CH 17 IF ONLY

From the time of Israel’s rebellion at Hazeroth until they reached the border of Canaan God gave his people no rest. They moved nineteen times in nineteen days before they settled in Kadesh Barnea, which I will refer to as Kadesh. By the time they reached Kadesh everybody was too exhausted to contemplate any more thoughts of conspiracy!

The time had come to possess the land God promised them in the covenant of law. If the people had strived to please God instead of man when they reached the border it might not have taken forty years to make an eleven-day journey. Moses was a good and faithful steward over God’s house, but he was just a man and not above the weaknesses and frailties of mortal men.

Deuteronomy 1:22-23 KJV

22 And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come. 23 And the saying pleased me well: ….

 Who was pleased? “Me” was pleased meaning Moses! What about God?

 Colossians 1:9-10

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:…

 There was a specific reason Paul prayed the Colossians would understand the will of God with spiritual wisdom and understanding. It gives us the ability to live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way. If your Christian experience has become a desert wasteland you may want to evaluate whom your life pleases.

Why did the church in the desert need to search out the land so they could decide the best course of action to possess it when God already had a plan? If the people were striving to please God, why do they think they could do his job better than he can? From the time they left Egypt, God went before them to search out a resting place for them.[1] But when the time came for them to possess the land, the church decided to take it from here and Moses was pleased.

Why was Moses of all people pleased that they want to make their own plan for conquering the land? What happened to Moses? God didn’t need a man’s plan to deliver them from Egypt? I think I know what happened to Moses. At Hazeroth God himself was angry with Moses elder brother and sister for daring to speak a word against faithful Moses. Then Moses saved the day by interceding on their behalf. But only the Lord can be a humble savior because there is no one like him. It is extremely difficult to walk in such a high place of authority with such great favor from a living God without getting a little full of yourself. By the time the church reached Kadesh Moses was strutting around thinking his pleasure was God’s pleasure as well. The people pleased the steward God appointed to watch over them but did they please God.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians,

Galatians 1:10

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 The “men” Paul referred to in this scripture were the stewards God appointed to watch over his church. Among them the great Apostle Peter! If Paul was concerned about pleasing men do you think he would have publicly rebuked Peter for refusing to eat with the Gentile Christians when Jewish Christians from Jerusalem visited the Antioch church? Can you imagine the shock! Think about whom Paul rebuked and rebuked publicly at that. Peter was one of the original twelve who Jesus called a rock and promised to give the keys of the kingdom. Peter was one of the inner three who saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain when he spoke to Moses and Elijah. Peter was one of three men reputed to be the pillars of the church.

Who did Paul think he was? Was he a rebellious Christian who refused to submit to authority! Or was he an honest Christian who refused to condone what is wrong simply because a man of great honor and authority participated in it. As far as career moves go Paul blundered when he called the great Apostle Peter a hypocrite. Or did he?

 God saw fit to leave us two letters from Peter for our edification. In one of Peter’s letters, written seventeen years after the rebuke, Paul is honored by Peter who called him our beloved brother. Yes, the same beloved brother who had called Peter a hypocrite. Peter affectionately wrote that Paul speaks with wisdom hard to understand which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction.

 I doubt Peter was very happy when Paul nailed him for his hypocrisy. It may have taken Peter years to truly forgive Paul but it did not destroy the respect and love Peter held for Paul. Peter knew Paul was right. Of all the Christians present that day, there was only one man who loved Peter enough to confront him about sin in his life. Paul lived his life to please God. He knew that pleasing a steward over God’s flock does not mean God is pleased.

Am I saying we should not support people in ministry? YES! We should support what is right because people in ministry don’t always do the right thing. If you think you should support a minister no matter what they do, right or wrong, you are not free to serve God; you are the slave of a steward. When you support a minister who you know is doing wrong, you will become a partaker in his evil deeds and his just rewards. Pharaoh’s servants died in the Red Sea with Pharaoh because they knew he was doing wrong. They said to Pharaoh “this is the finger of God” yet they never stopped supporting Pharaoh as he continually resisted the will of God. If they had withdrawn their support from Pharaoh, they might have saved his life instead of perishing with him.

Don’t take what I’m saying to an ungodly extreme. Most ministers are wonderful men and women doing their best to obey God. They should be held highly in love for their works sake. If you are going to rebuke a minister be sure you know what you are talking about. Paul was an expert in the law before he accepted Christ. His understanding of law gave him additional insight a fisherman like Peter lacked.

I am not teaching you to ignore your pastor’s counsel and directions. I am telling you that exalting one gifted minister head and shoulders above the rest of us as though they could do not wrong is wrong. We should always stand before God as equals. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. When we don’t have the same care one for another it inhibits us from receiving the things we need. God is not limited to using one gifted minister. The person sitting next to us on the pew possesses gifts and insight we need to. If God is building a church every member will have the same care one for another.[2] Peter received a scathing rebuke from Paul because Peter did not have the same care for the Gentile Christians that he had for the Jewish Christians.

The church in the wilderness pleased Moses but did they please God? The Bible reveals that they consulted God and God allowed them to have their way but everything went downhill from that point on. The man Israel pleased planted the seed of rebellion that ended in no one entering the Promised Land for forty years. Within those forty years Moses rebelled and suffered the same fate. 

Numbers 13:1-2 KJV

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel; of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. 

 God had one requirement. When Israel searched out the land; the spies would consist of one ruler from each tribe. Among the twelve rulers was Caleb from the tribe of Judah and Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim. This is important to understand and remember. The spies are the leadership of the church in the desert.

With God’s approval Moses sent twelve rulers to spy out the land of Canaan but before they left Moses planted doubt in their hearts.

 Numbers 13:17-19

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?

 Whoa! Good or bad? Moses! What are you doing? How could the land be bad? That’s not what God said. When he appeared to Moses in the burning bush the Lord said,

 Exodus 3:8

8 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…

 Moses questioned God’s integrity when he told the rulers to find out if the land is good or bad. God never said or even implied that he was bringing them to a land that may be good or bad, we’ll need to check it out when we get there. God had already checked out the land and declared the land was good.

Moses words left an impression that God may not have told us the truth. Then Moses ended his comments to the rulers saying be of good courage. But how can they be of good courage when they are not really sure God tells the truth? The only men who come back of good courage were those who could see past Moses humanity to the God who called him. The only ones who survived the desert were two men who saw good in God in spite of what came out of the pulpit that day.

The failures of those in leadership glorify God and teach us who our God really is. As we submit to those he has delegated authority to in this world it teaches us obedience to God. Bear in mind that the things that happened to Israel in the desert were written for our learning. Moses was striving to obey God to the best of his ability but everything Moses did and everything Moses said was not the RIGHT thing to do and say. I wonder if anyone questioned why Moses told them the Lord would bring them to a good land but now they have to see of the land is good or bad.

 After the church pleased Moses he is questioned whether or not God told them the truth. He not only questioned God’s honesty but also provoked others to question God’s honesty. Moses was pleased and he had God’s permission to fulfill the desire of the people but he did a BAD thing. He planted doubt in the hearts of twelve rulers who desperately needed FAITH IN GOD’S WORD. They needed faith that God is good can be trusted. They were entering a land of giants greater in power and might than they were but not greater than their God. If Moses really wanted to encourage them, he should have said, “When you spy out the land, you will see a GOOD land because a GOOD God told me he is bringing us to a GOOD land. 

Words matter!

Words are important!

There has been a lot of teaching on confession in recent years. The basic principle is correct. Confession brings possession. The application currently taught by many is corrupt. We have been taught to pick whatever we want and confess it into existence. If you confess what God has said, in due time (you may have to wait until resurrection day) you will possess it. Your confession of something that God has not said first is vain. Neither can you take a promise God spoke to someone else and apply it to your own life unless God made that promise applicable to everyone.

With the exception of two men, Moses and the church let their worship of God slip. For if they were worshipping God, they never would have questioned whether the land was good or bad after God already said the land is good. Our clapping, shouting, singing, and praying means nothing if we doubt Gods integrity.

James 1:25-26

25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it– he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

 The church would not be blessed because somebody forgot “what he has heard.” The church would not be blessed because the man they sought to please did not “keep a tight rein on his tongue.” Moses spoke a bad confession and made religion worthless for all but the two men who could see beyond the steward who led them.

Twelve rulers went up to search out the land. Ten of them had the thought in their mind that the land could be good or bad. They traveled from Kadesh at the southernmost edge of the Desert of Zin to Rehob at the northernmost edge and back, a round trip of about 500 miles – an average of 12.5 miles a day. On the way back they picked up a cluster of grapes so large it had to be carried on a staff between two of the rulers. The fruit they returned with bore evidence that the land was good.

Two of the rulers returned with good news. Ten of the rulers had good news and bad news. The good news; God told them the truth. The fruit they brought back proved it. The land is good. If only the report had ended with those words. If only Caleb had spoken next and everyone agreed. If only ten rulers would have remembered what God did in Egypt? If only men sought to please God more than God’s stewards? If only we could see past the human leadership God uses?  If only! If only! If only! What would have happened if only? We will never know what might have happened, but we can learn valuable lessons from what did happen.

The good news was followed by the bad news.

 Numbers 13:28-29 KJV

28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.

 Nevertheless is another way of saying God told the truth BUT! What follows was nothing new. The people “be strong.” So were the people of Egypt. The cities are large and well fortified. So were the cities of Egypt. The children of Anak are there. Who is this Anak and is Anak greater than their God?  The Amalekites dwell in the land! Why did that matter? The Amalekites had already been defeated by Israel at Rephidim.

 Exodus 17:14

14 And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua; for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

 Take note! The destruction of Amalek by the hand of Joshua was a promise written in a book!

 The presence of Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites was not new and unexpected either. Before they searched out the land God said,

 Exodus 23:23 KJV

… mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.

 Before they got to the border of the Promised Land, God promised to cut off the inhabitants of the land. Before they got to the border of the Promised Land, God proved he could do it in Egypt. Before they got to the border of the Promised Land, God told them,

 Exodus 23:27-28 KJV

27 I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. 28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.

 Exodus 24:3-4 KJV

3          And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD,…

 Take note!  The promises to deal with every problem the rulers saw when they spied out the land were written in a book. God promised to deal with the bad things in the land before they ever saw it with their eyes. God made promises in writing to destroy all of the people the twelve rulers encounter on their forty day journey to spy out the land, which makes their reaction to Caleb’s declaration of faith in God unjustifiable.

 Numbers 13:30

And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.

 How did Caleb know they were “well able to overcome it”?  What gave Caleb the right to make that declaration and expect anyone to believe it?

 Caleb had the right to say they were well able to overcome it because Caleb had more than his own ideas and desires to depend on. Caleb had more than his own experiences of the past in Egypt. Caleb had more than somebody said somebody said God would do it? Caleb had more than Moses testimony God would do it. Caleb had a reason to have faith because God wrote a copy of the things he said to Moses in stone. Caleb had written promises about the future from the flesh, Moses, and the Spirit, God. Caleb had a written promise confirmed by two witnesses that the people would be afraid of them. Caleb had a written promise that the people would turn their backs and run from them.

The ten rulers that spoke next had the same written promise.

 Numbers 13:31

But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.

 Now we know who trusted God’s ability and who trusted their own ability. Now we know who believed the word of God and who didn’t. Ten rulers called God a liar. They had God’s promises in writing and don’t believe it. They had already defeated Amalek with God’s help. But all they can say at Caleb’s declaration of faith in the written word of God is; it can’t be done. Why not? It was done in Egypt without them lifting one finger. Why can’t it be done in Canaan?

The rulers couldn’t see how it could be done because the people they saw were “stronger than we.”  When they tried to devise a plan to conquer people who were stronger than they were, they came to the only logical conclusion; “we be not able.” Their conclusion was accurate until you factor in that there was a God among them who had a plan before they sought to please a man. If the church had sought to please God, they would have waited for God to reveal his plan.

The church in the desert is not the only church to possess God’s promises in writing. There is not a Christian in America who does not have a Bible or access to one, some of us more than one in a variety of translations. How many of us act the same way Israel did. We have a written promise from God that no matter what happens God will be faithful to bring us through it, and we will be victorious in the end. Yet we fear to go forward because our problems are stronger than we are.

It is true that the problems we face in life are stronger than we are but are they stronger than our God. God proved to the church he could deal with their problems in Egypt. Then he promised to deal with their future problems in writing. The church knew God was coming for them one day because Joseph made them swear an oath to take his bones when they left. They never forgot Joseph’s oath because the church took Joseph’s bones with them when they departed. They were at the threshold of obtaining the Promised Land only to say we be not able. How many of us have been delivered out of difficult even impossible situations only to sit on a pew and repeat Israel’s error because we remember and cling to the words of great men but we do not remember and cling to the words of our great God!


[1] Numbers 10:33

[2] 1 Corinthians 12:25

About Teena Myers

Teena is the Vice Chairman of the Southern Christian Writers Guild, author of three books and a freelance writer.
This entry was posted in Road to Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s