Summary: At first glance the book of Numbers reads a bit like an operations manual. It’s got numbers of soldiers, lists of names, and a bit of repetition. Tucked between those lists and numbers are some stories of real people, dealing with real issues of faith!
BETWEEN THE NUMBERS
REBELS IN THE PEWS
-When George HW Bush was President he banned broccoli on Air Force One which made national headlines.
-When asked about it he said, “I do not like broccoli and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.”
-California Broccoli growers were offended and decided to deliver 10 tons of broccoli to the White House in protest.
-In response to that action Bush said, “There are truckloads of broccoli at this very minute descending on Washington DC. My family is divided. For the broccoli vote out there: Barbara loves broccoli. She has tried to make me eat it. She eats it all the time herself. So she can go out and meet the caravan of broccoli that's coming in."
-But the President would not eat his Broccoli!
-We’re talking about rebellion today: that stubborn refusal to do what is right, to do what is good, and to do what is godly.
-We’re talking about what happened to the Israelites when they rebelled against God and they’re punishment was a bit more drastic…than having to eat their broccoli.
-In our Numbers series so far we’ve really witnessed the nation of Israel falling apart just before they get into the Promised Land!
-If you’ll remember, last week in chapter 11, Moses sent out 12 men to spy out the land of Canaan.
-They were told to check out the hill country and instead went and saw all the big fortified cities and came back with a report
-10 of these 12 said, “We are toast! (loose paraphrase)
There is no way we can take hold of the Promised Land!”
-But there were 2 men who stood out. Joshua and Caleb.
-They remind me of that little chicken hawk who was always trying to drag off Foghorn Leghorn in the Warner Bros Cartoons.
-The doubters said, “Those people are huge, those walls are thick, we will be crushed if we even try to take it over.”
-And Caleb said, “I think we can take those guys!”
-But it wasn’t from a sense of bravado. He wasn’t just a tough guy.
-He had faith that God would do what he said he would do!
-He had faith that God had brought them out of Egypt for a reason, and he was still ready to act on that faith.
-God had said, “you’re going to take possession of the land!”
-Caleb and Joshua were ready to obey.
-So as the crowds listened to the 10 men saying “we can’t do it!”
-And then heard the 2 men saying, “We can do it!”
-Who do you suppose they listened to? Look at verse 1.
Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night.
-It’s hard to picture a whole nation mourning and crying throughout the night.
-This isn’t just pessimism…they were shaken up and convinced that they’d made a terrible mistake.
-We’ve all been there before. We’ve felt like the walls were closing in, and there was no hope.
-And yet most of us…somehow lived to tell about it. (still here)
-Things can seem worse than they really are sometimes. And what we do when things aren’t going so well is very revealing.
-Do we turn towards God or do we turn away?
-In hard times…do we turn towards God or do we turn away?
2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
-Americans don’t really relate to this story very well.
-We organized ourselves and threw out our British oppressors.
-We divided our country in half and fought each other to a bitter end in order to stop slavery.
-The idea of giving up freedom to go back into slavery sounds preposterous to us!
-But I want you to see how their…
FAITHLESS DOUBT IS THE SEED OF REBELLION.
-Christians are allowed to have doubts. It’s not a sin to doubt.
-It’s not a sin to ask questions, or to wonder why God does what he does. Why he allows certain things to happen.
-I believe that honest doubts actually deepen and strengthen our faith. Honest doubts point us back to the Word of God.
-Honest doubts lead us back to prayer, where we can ask God those “why” questions.