Summary: (i) Focus on giants – you stumble. (ii) Focus on God – your giants tumble.
Opening illustration: Inevitably, trouble will invade our lives: A bad report from a medical test, the betrayal of a trusted friend, a child who rejects us, or a spouse who leaves us. The list of possibilities is long, but there are only two options: forge ahead on our own, or turn to God.
Flying solo into the face of trouble is not a good idea. It can lead to bad behavior patterns, blaming God, and retreating into defeat. Like the Israelites, we may spin out of control and into despair (Num. 14:1-4).
Let us turn to Numbers 13 in the OT and learn not to make the same mistakes the Israelites made.
Introduction: When the majority of the spies brought a report of intimidating giants and dangers ahead, they used the pronoun “we” seven times with no reference to the Lord (13: 31-33). The Israelites were on the cusp of the ultimate blessing that God promised to them. They were eyewitnesses to the miracles in Egypt and their feet had walked the dry bottom of the Red Sea in jaw-dropping victory. God’s faithfulness had been amazingly evident. What short memories! What disappointing faithlessness! Sadly, they turned their backs on God and left the blessing behind.
Caleb and Joshua, on the other hand, opted to turn to the Lord with this confidence: “The Lord is with us” (14: 9).
When your giants show up, what will you do?
(A) What NOT to focus upon?
1. The Negative (13; 28-29)
When facing a tough decision, don’t let the negatives cause you to lose sight of the positives. Weigh both sides carefully. Don’t let potential difficulties blind you to God’s power to help and His promise to guide.
The report was given publicly in the audience of the people, and it was artfully arranged to begin their narrative with commendations of the natural fertility of the country in order that their subsequent slanders might the more readily receive credit. The negative opinion of ten men caused a great rebellion among the people. Because it is human nature to accept opinion as fact, we must be especially careful when voicing our negative opinions. What we say may heavily influence the actions of those who trust us to give sound advice.
A bad report was a faithless one that defamed Yahweh’s delivering abilities.
2. The Giants / Fears / Obstacles (13: 31-33)
The leadership and the people had started to focus on the giants, fortifies cities, high walls and formidable men who guarded these walls. The enemy seemed so humungous that the Israelites seemed and considered themselves as grasshoppers in comparison to them.
We may wonder that the people of Israel staid forty days for the return of their spies, when they were ready to enter Canaan, under all the assurances of success they could have from the Divine power, and the miracles that had hitherto attended them. But they distrusted God’s power and promise. How much we stand in our own light by our unbelief! We consider our giants … obstacles greater than God and much greater than His power that is why we can’t proceed ahead in life as well as delay or even thwart God’s plan in our lives. At length the messengers returned; but the greater part discouraged the people from going forward to Canaan. Justly are the Israelites left to this temptation, for putting confidence in the judgment of men, when they had the word of God to trust in. Though they had found the land as good as God had said, yet they would not believe it to be as sure as he had said, but despaired of having it, though Eternal Truth had engaged it to them. This was the representation of the evil spies.
3. Anticipations (14: 1-4)
When the chorus of despair went up, everyone joined in. Their greatest fears were being realized. Losing their perspective the people were caught up in the emotion of the moment, forgetting what they knew about God’s character. What if the people had spent as much energy moving forward as they did moving back? They could have enjoyed their land – instead they never ever entered it. When a cry of despair goes around you, consider the larger perspective before you join in. You have better ways to use your energy than to complain and anticipate what has not even happened.
Those who do not trust God, continually vex themselves. The sorrow of the world worketh death. The Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron, and in them reproached the Lord. They look back with causeless discontent. See the madness of unbridled passions, which makes men prodigal of what nature accounts most dear, life itself. They wish rather to die criminals under God’s justice, than to live conquerors in his favor. At last they resolve that, instead of going forward to Canaan, they would go back to Egypt. Those who walk not in God’s counsels, seek their own ruin. Could they expect that God’s cloud would lead them, or his manna attend them? Suppose the difficulties of conquering Canaan were as they imagined, those of returning to Egypt were much greater. We complain of our place and lot, and we would change; but is there any place or condition in this world that has not something in it to make us uneasy, if we are disposed to be so? The way to better our condition is to get our spirits in a better frame. See the folly of turning from the ways of God. But men run on the certain fatal consequences of a sinful course.