Our society has decided certain words are obscene and should not be spoken in polite company. We consider such words so vile it would make us gasp in dismay if one of them were uttered within the hallowed halls of the church. We are even offended to hear these words within the hearing of our holy ears when we are NOT in the church. We will walk out of theaters lest our holiness is defiled. We will buy devices that bleep such language, so we can watch movies with images worse than the language. Am I mocking our concern over inappropriate communications? Absolutely Not! I simply question why we go to such great lengths to shield ourselves from things we consider offensive yet tolerate without a thought of shame the kind of inappropriate communications that offend our God.
Let’s listen to some rulers of the church in the wilderness communicate their observations of the Promised Land and Gods intent for the people he delivered from Egypt.
Numbers 13:32-33 KJV
32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 And we saw the giants the sons of Anak, which come of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
Get the soap! These rulers in the church have foul, filthy mouths. Every time they speak the stench makes angels hold their noses in disgust. Did you hear what the rulers really said? I’m not sure they understood what they really said but that didn’t make their communications any less evil. They called good evil.
20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.
God had already searched out the land and declared the land is GOOD, so why did the rulers of God’s people call the land evil that God had called GOOD? The rulers claimed the land would devour them. God and the rulers looked at the same thing and came up with different opinions. A good God saw good. Evil rulers saw evil. Of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and now we know what was in the hearts of ten rulers. Evil came out of their mouths because evil was in their hearts.
What was the evil in the hearts of these rulers that caused their mouths to give an evil report? There is a clue in the statement the rulers made about grasshoppers. The rulers said, “we were in our own sight as grasshoppers.” Then they said we were grasshoppers in the sight of the sons of Anak. The way the rulers perceived themselves and Anak was the source of the evil coming out of their mouth.
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.
The rulers saw themselves as grasshoppers because the rulers saw themselves as God’s. When the rulers said we were in our own sight as grasshoppers they sat on their thrones and declared we are wiser than God. When the rulers said we were as grasshoppers in the sight of the sons of Anak they exalted Anak’s sons to be greater gods then they esteemed themselves to be. Then the rulers came to the logical conclusion that Anak’s sons could not be overcome. In the eyes of these rulers they were wiser than their God.
When the God of Abraham looks upon the earth at its people he does not see grasshoppers. He sees people acting like grasshoppers. The Hebrew word translated grasshopper as grasshopper in Isaiah 40 means locust. Locusts can be very destructive, consuming entire fields until there is nothing left. When locusts swarm they can create darkness for miles by forming a cloud dense enough to block the sunlight.
Get a swarm of religious people together that are wise in their own eyes and they will block the light of the SON and render the church incapable of moving forward. The rulers of God’s people were blocking the light when they stood before the congregation in the wilderness and called evil what God called good. They served a living God and they know he delivered them, but they don’t know who God is. They saw mere men and thought they saw Gods.
Anak the son of Arba had three sons whose descendants were physically larger than the average man. Some of them were kings. Some of them the kings of the area used for bodyguards. There were remnants of them left in David’s day. Goliath was a descendant of Anak who David beheaded, so much for the sons of Anak being gods! But it is not likely I will ever encounter a man that sleeps in a bed 13 feet long and 6 feet wide standing in the way of the things God has promised to me, so who are the giants we face today?
If you look up the word giant in the Hebrew it becomes very relevant to our day, in fact any day. The Hebrew word for giant is nephiyl (nef-eel) and encompasses more than a physically large man. It means a bully or a tyrant. You will not get through this life without having to deal with a tyrant, unless you are the tyrant. Anyone in a place of authority has the power to be a tyrant. I did not say everyone in a place of authority is a tyrant. Listen carefully. I only said anyone that has authority is capable of being a tyrant regardless of how physically large and strong or small and weak they are. It depends on how they choose to administer or if they even know how to administer the authority they possess.
The Lord established authorities that they might edify his people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this world with a little authority who don’t understand why God established authority. The tyrants who bully us and hinder us from obtaining what God has promised us can be anyone we must submit to. Instead of edifying us they use their authority to discourage us and tear us down. The tyrant making your life a misery could be your parents, husband, employer or even your pastor. They are wise in their own eyes and have no concept of how much pain they create in the lives of those who must submit to them. If you are suffering under an authority that is abusing you, God has promised the abusers will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. The ten rulers who saw giants in the land were giants in the church who used their God given authority to discourage a nation from going forward and then encouraged them to rebel against their God.
After the infamous grasshopper meeting broke up the rulers went home and their words spread throughout the camp like an airborne virus. God spent the night listening to his people weep over a lie for,
14:1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.
And what were they saying in-between the sobs?
27 You grumbled in your tents and said, “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.'”
The rulers abused their God given authority and now the church believes God hates them and they are afraid to go forward. I doubt Moses went to bed eager to resume the business meeting in the morning. He had to deal with men who think they are as wise as God!
THE NEXT DAY
The next day the rulers assembled and Moses desperately tried to encourage a discouraged church.
29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. [Anak’s sons] 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” 32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.
From the day God arrived in Egypt he cared for the children of Jacob like accepted beloved children but God’s children didn’t believe the Lord their God loved them. They wept through the night crying the Lord hates us. They didn’t believe God would continue to treat them like children because their rulers were wise in their own eyes and the wisdom of man discouraged the church. God said go forward. The rulers said we can’t. Everyone else was caught in the frustrating middle. At this point the frustrated middle had a decision to make. They can rally behind Joshua and Caleb or they can rally behind abusive tyrants who don’t believe God loves them.
2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
After crying all night that the Lord hates us, the rulers concluded that God brought them into the wilderness to destroy them. They were sure if they obeyed God they would be killed and their wives and children would be defenseless. Therefore it would be better to have died in Egypt or in the wilderness than to let disaster fall upon the women and children. I can’t help but wonder if the rulers were truly concerned about the women and children or simply hiding behind a woman’s skirt because they did not have the courage to believe God would keep his word.
The leaven of the rulers leavened the whole lump because “all the Israelites”, “the whole assembly,” agreed with them. If “all” and “the whole” would have stood with Joshua and Caleb, the men of faith would have prevailed. Joshua and Caleb are rulers too but they are limited by what the “all” and “the whole” do!
Based on the information the ten rulers believed, God hates me, God wants me dead and God does not care about the women and children, the logical conclusion and most reasonable solution would be to choose a new leader and return to Egypt. That would be far better than letting their children become slaves and their women raped when God allowed all the men to be killed.
If everything they believed and spoke about God was true the ruler’s solution was the best course of action. But their solution was based on lies. God did not hate them. He loved them. God never wanted to kill them. He was trying to give them a better life. God did not let disaster fall upon their families in Egypt nor did God allow the men to abandon the women and children in Egypt, so why did they think God would abandon the women and children now. The ruler’s solution to the problem only made things worse. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what caused the problem.
So . . . how do you solve your problems? Do you go to God and tell him why there is a problem and what needs to be done to fix it. Do you arrive at your own solutions without even asking the Lord for his wisdom because you think you already know what God should do? Or maybe you don’t even consult the Lord at all because you think he hates you. Are you a grasshopper wise in your own eyes?
God and Anak were not the problem that stagnated the church in a desert for forty years. It was the unbelief, division and lack of love in the church’s leadership who discouraged the hearts of God’s people until they rebelled and wanted new leadership.
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” 10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them…
Joshua and Caleb declared, “If the Lord is pleased with us.” We talked about whom we should strive to please in the last chapter. The only way we will be able to please the Lord is to ask and keep asking for spiritual wisdom and understanding until we can discern the will of God and walk worthy of the Lord as Joshua and Caleb did. If you don’t seek God for spiritual wisdom and understanding you may end up with a plan like the ten rulers; kill them and return to Egypt! That’ll really solve their problem. Destroy the only people in the church who believe in God and return to the place they were crying in misery.
Why do the members of the church in the wilderness want to kill their brothers in the Lord? What sin did Joshua and Caleb commit that they deserve to be stoned. Should they die because they agree with God that the land is good? Should they die because they said the Lord would give us the land if we don’t rebel? Should they die because they tried to encourage the church, pleading with them not to be afraid? Should they die because they said the Lord is with us? Why did the assembly desire to stone Joshua and Caleb and replace Moses and Aaron?
1 John 3:10-13
10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. 11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.
Cain is identified as the world. Cain believes in God. Cain goes to church and he even brings offerings to the Lord. The world is the people among us who worship God like Cain and the ten rulers did. They are wise in their own eyes and will kill anyone who says they are wrong. The world goes to church every Sunday but doesn’t believe God loves them and will keep his word to them. The church in the wilderness was full of the world.
Righteous works are words and actions that prove you believe God loves you and will do what he has promised. The works of two rulers, Joshua and Caleb, exposed the evil in the heart of their fellow rulers. The light was shining and now God’s people must choose. They could repent of the evil that was in their hearts and receive the light that was shining in Joshua and Caleb. Or they can be a murderer like their father the devil who was a murderer from the beginning. God can deliver you but only you can give him your heart. Cain did not have to kill Abel. All he had to do was change his ways and he would have been acceptable to God. Is it really easier to put out the light than deal with the things in your life that are unacceptable to God? The ten rulers did not have to kill the men of faith. All they had to do was repent for saying God hates us and stop accusing God of trying to kill them. All they had to do was repent by changing their mind about God.
The New Testament speaks openly and plainly that tares grow among wheat. Children whose hearts belong to the devil worship with children whose hearts belong to God. They look just like us. They act just like us. They don’t talk just like us because from their mouth flows good and evil. They discourage us from following God with our whole heart. They say they love God but don’t believe God loves them. They say they love God but hate you when you believe in God. Let me remind you that all of the members of this congregation had the same miraculous story of deliverance. All of them were shaded by God’s cloud during the day and warmed by his fire at night. All of them passed through the sea that parted. Everyone ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink.
Our deliverance from whatever God has delivered us from means nothing if we hate our brothers and the light that shines in them. All of our Bible reading, church attendance and praying mean nothing if we hate brothers who believe God will keep his word. All of the spiritual things we do mean nothing if we never learn to love.
Why do the people God delivered from Egypt want to kill Caleb and Joshua and choose a new leader? They were not rejecting Moses. It wasn’t Moses who led them into the wilderness. Whatever wilderness you are in today God led you there and you will stay there until you are no longer wise in your own eyes and you learn to love the light that exposes the sin in you. The truth about yourself is the hardest thing you will ever face, but you will never be free until you are willing to accept that truth. You will forever be making plans based on lies, and your plans will always make things worse. There is evil in all of us but God knew that when he saved us. He loved us before we loved him. When a righteous brother’s life exposes the evil in us we don’t have to hate them. All we have to do is change our ways. If we don’t change our ways, we may end up like Cain – driven from God’s presence wandering through life until we master our sin. Cain survived to wander. The ten rulers perished. Those who teach others about God are judged more strictly.
Numbers 14:35-38 KJV
35 I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die. 36 And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, 37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.
The Lord called the church in the wilderness an evil congregation. Their rulers discourage the hearts of God’s people. Their rulers are the reason the church cannot go forward. The only thing that saved two of the rulers who lead God’s people astray was not their silence but their spoken faith in God. In the face of unbelief and lies, they stood up to confess the truth.
Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Jesus was the spiritual rock they ate and drank from in the wilderness. Ten rulers declared Anak is Lord and our Lord Jesus cannot overcome Anak. Two rulers cried lies, Jesus is Lord, we are well able to overcome Anak. Joshua and Caleb believed in their heart and were justified by their faith when they made a good confession. When Joshua and Caleb declared their faith in God the tares growing among the wheat wanted to kill them but God appeared to save Joshua and Caleb from death. Only two men will cross the Jordan to inherit what the law promised them before they die. But all hope was not lost for those who believed a bad confession. There are greater and better promises than the things a covenant of the law gave them.