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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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The CommitteeThe Committee
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Dr. Richard Flanders, Evangelist
“And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 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. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. 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. 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. 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. And there 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.” (Numbers 13:25-33)

 A committee of twelve men was sent from the camp of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran “to spy out the land of Canaan.” This was the Promised Land that God had said He would give to the nation that had descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 6:6-8). When He delivered them from bondage in Egypt, He re-affirmed this promise, and sent them to conquer the land of Canaan from its inhabitants, which had been marked for divine judgment. The idea of sending spies to search the land before the invasion originated with the people, according to Deuteronomy 1:19-24, but God approved of it, as we can see from Numbers 13:1-24. Now we think God approved of the plan in order to test the resolve of the nation to obey His orders.

 The Bible does not treat the concept of group decision-making very kindly. The council of seventy that was formed to relieve Moses of his heavy responsibilities in Numbers 11 eventually became the Sanhedrin that plotted the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And the twelve spies that brought back a discouraging report to the children of Israel were another example of a misguided committee. Normally the God of the Bible works through a godly leader like Moses, guiding and enabling him to fulfill his duties.

 We meet the spies in verses 4 through 16. They were Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Oshea (re-named Jehoshua, or Joshua, by Moses), Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel. Two of them, Caleb and Joshua, came back with words of faith to encourage the people to go forward with God’s plan. The other ten brought a recommendation that gave doubt the benefit of the doubt, and motivated the people to give up on God’s plan.

 Many of the issues Christian people face in their lives and in their churches boil down to a choice between faith and doubt, between believing God and deciding not to believe what He has said. The children of Israel faced at least six trials of their faith before this one, and they failed every one:

  • 1. At the Red Sea (Exodus 14),where the people despaired when the Egyptians overtook them;
  • 2. In the Wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16), where the people murmured because they hungered;
  • 3. At Rephaim (Exodus 17), where the people murmured because of their thirst;
  • 4. At Mount Horeb (Exodus 32), where the people despaired when Moses did not return;
  • 5. At Taberah (Numbers 11), where the people complained and angered the LORD; and
  • 6. At Kibroth-hattaavah (Numbers 11:4-35), where the Israelites and the mixed multitude lusted for flesh to eat.

 Their seventh trial was the big one, at Kadesh-barnea in the Wilderness of Paran, and their failure there led to the tragic extension of the Wilderness Wanderings, and the deaths of thousands in the desert who never completed the journey to Canaan.

 No less tragic is the failure of Christian believers today to believe God, and of churches to fulfill His plan to bless the world through their witness. The results of this unbelief in believers also include wandering and death, the aimless wandering of Christians and churches, and the eternal death of the multitudes we have left unwarned in the darkness of sin. What shall we do with the promises Jesus made just before He went back to Heaven?

 “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

 What shall we do about the promise of the Spirit? What shall be do about the work of evangelism? What shall we do about our Jerusalem? What shall we do about the evangelization of the world? Will we believe what Jesus said about our part in His plan? Can we believe Him about being filled with the Holy Spirit, and empowered to be His witnesses. Can we believe Him about our role as evangelizers? Can we take Him at His Word about the possibility of taking the Gospel to the uttermost part of the earth? The issue is still, “Will we believe God?” Unbelief is still the great obstacle stopping the churches and individual Christians from fulfilling their role in the world. And the report and recommendations of the Kadesh-barnea committee still haunt us with assertions of doubt. Here is what they said.

  • 1. “Nevertheless…”

     Although the committee found Canaan to be a land that “floweth with milk and honey,” and brought back a huge cluster of grapes to prove its fruitfulness, they also reported with great sorrow that there would be obstacles to conquering it. “Nevertheless,” they said (verses 28 and 29), the Canaanites are “strong,” and the cities are fortified, and giants live there, along with many more antagonists! Yet God had already told them about these obstacles (Exodus 15:14-17; 23:20-33). The whole idea was that God was going to help them overcome the difficulties, and give them a supernatural victory. But the “nevertheless” argument is still used by our enemy to discourage us from going forward with God’s plan. Did we know that not everybody in town will appreciate the evangelistic efforts we make? Did we think about the expense of reaching the world for Christ? Did we know that religious people are hard to win? Did we know that some of the opposition to our plans would come from within the church, and not just from unbelievers? The voices of unbelief say, “Acts 1:8 is a good idea, but there are going to be real problems.” Caleb’s great response ought to be ours.

     “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”
    Victory in Christ is by definition a matter of overcoming obstacles. And faith is the victory that overcomes the world. By faith we “are well able to overcome,” and to see God glorified in the fulfillment of His promises. The problems should not stop us from believing God.

  • 2. “Not able…”

     We might be stunned by how the ten responded to Caleb’s inspiring words. “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (verse 31). He said that Israel is “well able” to do what God told them to do, and they said that Israel is “not able.” It reminds us of the Devil’s bold words to Eve, calling God a liar. She said, “God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it [the forbidden fruit],…lest ye die.” Then Satan said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:1-5). Satan is a liar, even the father of lies (John 8), and whenever we entertain denials of God’s promises, we are listening to the voice of Satan. One of the most disturbing developments of our time is the propensity of preachers and teachers to explain away plain statements in the Bible. Liberals simply deny statements in scripture, but evangelicals and fundamentalists explain them away. Let us have the discernment to detect the perversion of unbelief (Matthew 17:17-20), even when we hear it from good people.

  • 3. “As grasshoppers…”

     The next objection from the committee to going ahead with God’s plan was that “the land…is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof,” that “all of the people” there are “men of a great stature” so that “we were in our own sight as grasshoppers” (verses 32-33). The invasion of Canaan was sure to be a disaster, they were saying. Terrible consequences were sure to follow if the people would go forward with God’s plan. Of course, this way of thinking arises out of the pit of unbelief. John R. Rice used to preach against what he called “grasshopper religion,” drawing from this passage. Fear must be answered by faith, and not embraced by unbelief. Jesus said to His disciples,

    “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:23-27)
    Paul reminded Timothy that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7). It is interesting that the fearful, faithless majority report of the committee spoke of being eaten, and yet the minority report of Caleb and Joshua said that the Canaanites would be “bread for us” (Numbers 14:9). In unbelief, men thought they would be eaten, but in faith men knew they would eat the enemy! The outcome would be determined by the prospective of God’s men. When another generation did invade the Promised Land in faith, they found the Canaanites cowering, even before the first city fell (Joshua 2:9-11). The outcome will be determined by the perspective of God’s people. Will they go forward, believing God, or hold back in unbelief?

  • 4. “Let us return…”

     The outcome of the whole debacle was horrible. God’s judgment fell on those who would not believe Him. But it did not happen until one more recommendation was presented to the nation. Numbers 14:1-4 tells us how the whole congregation turned against their godly leaders and determined, not only to abandon the idea of invading the Promised Land, but also to go back to Egypt. It would be “better for us to return unto Egypt,” they said, planning I suppose to ask forgiveness of Pharoah and beg to be made slaves again. “Let us make a captain,” they said, “and let us return.” Unbelief always sends people back to bondage. We either progress or regress on the journey of faith. We do not stay in the same place. The Devil wants us to believe that if we refuse to take the step that God wants us to take, we won’t be any worse off. Again he is lying to us. The Christian life is a journey of faith, and if we refuse to go forward and believe God, we will go back, and lose the freedom we have enjoyed in Christ. Of course, the people did not get a chance to go back to Egypt. They suffered serious consequences because of their awful unbelief while still in the wilderness. The unbelieving ten spies who gave the majority report for the committee “died by the plague before the LORD” (Numbers 14:36-37). The whole generation of adults that concurred with the faithless conclusions of that committee wandered for forty years in the wilderness, and died before ever getting to Canaan, with their carcasses falling in the wilderness (verses 22-35, and Hebrews 3:17-19). Many Christians, and many churches, have wandered for years after making a decision based on doubt, and those who have not awakened to their unbelief have seen their lives wither to the point where they remind us of carcasses fallen in the wilderness.

 So much hangs on the decisions we make about whether or not we are going to believe God. Faith is key to finding God’s will, answering God’s call, doing God’s work, and fulfilling God’s plan. Unbelief blocks usefulness, wisdom, and success in the service of the Lord. Revival in lives and in churches is blocked by unbelief.

 We can be thankful that the story in Numbers 13 and 14 does not end with bad results for everyone. Caleb and Joshua were rewarded for their faith, as anyone who decides to give God the benefit of the doubt will be. We read of Caleb in Numbers 14: 24 that “he had another spirit with him,” and followed God “fully.” To believe God in the time of trial is simply to follow Him fully. Follow Him “all the way,” even when the way of obedience looks frightening or hard, believing that He is with you, and will always do what He has promised.

Monthly Article
May 2010
by Dr. Rick Flanders
Currently a Local Church Evangelist
Preaching on the Subject of Revival
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data

Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)

Articles published in the;
Sword of the Lord
Baptist Preacher,
Christian View of the News,
Pulpit Helps,
Maranatha Watchman
Church Bus News,
and other national periodicals.

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