Day 1: May 3, 2018: “The Lord is With Us; Do Not Fear Them”
Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9: But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it”… And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”
In this situation the people of Israel stood upon the edge of a knife. The Lord had brought them out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and to the very edge of the Promised Land. Now, in this moment, Israel rushed toward the edge of rejecting God and all that he had done for them.
The twelves spies whom Moses had sent to explore the land of Canaan had returned (Num. 13:1-25). The majority of the spies brought a report which instilled fear in the people and dissuaded them from going up to take possession of the land. The essence of their report was: “The people of the land are too big and too strong for us! Their cities are too large and too well fortified! We are not able to go up against them! We will be devoured like grasshoppers!” (Num. 13:28-29, 31-33).
The people’s fear at this “bad report” quickly turned into open rebellion: Numbers 14:1-4: Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
To go back to Egypt would have been for the Israelites to reject their identity and purpose as God’s people, to reject God’s promises to Abraham, to reject everything God had done for them in delivering them from slavery, to reject their role in God’s mission in the world, and ultimately to reject God himself.
Against this headlong rush into disaster, Joshua and Caleb raised their voices. They told the people that the land of Canaan was an “exceedingly good land” (v 7), and that the Lord would give them this land to be their home “if” He delighted in them (v. 8). They urged the people not to fear the Canaanites and not to rebel against the Lord. The reminded the people that the Lord was with them and they therefore had nothing to fear (v. 9).
How often do we let fear stop us in our tracks? How often do we say of the obstacles or challenges which are in front of us: “They are too big! They are too strong! I can’t face them! I can’t do that! I’ll be devoured like a bug!”? How often have we refused to move forward in God’s purpose for our lives because we were afraid? Or, because we just did not think that we had what it was going to take?
Our faith will fail if we take our eyes off God and focus instead on the problems, enemies, or obstacles we are dealing with. Our faith will fail if we take our eyes off God and focus instead on our own weaknesses. This is what happened to the Exodus generation of Israelites. They had seen God’s mighty power in action in the ten plagues that fell upon Egypt, in the wondrous deliverance at the Red Sea, and in the way God provided for them in wilderness by bringing water out of rocks and sending down bread from heaven. Yet instead of keeping their attention focused on God, that generation of Israelites consistently focused on their problems (Num. 11:1-3; 11:4-35; chapter 12; chapter 16; 20:1-13; 21:4-9). Thus, their faith failed, and they rebelled against God. Thus, they were “unable” to enter the Promised Land “because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19).
The journey of wholeheartedly seeking God begins with fixing our thoughts on him. Let us dwell on the biblical truths about the identity and character of our God. Let us meditate on the biblical stories of the “wondrous works” of our God (Ps. 111:4). Let us remember all the ways in which God has proven himself faithful in our lives. Let us look to Jesus “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Let us remember – especially when we are afraid, intimidated, discouraged, or doubting ourselves – that the Lord is with us, and that He is far greater than any problem we might encounter, any enemy we might face, or any weakness we might have.
Take a few moments now to confess your fears and to ask God to strengthen your faith. This prayer can help you get started: “Heavenly Father, I confess my fears to you. I confess that too often I focus on the problems which seem so big, and on my abilities, which seem so small. I confess the times I have not obeyed you because of my fears. Help me, Lord, to remember who You are and what You have done. Help me to trust in You. Lead me by Your Spirit, that I might move forward in Your purpose for my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”