Sunday, June 15, 2014
Father’s Day
Pastor David Lewellyn
The 12 Spies
Numbers 13-14:9

Happy Father’s Day! I get to talk today because I’m the best at “Dad jokes.”

Talk about the Penny. It’s for your thoughts.

I’m scared of bears. We’re all scared of something, and I’m scared of bears. A bear is like a chevy covered in fur and anger. 

My wife is scared of spiders. One time I heard her yelling for me in such a way as to let me know something was wrong. I rushed downstair. It was a spider. Laughing, I told her, “I thought something was really wrong! It’s just a spider.”

She said, “Don’t laugh at me. What if it was a bear? I wouldn’t laugh at you.”

I thought, “That doesn’t even make sense. How would a bear get in our house?”

“Also, if a bear does get into our house, you better not call for me!”

ILL: Several years back, I went on a hike with some friends in the cascade mountains. As we were nearing the trailhead, we found out there had recently been some bear sightings. the whole hike, I was worried about bears. Everything looked like a bear. A breeze would blow through a bush and I would jump, thinking a bear was behind me. It was silly.

About halfway through the hike, we reached a beautiful mountain lake. I finally looked around, not for bears, but to experience the beauty. I realized, my fear was keeping me from enjoying the beauty of this hike. I was so preoccupied with bears that I forgot to enjoy where I was. Fear had robbed me. I finished the hike fully engaged, and we never did see a bear.

Fear can rob us of great opportunities, but it can also rob us of what God has for us. Whether we are afraid of bears, failure, being hurt, the unknown, or anything, fear can often keep us from the best God has for us.

We are going to look at a story today where the the israelites allowed their fear to keep them from what God wanted and lead them into rebellion.

BIG IDEA: God is bigger than whatever you are facing.

As we learned a couple of weeks ago, the Hebrews had been living in Egypt for hundreds of years, much of that as slaves. God decides he is going to free his people from the slavery of the Egyptians and he is going to use a man named Moses to do it.

God, in the form of a burning bush, meets Moses.

Exodus 3:7-8

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…

God tells Moses he is going to take the Israelites out of Egypt and bring them to a land of their own. A wonderful land, flowing with milk and honey. God is faithful to his promise

After much convincing, Pharaoh allows the Israelites to leave Egypt. This begins their journey to the land God had promised them. The journey to the promised land was anything but easy, but God provided.

When they were trapped, God parted the red sea.

When they were hungry, God miraculously provided food.

When they were thirsty, God miraculously provided water.

Even thought they didn’t know which way to go, God lead them as a cloud of smoke during the day, and a pillar of fire by night.

These were God’s people and he was taking them to the land he promised them.

We pick up the story today, after hundreds of years of slavery, and over a year of travel in the wilderness (on foot) where God provided for the Israelites. God’s people are finally at the entrance to the land He had promised them. They are going to finally have a land of their own. It was a new beginning for the nation of Israel.

ILL: How many people here like to travel? I don’t personally love to travel, but I do love to arrive. Do you know what I mean? Teleportation would be my preferred method of travel. But that’s not feasible. I will say this about long travel, it makes arriving that much sweeter.

I Imagine after a couple of days in the wilderness the israelite children started asking, “Are we their yet?!?” And then after a few more days, the adults probably joined in. And God was probably telling Moses, “Tell my people, we shall getteth there when we getteth there. Don’t make me turneth this car around.” 

It’s not as if God can just hit play on the portable DVD player and start Frozen. It was a long and hard journey.

But now, they have arrived. There must have been a lot of excitement. They were finally going to enter the land God promised them. The land flowing with milk and honey. Their land!

But first they wanted to check it out. Moses sends out 12 spies to see what the land is like. They want to know what they are up against. 

Numbers 13:1-3, 17-21, 24-33, 14:1-9

Numbers 13

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.”

3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.

17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on 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 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 in 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.)

21 So they went up and explored the land… 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, 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 Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 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. 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.”

30 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.”

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “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. 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.”

Chapter 14

1 That night all the members 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 wilderness! 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.”

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 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. 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. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

Moses sends 12 spies, one from each tribe of israel, into the promised land to see what they are getting themselves into. For 40 days they walk around the land playing “I spy” and it’s goes pretty well at first.

I spy with my little eye, some huge stinking grapes.

I spy with my little eye, some really great soil.

I spy a beautiful land. It’s everything God said it would be! He was right!

But then the game changes.

I spy with my little eye, some really big walls.

I spy with my little eye, they’re guarded by really strong men much bigger than us.

I spy…oh wait, those were the women, now I see the men and they’re monsters.

They grab a cluster of grapes and some other agriculture and they head back to the others. The cluster of grapes was so remarkable they named the entire valley after it (Eshkol means cluster). Have you ever had food so good you would name a part of your country after it? Hi, I’m from Taco, Washington.

It is clear that God was faithful. He lead his people to an incredible land. Just as he promised he would!

When the spies return to the Israelite camp they explain Moses and the others what they saw.

Numbers 13:27

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.

“Everything God said is true!”

They even give their report using the exact words God gave Moses when he made the promise. “Flowing with milk and honey!”

They show them the fruit. Moses and the others must have been excited. It took two men to carry one cluster of grapes! Moses must have double checked “did you make sure to name some of the land after these grapes?…oh you did! Good!” I can imagine them thinking, God is good! He’s done it, we’re finally going to have a land of our own!

But then the spies add another word. But.

Numbers 13:28

28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.

I almost called this message, “Get your “but” out of the wilderness and obey God!” But I thought better of it!

“Everything God said is true, but there are probably a few things that he didn’t consider and they might just be a little too difficult for him to handle.”

The faith of the spies was wavering. They were doubting the promise of God.

I wish this wasn’t so easy to relate to.

How often do I say, “Yes God, but…”

God asks us to do something It’s easy to try to answer with information. As If he doesn’t already know.

“Yes God, but l think I should know a little more about the Bible first.”

“Yes God, but you don’t know how they will treat me if I do that.”

“Yes God, but you don’t know what it’s like at my work.”

“Yes God, but you don’t know what that person did to me”

“Yes God, but let me finish playing x-box first”

God gives us opportunities to trust him. When you become a follower of Jesus, you say yes to God. Through that faith you are saved. But as a Christian you don’t just start in faith, you continue in faith. Putting your trust in Jesus, daily.

We don’t get to put our faith in Jesus once and say, I already did that, then live in whatever comfortable way we want.

ILL: That would be like if we did that with food.

“Are you going to eat?”  “No, I already did that once.”

When you do that with faith, sure you’re saved, but you’re starving!

The Israelites had a lot of opportunities to trust God as they traveled in the wilderness. They failed some of them. but God’s faithfulness remained. Here they stand facing another decision, will they trust God?

Before the Israelites can react to the negative report, Caleb, one of the 12 spies, speaks up.

Numbers 13:30

30 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.”

Well, you’ve just heard about giant people and fortified cities that are most likely impenetrable, I say let’s go get it! Who’s with me?

The camp is now divided. There are ten spies who say they can’t take the land, and there are two spies who say they can!

Numbers 13:31-33

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “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. 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.”

The ten spies up their game. They start exaggerating and trying to scare the Israelites. They have completely forgotten the promise of God. They’ve lost sight of God and now only see the obstacle.

Let me as you a question. Do you think that both groups of spies saw the same things? Did they both see the walls? Did they both see people? Did they both see the fruit and the richness of the land? Remember, they were all there together. Of course they saw the same thing. They both saw the same obstacles. But they didn’t respond the same way.

The ten spies only saw the obstacles. They lost sight of God’s promise.

ILL: Penny

Everyone take out your penny and close one eye. Hold the penny out at an arms length. Can you see the penny? Now move the penny slowly closer to your eye. It got bigger!! Woah! The penny is now the biggest thing in the room.

Did the penny change size? Nope. Only your perspective on the penny changed. Sometimes we can do this with our problems. We lose the context and the perspective of the size of the obstacle.

When all your focus is on your problem, you lose sight of what’s around you. When all you see is the problem, or the obstacle in your way, it’s easy to overlook the power of God.

After the report from the spies, the people of Israel start to have some doubt. They get scared. They begin to forget, or at the very least, doubt God’s promise that he was going to give them this land

Remember, the 10 spies and the two spies saw the same obstacles, but Caleb and Joshua saw it differently. They saw their problem in the the context of God’s promise. The obstacle was small compared to God!

Numbers 14:6-9

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. 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. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” 

The ten spies compared themselves to the giants and said, “we were like grasshoppers compared to them!”

Caleb and Joshua compared the giants to God and said, “We will devour them!”

It was an issue of perspective. Caleb and Joshua knew God was with them. They remembered God’s promise.

The 10 gave too much credit to the problem.

ILL: Let’s talk about pennies again.

If you show a young kid five pennies and then you show them one dime and tell them they can have either the pennies or the dime. Which do you think they choose? The pennies. There are more of them. They are bigger. The dime is small.

Now, I think we can all agree, both the penny and the dime are basically worthless. Why do we even have them? However, the dime is worth twice as much as the ten pennies. But it doesn’t get it’s value from it’s size, it get’s it’s value from the US treasury. And they say it’s worth 10 cents.

So what’s my point? Kid’s are easy to rip off. Just kidding.

This is what I’m saying: sometimes we’re like the kid who picks the 5 pennies. We give too much value to our problems and too little value to God who is with us.

Our problems, when compared to us, can seem overwhelming. But our problems compared to God, are small. Yes, even your problems. Whatever your problem. God is bigger than whatever you are facing.

I think sometimes we see our problems as obstacles keeping us from God. there are things that we just can’t defeat in our lives. There are problems that are bigger than us. So we try to defeat the obstacles in order to get to God. I want to tell you today, this is not true!

ILL: Imagine there is a wall here. This wall is an obstacle. It’s the thing in your life you wish was just not there. It’s the problem you are facing. Many times we can think God is on the other side of that wall and we just have to beat our problem and he will be with us. But that is not the case. God is on this side of the wall. And he brought his wall kicking boots. The problems you face are not keeping you from God, the problems you face are opportunities for you to trust God.

Whatever God is asking you to do, trust him and don’t be afraid!

You’re problems compared to you can be overwhelming, but there is no problem that is big compared to God. When you are on God’s side, you win! That’s it. In every problem, be on God’s side!

You can compare your challenges to you and be afraid, or you can compare your challenges to God and be encouraged.

Unfortunately, the nation of Israel did not listen to Caleb and Joshua, the chose to be afraid and disobey God. This disobedience cost the 10 doubting spies their life and the nation of Israel would have to wander the desert for 40 years until the next generation was ready to inherit the land God promised them. They would be led by Joshua and Caleb!

So here are some questions I think we should ask as we look to apply this story to our lives: 

  1. What is the challenge you are currently facing? Are you facing it with Jesus?
  2. Is there something in your life that’s getting too much credit? It’s possible it’s ripping you off.
  3. Is there a challenge someone else is facing, where you can speak up and add Godly perspective and encouragement, just as Caleb and Joshua did for Israel?

Remember the big idea of today’s talk:

BIG IDEA: God is bigger than whatever you are facing.

Don’t let the fear of a problem, rob you of the beauty of What God has for you! Don’t let giants rob you of God’s promises. Don’t let bears rob you from the beauty of what he has for you!

THIS WEEK: Identify your problem, bring it before God, trust him, and don’t be afraid.

No matter the weight of the problem, no matter the size of the obstacle, no matter the difficulty of the challenge—whatever you face—be on God’s side. God wins!

Have a great fathers day!