Summary: If we are so afraid of people that we stop following the Lord, we do not trust Him. It shows that we have doubted His plan, His power, and His promises.
Opening illustration: Mrs. Ima Terror chased her husband through the crowds at the zoo, waving her umbrella and unleashing insults like invisible missiles. Her perspiring and winded husband, seeing that the lock on the lion’s cage had not quite closed, yanked it open, jumped into the cage, slammed the door, pushed the astonished lion hard against the bars, and peered over its shoulder. His frustrated wife shook her umbrella, stuttered in anger, and finally managed to explode, “Ralph, come out of there, you coward!”
Ralph, in this fictitious story, is like the people of Israel that we read about in the book of Numbers. They were confused about whom they should really fear. They saw themselves as grasshoppers when compared to the giants in the land where God wanted them to go (13:32-33). [Mart De Haan, Our Daily Bread]
Let us turn to Number 13 and 14 in God’s Word and find out the fear that prevailed amongst the Israelites and how it was subdued.
Introduction: According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two fear is death. Death is number two!!! Now, this means, Jerry Seinfeld once commented, “to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy!!"
Chapter thirteen is only half of the story; it is continued in the following chapter. We have yet to read of the people’s rebellion, the fuller account of Joshua and Caleb’s report, the Lord’s anger at the people, Moses’ intercession, the Lord’s judgment of the ten scouts and the people for listening to them, and the people’s abortive attempt to undo their error and turn back the clock. We’ll consider all of that some other time. What we have here in chapter thirteen is the first few scenes of this drama. But they are sufficient to make some important points about the great biblical lesson drawn from this history on a number of occasions in the rest of the Bible. Indeed, it is not too much to say that this history we are reading this evening and next Lord’s Day evening is the principal biblical illustration of the sad fact, fundamental to so much of the Bible’s teaching that there are many unbelievers in the church.
In Numbers 13 we read about the 12 leaders in Israel, ten of whom were gripped with fear despite the promise of God. They could not see past their own inadequacies and so rejected what God had offered them. Two others, on the other hand, saw the problems before them, but knew there was a God over them.
What do you fear?
1. Fear of the ADVESARY (13:13-33)
You see, genuine faith is not marked by a lack of any struggle or failure. The life of faith is often marked by intense struggle and frequent failure. But there is struggle precisely because faith knows and cares what it is and ought to be. Faith never forgets that God has made a promise of Canaan. Therefore we see Joshua encouraging the Israelites not to lose hope nor fear the adversary in v. 9.
Canaan was a type of the kingdom of God; the wilderness through which the Israelites passed, of the difficulties and trials to be met with in the present world. The promise of the kingdom of God is given to every believer; but how many are discouraged by the difficulties in the way! A slothful heart sees dangers, lions, and giants, everywhere; and therefore refuses to proceed in the heavenly path. Many of the spies contribute to this by the bad reports they bring of the heavenly country. Certain preachers allow “that the land is good, that it flows with milk and honey,” and go so far as to show some of its fruits; but they discourage the people by stating the impossibility of overcoming their enemies. “Sin,” say they, “cannot be destroyed in this life - it will always dwell in you - the Anakim cannot be conquered - we are but as grasshoppers against the Anakim,” etc., etc.
Here and there a Joshua and a Caleb, trusting alone in the power of God, armed with faith in the infinite efficacy of that blood which cleanses from all unrighteousness, boldly stand forth and say: “Their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us; let us go up at once and possess the land, for we are well able to overcome.” We can do all things through Christ strengthening us: he will purify us unto himself, and give us that rest from sin here which his death has procured and his word has promised. Reader, canst thou not take God at his word? He has never yet failed thee. Surely then thou hast no reason to doubt. Thou hast never yet tried him to the uttermost. You know not how far and how fully he can save. Do not be dispirited: the sons of Anak shall fall before thee, if thou meet them in the name of the Lord of Hosts.