Roseavenue.org

 



Sunday, November 7, 2010 am

LOST IN THE WILDERNESS

                The Bible is full of accounts of joy and sadness, fulfillment and disappointment, submission and rebellion.  There are so many lessons that we can learn from these accounts that our study upon this earth is never complete.  In my lesson today, I want to talk about a sad event in the early history of Israel.  It was truly a tragic occasion.  One that many of us are familiar with AND one from which we can learn some great lessons (Rom. 15:4, 1 Cor. 10:1-12).  Today, I want to talk about a generation of people that were lost in the wilderness. It is the account of Israel’s refusal to enter the land of Canaan as recorded in Numbers 13 & 14.

 I.                    The Account

a.       Israel had seen many wonderful things from God.  Within the two years prior, they had witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt and their miraculous exodus including their crossing the Red Sea.  Arriving at Mt. Sinai, they heard the thunderous voice of God and received the Law of Moses (including the 10 Commandments).  They had built the tabernacle and witnessed fire from heaven igniting that altar to show God’s approval.  Daily they had been sustained with manna and even meats at times.  God’s presence was seen every time they looked up as they saw the cloud by day, what looked like a pillar of fire by night.  ALL of these events and many more demonstrated the greatness and power of Jehovah God.  But even after all this, when they arrive at the land of Canaan, they refuse to enter.  How tragic.

b.       Numbers 13:1-2 records the Lord commanding them to send men to spy out the land.  They choose 12 men, one from each tribe to go through the land.  In vs. 17-20 Moses instructs them to go from the south country (Negev) to the mountain regions and to look at the people whether they were weak or strong, and look at their cities whether they were fortified or camps, and to chick out the land and forests and to bring back some of the fruit of the land.
The spies go and for 40 days they go throughout the land.  They see the people and bring back a cluster of grapes so large it required two to carry it.  They also brought back other fruits as well.

c.        BUT the report they brought back was conflicting. 

                                                   i.      FIRST, there was agreement and acknowledgement of certain things (13:27-29).   As God had promised, it was truly a land flowing with milk and honey.  The land was also well occupied (and thus maintained).   It was fertile.  And the people of the land were described as strong and their cities fortified.  

                                                  ii.      But the conclusion they reached was not unanimous. 

1.       Ten of the spies brought an evil report and said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”  They concluded that the land would devour them and “we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (13:31-33)   As a result the people were disheartened and cried and wept.

2.       BUT two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, acknowledged that the people were giants but said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (30).

d.       Numbers 14:1-4 records the people becoming so upset they wanted to appoint a new leader and return to Egypt.  But Moses and Aaron and Joshua and Caleb plead with them to listen to and trust God.  They say, “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then he will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’  Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us.  Do not fear them.” (Num. 14:7-9)

e.        But the congregation did not listen to them and took up stones to stone them right there.  But the Lord told Moses to get away so that He could destroy them with pestilence and disinherit them.  The Lord promised to make of Moses a great nation.  But Moses interceded for the people. (14:11-20) 

f.        And the Lord relented and pardoned them according to his word (20)  Nevertheless, they had rebelled against God and would suffer the consequences of their sins.  As a result of their sins, they were destined to dwell in the wilderness for 40 years.  During that time, all the men above 20 years of age would perish in the wilderness (hence, LOST in the wilderness).  Furthermore, the 10 spies who rejected God’s trust died immediately of a plague. 
Also the next day the people tried to repent but it was too late – they were doomed to the forty years of wilderness wanderings.

g.        Why were there two different reports?  All twelve spies and the people had the same information but they reached different conclusions.   Why?  It had to do with their respect for God.  Joshua and Caleb trusted in God while the rest did not.

 

II.                  Why did this happen?

a.       They faced a challenging decision – from all appearances, taking the land was not going to be easy.  As a result of this, when they received the report from the ten a series of things happened that resulted in their rejecting God and being rejected by Him. 

b.       They magnified their difficulties –

                                                   i.      Num. 13:26-29 notes the report of the ten spies.  It was a negative report.  There were giants and fortified cities.  After Caleb (and Joshua) said, “let’s go possess the land” we read that the men said, that they were unable to go up against the people.  Note Num. 13:32-33.  We were like grasshoppers in their sight.

                                                  ii.      How often today do people overemphasize or exaggerate their problems? There are some who when an idea is presented they begin to look for what can go wrong.  NOT in anticipation of problems so that they can deal with them, but to justify doing nothing.

                                                iii.      As Christians, we ought to be optimistic – our love “thinks no evil” and “hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:5-7), 2 Corinthians 5:6 says, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.”
The scriptures also speak of “assurance” – Heb. 10:22, “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

                                                iv.      Such conduct is a clear lack of faith.  It is most certain that the Israelites on this occasion had no faith.  And what is so tragic about that is everything they had witnessed from God.

                                                 v.      Rather than magnifying our difficulties, let us learn to put our trust in God and seek to overcome them.  Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ…” Rom. 8:31, 37 – “IF God is for us, who can be against us?”  “We are more than conquerors   IF we have faith and really believe this, instead of seeing the obstacles as giants (like Israel), we will see the giants as opportunities (like David – 1 Samuel 17:45-47).

                                                vi.      The biggest guarantee of failure is to give up and do nothing.  If we magnify our problems, that is likely to be the result.

c.        The people believed the negative reports of the majority

                                                   i.      Ten of the twelve spies said that they could not conquer the land. (Num. 13:31-33)  The people believed them.

                                                  ii.      Sometimes (quite often) the majority can be wrong. This is especially true in matters related to God. The Bible continually speaks of the remnant as being loyal to God and saved (cf. Rom. 9:27-29).  The “crowd” often acts contrary to God’s will.
1 Peter 3:20 reminds us that only 8 were saved from the flood.
Jesus Himself said the way to heaven is “straight and narrow” and “there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14).  On another occasion He said, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14).

                                                iii.      Far too many are influenced by the majority, especially when the task is not pleasant and they are seeking an excuse to either get out of something or make it easier.

                                                iv.      The TRUTH is we must base our conduct upon what is RIGHT regardless of how many are on our side.

                                                 v.      When you reject what God says, don’t blame anyone else.  It doesn’t matter that “everyone else is doing it” AND it doesn’t matter that it’s easier to attract a crowd with compromise (i.e. the end does NOT justify the means).   You will give an account for yourself (2 Cor. 5:10).

d.       They dwelt on the “good old days”-

                                                   i.      Numbers 14:1-4 records their desire to return to Egypt.  They said that it would have been better for them to have died in Egypt OR to have died in the wilderness.  What I find amazing here is that they considered wilderness wanderings and slavery in Egypt BETTER than moving ahead to the Promised Land that had just been proved to be EVERYTHING God said it would be.

                                                  ii.      How often today do we hear people talk about “the good old days”?   What is interesting about such reminiscing is that they usually think about all the good things, but conveniently they forget about how much better they are now thanks to progress and moving ahead in time.

                                                iii.      Christians have to guard against this because dwelling on the past will often keep one from moving ahead. 
Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’  For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.”
Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

                                                iv.      But why do people dwell on the past? 
Sometimes people are afraid to move ahead because they will be entering into unfamiliar territory.  Even if the promise is for something better than where they are at, they would rather live in the past because it is familiar.
Every once in awhile, we read of someone who has been in prison all his life and wants to return there because it is familiar.  He will surrender his freedom rather than take some unfamiliar steps ahead to a better life.
Sometimes the addict or the homeless person will not change because of fear of the unknown.  They know their lives are miserable, but they will endure the pain because it is familiar (and they can handle it) and it is easier than the pain involved in changing.

                                                 v.      Christians are to be a forward thinking people – Phil. 3:13-14, Heb. 6:1 calls for us to “go on to perfection.”

                                                vi.      Recalling the past is only good if your present is not what it ought to be.  Consider the prodigal son of Luke 15:17-19 who came to his senses and needed to be RESTORED to his former state OR if it moves us closer to God. 

                                              vii.      Israel’s attitude SHOULD have reminded them of the miseries of their past and the hope promised in the future.  That should have moved them to inherit the land.

e.        They complained and murmured

                                                   i.      Num. 14:1-4 describes another attitude that was ever present with Israel.  They were grumblers and complainers.  This seemed to be typical of Israel.  Num. 14:20-23 notes as God pardons the people from annihilation, that they had put Him to the test ten times (already).
When you study the disposition of Israel, you find that this attitude was one of the key problems they had.  They NEVER truly appreciated all that God had done for them and all they could see was what was wrong.  How pitiful.

                                                  ii.      Such displays ingratitude which is SINFUL!
Christians are to be thankful in all things – Col. 2:6-7, 1 Thess. 5:18, Phil. 4:6

                                                iii.      Murmuring and complaining is SINFUL!

Are we any different?  How many of us grumble and complain too much?
Prov. 19:3, “The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.” Phil. 2:14-15 “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may be blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…”
Romans 9:20-21 challenges us to not complain against or challenge God.  He made us and we must be content and accept what He has given us.

                                                iv.      What does grumbling and complaining accomplish?  Not only does it give you a sour attitude, it often discourages others as well.  In addition to this, it can also lead to rash decisions.   Very little good comes from such.
Consider how Israel was willing to find another leader (i.e. fire Moses and Aaron) and go back to Egypt.  How pitiful their attitude was.

f.         They drew back –

                                                   i.      Num. 14:1-4, As a result of all the above, the Israelites withdrew from the charge to conquer the land.  In summary, they REFUSED to obey God!  Because everything did not go exactly they way they wanted it to go, they didn’t want to do anything.  They rebelled against God (again)
As the Lord heeded the voice of Moses (not destroying all of them), He did punish them severely.  The next day they were to turn and go out into the wilderness where they would dwell the next 38 years (2 up to this point + 38 ahead of them).  There ALL of that generation, 20 and above, would die in the wilderness.
The reason is summarized in Num. 14:22, “because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have NOT HEEDED MY VOICE…” (emp. Mine – TT)

                                                  ii.      What is the result of ungodly attitudes and putting our trust in men?  It often results in leaving God.  It is sad, but there are some who at first trust in God, but in the end, when difficult times come, they give up and draw back. 

1.       In the New Testament, we read in the parable of the Sower about the rocky soil in Luke 8:13.  It was descriptive of fair weather Christians who at the first sign of trouble they left.

2.       Hebrews 10:35-39 warns us not to draw back.

 

                It is truly sad that a generation of Israelites perished in the wilderness because of their sins.  The real reason is that they were unwilling to pay the price of obedience.  This was reflected in their sinful attitudes.  Let us learn from them and let us not be guilty of the same thing.  While these attitudes were condemned under the Old Law, we have established in the New Testament that they apply to us as well.  We can be just as guilty of rebellion against God as Israel was on this occasion.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Obey God and remember this: It starts with out attitude toward God.  So what is your attitude?    Do you respect God as you ought to?  Think about it.