended and applied an understanding of our salvation and position in Christ. We must understand our salvation. Israel forgot its deliverance and the implications of its promises as God’s children. We can’t let that happen! We must understand the following verses:
- Ephesians 2:11-16; 4:17-20
- Ephesians 2:1-3—spiritual death
- Ephesians 2:4—spiritual life/eternal life
We must also understand our position. If we are to fly like eagles, we must know our position in Christ and how we should practice it—2 Tim. 1:9-10; Eph. 1:5-6; 1:17-20; 3:14; Col. 2:10; 2 Pet. 1:3.
Practicing Our Position:
This is what we are—2 Peter 1:3,4; Eph. 1:3; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 10:14.
- Spiritually alive to God—Eph. 2:1,4,5; 1 John 4:9; John 11:25; 14:19; Acts 17:28
- Dead to sin—Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:9; 2:12; Rom. 6:2-10
- Forgiven—Eph. 1:7; I Jn. 1:9; 2:12; Col. 1:14
- Righteous—Rom. 1:17; 3:21-26; 4:1,6; 5:17
- Children of God—Eph. 1:5; Gal. 3:26
- God's possession—Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:19
- Heirs of God—Rom. 8:17; Col. 1:12; Eph. 1:11,14,18; 1 Pet. 1:3,4
- Blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies—Eph. 1:3; 2:6,7; 2 Pet. 1:3,4
- Heavenly citizenship—Phil. 3:20; John 17:14-26; 1 John 5:4,5
- Servants of God—1 Cor. 7:22,23; Rom. 6:22
- New life—2 Cor. 5:17
- Free from the law—Rom. 6:14; 7:1-6
- Crucified to the world—Gal. 1:4; 6:14,15
- Light to the world—1 Thess. 5:5; Matt. 5:14
- Victorious over Satan—Rev. 12:9-11
- Cleansed—John 15:3; 1 John 1:7,9
- Holy and without blame—Eph. 1:4; 1 Cor. 3:17
Practicing Our Experience:
This is how we should act—2 Peter 1:5-8; Eph. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:17; Heb. 13:20-21.
- Live the life—Phil. 1:21; Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:11-13; Tit. 2:12
- Give no place to sin—Rom. 6:11-15; Col. 3:3
- Count on it!—Rom. 8:1, 33, 34
- Live righteously—2 Tim. 2:22; 1 John 3:7
- Act like God’s children—Eph. 5:1; 1 Pet. 1:13,14
- Yield to God—Rom. 12:1; 2 Tim. 2:19-21
- Add to your inheritance—Matt. 6:19-21; 2 Cor. 5:9,10; 2 John 8; 1 Cor. 3:12-14
- Set your love on those things—Col. 3:1,2
- Live as a citizen of heaven—1 John 2:15; Col. 3:1,2; James 1:27
- Act like a servant—Rom. 6:17-19; 12:11; Heb. 12:28
- Walk in new life—Rom. 6:4
- Yet keep fulfilling the law—Gal. 5:1; Rom. 8:4
- Avoid worldly things—1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4; Rom. 12:2
- Walk as children of light—Eph. 5:8; Matt. 5:15,16
- Claim your victory—Eph. 6:11-17; James 4:7
- Cleanse yourself—2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 4:8
- Live holy lives—1 John 3:7; 1 Pet. 1:15,16; 2 Pet. 3:14
- Enjoy your freedom—Gal. 5:1
Throughout our lives, we will all have ministry mountains before us. The tragedy is that very few people—only the minority—have the faith and wholehearted devotion to God to take the challenge. What is the result? It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?
Our enemy enjoys the fruit of our possessions. They may get some of what God has in mind for us. For example, for 40 years the people living in the land of promise had what they didn’t deserve, while the children of Israel wandered in the desert!
If we are disobedient, our lives can be a series of circles and aimless wanderings.
Our joy is diminished to a level so inferior, we begin to think the joys of our prior, sinful life might be better than what we are experiencing. This happens so often. A person refuses to obey God’s commands and may enter into a season of wandering and dissatisfaction. Sadly, some conclude during their spiritual desert that the Christian life isn’t all they thought it should be, and that the Christian faith doesn’t work. The reality is, however, that the person is experiencing the logical consequences of disobedience, not the fruit of obedience. There is a big difference between the fruit of God’s blessing and the desert of disobedience.
The consequences of our disobedience are felt in the quality of our lives, and we miss what is rightfully ours. We never know how to fly like an eagle. We miss the thrill of climbing the mountains and flying over them.
So we have a choice: are we going to be eagles or prairie chickens?
- If you were to describe your life right now, would you classify yourself as an eagle, or a prairie chicken? What do you think most contributed to your condition?
- List the reasons (from the following passages) we should study the Old Testament—Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,11-13.
- What do you personally like about Caleb? Which of his qualities do you think you need the most? (Numbers 13:30; 14:24; Joshua 14:6-15)
- Of all the opportunities/challenges you have had in your life in the past—that is, the opportunities/challenges that God put before you—which illustrates the majority report and which illustrates the minority report of the spies? If you are in a small group, pick a partner and share an example of each one.
- In general, what is it that most influences a person’s response to the challenges/opportunities in his life? In your experience and observation, which of the items listed under the majority report contribute most to lost opportunities/challenges today? (Focus on the evaluation of a negative spiritual report, of the majority report.)
- Which of the principles listed under the evaluation of a positive spiritual report have you found to be most helpful in your life?
- What challenge/opportunity are you facing now that could be helped by this lesson?
- Have you ever seen the negative impact of the majority report in a local church? Without recalling all the details of the impact, which part of this lesson would have helped the most?
- What should be our response when the majority is wrong and is clearly and overtly disobeying God's command? (Study Numbers 14:5-20.)
The Command to Enter
If we compare this passage with Deuteronomy 1:19-22, we see that the original idea to go into the land was the Lord’s. He commanded them to go. Moses then told them to go and take possession of the land—Deut. 1:21. Then the people of Israel came to Moses with the idea of the spies. There appeared to be, however, some mixed motives within Israel for the spies:
- There might have been some fear and discouragement—Deut. 1:21.
- There was a desire for success—Deut. 1:22.
- And it appears a subtle reason for sending the spies might have been that they wanted proof the land was worth taking.
Whatever the purpose, God approved the sending of spies (Numbers 13:1-2), and Moses carried out the plan—13:2.
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