I read again this morning the account of Joshua and Caleb and the other 10 guys. You know, the 12 who were sent into Canaan to spy out the land… that God has promised to give to them.
After reading I asked my husband, “Would you have been a Joshua or Caleb, or would you have been one of the other guys?” I know we can never really know what we would do in someone else’s circumstances, but it is good to play “what if…” now and then.
We’ve been talking about “risk” lately – when it’s right to take risks and when it isn’t. And as I heard the story of the 12 spies again this morning a connection was made: we are not willing to risk when we ought to be eager to do so when we are focusing on the problem in front of us rather than the promises given to us – or more precisely, Promise-Maker who has given them.
Example 1: The Israelites had just left their 400-year slavery in Egypt. They walked right out from under Pharoh’s nose because God made it possible. But they encountered a road-block – the Red Sea stretched out before them, and Pharoh’s army was not in hot pursuit to get their slaves back.
Admittedly, this was a big problem. But they had just witnessed their deliverance from the 10 Plagues – including the Angel of Death!!! They had seen the pillar of cloud that day and the pillar of fire last night that had protected and guided them! Had they forgotten already? I mean, we’re talking hours at most here. Were their memories really that short? I don’t think so. But their faith was really that small. Moses saw the problem for what it was, too, but focused on his great God, who had already proven Himself to be a Great Promise-keeper, instead.
Example 2: The Israelite army was at a stand-still, being held hostage by the taunts and derision of a surly, stupid, bragadocious bully (named Goliath). He was an oaf, but a huge one, and apparently big enough to send a whole army of God’s men to the other side of the valley to quake in their boots.
So, OK, Goliath set the terms for a potentially bad deal. But the Philistines had invaded Israel’s land that God Himself had given to them. Every single Jewish boy or girl grew up from infancy knowing that God had given them this land as an inheritance. It didn’t get lost in history but was central to their identity as a people! Saul’s army of capable, trained warriors knew it, too. But they were focusing on the problem of Goliath. Youthful David, (aka shepherd boy who had just been named King) saw the problem, too, but focused on the Great God who was also the Promiser of the Land (and ultimately their securety) instead.
Example 3: Jesus had begun his ministry and had gathered his 12 specially chosen, closest disciples. The word had gotten out about Jesus and he was attracting multitudes of men, women, and children who wanted to hear for themselves what great things this teacher was saying. They had gone out to the countryside and the spent the entire day traveling and then listening to Jesus’ every word. When the day was waning Jesus told his 12, very special, hand-selected, closest followers to feed these hungry people on whom he had compassion. Their reaction? They looked at their relatively empty hands, then at each other, then at Jesus and said, “Umm…With what?!?”
OK – there was a lot of people – 5,000 men, plus women and children. And OK – they didn’t have much to work with – five loaves of bread and two fish. The problem wasn’t the situation – the problem was that the disciples were focused on the PROBLEM and not the Promiser.
So we’re clear here, these guys – these 12 close students of Jesus who followed him everywhere he went – had just seen and heard Jesus do amazing things. They had just heard him preach the Sermon on the Mount, they had just seen him heal a woman with a long-standing bleeding disorder that no one else could fix. They had just seen him deliver a man from a demon, heal the Centurion’s soldier without even touching him, raise a little girl from the dead, and oh yeah, calm the storm that the seasoned, hardened fishermen thought they were going to die in. We’re talking just seen and heard these things!!!
Jesus, however, knew well the Father he served and knew that He would supply all their needs.
It seems, folks, that we might want to pay attention to the typical, human responses here. We are prone to doubt. We are prone to lose sight and forget. We are prone to focusing on the problems rather than the promises.
We don’t do ourselves any favors by reading these accounts and thinking that we’d be the first to line up to take the land, watch for the sea to part, fight the giant, or figure out how to feed the crowd. We probably would be with the group that said, “We’d be better off dead than in this predicament!” But if you’re at all like me your heart leaps at the prospect of being with Joshua and Caleb, David, and Jesus instead!
The key in all of these accounts is to KNOW THE GOD WE SERVE.
We do not have to fear natural or man-made disasters when we know the One who holds every molecule in his hands.
We do not have to fear those who can hurt – or even kill – us when we know the One who has already numbered our days before one of them ever came to be.
We do not have to fear the challenges that we face that seem impossible when we know the One who shall supply all our needs – and give us abundantly more than we could ask for or imagine according to his riches in glory because He loves us and takes care of us.
How do we know God? It’s really, really, really simple: read his love letter to you. Open up the pages of Romans and John and Isaiah and Genesis and all of it and soak it up as your personal love letter to you from your Dad. Then, read it again because there are layers and layers and layers of love and goodness there that you can never fully plumb the depths of. And share it with someone who really needs to know God, too.
*You can read the fuller stories of the examples above in Numbers 13-14; Exodus 14; 1 Samuel 17; and Luke 9. But I would encourage you to also read the surrounding chapters (and books!).