For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Numbers 13:26 – 33
They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anakcome from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
Let us pray
Hide me behind your cross, Lord. May my words be your heart. You have told us you love us, help us to know your love and live it every day of our lives. Amen
In the 1990s, there was a craze that I never understood. Called the Magic Eye, it had to do with these pictures that looked like prisms of color oddly put together. Supposedly, if you squinted just right at these images, you could see a 3D picture that was completely unrelated to the blotches. The reason I say supposedly is that I never saw these pictures. Even as I prepared to preach this week and I visited the Magic Eye website and even tried their special “this is how you do it picture” that is supposed to make it easy to do. Even when I knew what the underlying image was supposed to look like – For me, it does not work. I could not see these special graphics, no matter how hard I tried. The thing is, though, that the pictures are there. Just because I cannot see them does not mean they aren’t real. The 3D picture, in fact, is the foundation of the 2 dimensional pattern that is readily apparent. According to mentalfloss.com, the process works like this:
“A Magic Eye image starts with a programmer creating the hidden image…as a grayscale, smooth gradient depth map where dark points that should be furthest away are darker and closer points are in lighter shades. Then, they create a 2D pattern to camouflage that image. Finally, a computer program using a Magic Eye-patented algorithm takes the image model and the pattern and orients repeating patterns to the intended depth of the hidden image. When someone looks at a Magic Eye, the repeating pattern feeds the brain the depth information encoded into it, and the brain perceives the hidden picture” For whatever reason, I am incapable of seeing the hidden picture. The repeating patterns are all I can see. What is right in front of me in the image is the limit of my ability to view the picture.
Here’s what’s happening in Numbers so far:
The people were counted as they continued to learn at Mt. Sinai all of God’s commands for them and their worship.
When they finally left Mt. Sinai, they began marching across the desert, headed for the promised land, the land of Canaan that God had promised throughout time to this point to them.
Along the way, they had some challenges. They had no food, so God provided manna. They had no water, so God provided water.
They complained about only eating manna, so God provided meat.
Moses became overwhelmed with the responsibility for the whole camp, so God provided 70 elders who ALSO had the gift of the Holy Spirit and could share the burden.
When they arrived at the edge of the promised land, God told Moses to send 12 spies into the land. They were leaders of their tribes. They went in and looked around, they brought back fruit and spent 40 days exploring the land.
The rest of Numbers hangs on the decision the Israelites make here. If they go forward, we’ll read of their conquest and their disbursement of the land. If they refuse…we’ll read of God’s displeasure with them. Here’s what happened:
When they got back, 10 men were afflicted with the same kind of blindness I have – they couldn’t see through the pattern on top to the real picture underneath.
Oh, they saw the abundance – the land flowing with milk and honey. And the incredible fruit that could be harvested. BUT they also saw all the obstacles as insurmountable – the fortified cities, the giants, the strength of those they would have to oppose to move in.
Only Caleb (and Joshua) saw it differently.
They recognized the presence of the obstacles. But they knew that the God who fed them and gave them water and delivered them from Egypt could defeat these enemies, too.
Caleb said “we should go, we can do it” and the other 10 argued against him. The people were persuaded by the 10 and refused to go. And God was not happy – “How long will these people continue to treat me with contempt?” Moses pleaded for their lives, and God forgave them – but he denied access to the promised land for the people for 40 years – one year for every day the spies were gone.
God did this to allow the adults, the ones who made the decision to die off and then the children would go in and do what their parents refused to do.
Caleb and Joshua were the only exceptions. The rest of Numbers is the story of a people who kept rebelling and kept being forgiven. There is a great story about a man named Balaam and his donkey in Numbers – Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites by the Moabite king, and God wouldn’t let him curse them. At one point the donkey talks to Balaam about this.
In the end, the defeat the Israelites believed they would suffer, because they couldn’t see past the obstacles, they did suffer because they couldn’t be obedient to the God who had provided and protected them all along.
But Caleb and Joshua, two who believed in the God they followed. Two who understood the reality of God – who could see more than what was in front of them, who could see that the God of rescue could do what he said.
In the next book, Deuteronomy, we will see all the details of the journey through the wilderness for 40 years and what happens along the way is more of God’s provision, more of God’s protection. More of God being God.
The great thing is that we have even more examples of God being God than the Israelites did. So when we can’t see past the obstacles in front of us, we ought to be able to say with Caleb, “let’s go”. Because we ought to be able to see the faithfulness of God in our lives and the lives of those around us – over and over.
We have seen a lot of obstacles for our church here in Momence: lack of money, lack of resources, lack of interest.
But when we look around at all God has brought us through, we should be able to see past some of those and wonder what it is that God will do next. Because God keeps working, even when we can’t see what he’s doing. God keeps moving, even when we can’t see where he’s going. And God asks us to say with Caleb, where ever God wants us, what ever God wants us to do:
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like him.
God loved us enough to want us to live like Jesus – and abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loved us enough to still let us choose our destiny.
God loved us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.