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Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Essence of Unbelief

Twelve spies report back to Israel regarding their 40 day excursion into Canaan. All twelve spies see the same thing:
The Essence of Unbelief

  • The land flows with milk and honey
  • The people who live there are powerful
  • The cities are fortified and very large

After the spies conclude their report Caleb declares in a burst of faith, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30). Caleb looks the challenging situation right in the eye and embraces it.

Ten of the spies respond to Caleb’s declaration of faith:
  • “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger that we are.” 
  • “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.”  
  • “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:31-33). 
The ten spies look the same challenging situation in the eye and cower in fear. All of the spies see the same thing, but Caleb responds in faith while the other ten respond in unbelief. How can that be?
Unbelief embellishes the challenge of what it sees in order to avoid taking a risk. Suddenly all the people are of “great size” and the land “devours those living it.”
Unbelief assumes others view the situation similarly, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Unbelief always leads to bold rebellion as it transfers its insecurity and uncertainty onto others. 
Faith sees both the good, “it does flow with milk and honey,” and the bad, “the people are powerful.” But, faith doesn’t allow the bad to outweigh the good and the promises of God. Faith always leads to bold action. 
Several truths emerge from this story:
  1. A situation without challenge is one that doesn’t require faith. Most people prefer to remain in the desert of life rather than face the giants of the land. Fear constricts the heart of the one who embellishes what he sees. 
  2. Challenging situations always require bold faith. Few people do give up the little that they have in the desert to face the giants in the land. Faith releases a man’s dependence on seen things and allows him to experience all that God has for him.   
Faith doesn’t discount or embellish the things that are seen; rather, faith is the filter that translates all it sees through a lofty view of God. As someone has said, “When your God is big, your problems are small.” 

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"And the Lord said to Moses, "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites." "We can't attack those people; they are  stronger than we are." (Numbers 13:1,31)

The Lord gives the 12 spies simple instructions accompanied with a promise of land possession. Their view of God, themselves, and others will determine the outcome. So God's instructions are quite instructive. They reveal the situation from the children of Israel's perspective: 
  • They are stronger than we are
  • The land devours its inhabitants
  • The people are huge
  • We feel like grasshoppers so we must be as grasshoppers to them
All this from a people who: 
  • Experienced protection from ten plagues which entirely collapsed the Egyptian economy
  • Marched away from a tyrant ruler whose entire army drowned in the Red Sea
  • Experienced miraculous provision of water, manna, and quail
What you do with God's instructions says much about you, your view of God and others. Those who have small and unworthy views of God live in defeat, communicate unbelief to others, and embellish what they see in order to lead others to nowhere. 

A God-sized view of the land would not have ignored the same giants, cities, and other seen obstacles; it would, however, see them in the shadow of the Living God, His power, and His promises. This is exactly the perspective expressed by Caleb and Joshua. The giants were still there and the cities’ walls were still high (they saw exactly the same thing), but they said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." 

Moses' instructions reveal the hearts of the twelve spies: the ten spies’ unbelief, and Joshua and Caleb's vibrant faith. So today, God's instructions to you expose your view of God. Is He a mighty God who overcomes all challenges? When God sends you into unfamiliar territory, do you see obstacles of unbelief or opportunities for faith? 

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Numbers 11:1-13:33 
  • What were the people complaining about?
  • Why does Paul refer to this episode in the life of the children of Israel in 1 Corinthians 10:1-12?
  • Why does Moses question God's ability to provide meat for Israel?
  • How is Joshua described and what does his request tell you about him?
  • Why does Miriam have a controversy with Moses?
  • What does Miriam learn about God and herself through this controversy?
  • What do Moses’ instructions reveal about the spies' view of God and of themselves?
  • How would you describe the lenses through which the 10 spies saw Canaan and its people?
Turning truth into prayer:
Thank the Lord that He is bigger than your problems and that He overshadows your challenges. Acknowledge His greatness and His might.