Courage to Claim God’s Promise

There is a classic story of a shoe salesman who was sent to a remote island to sell shoes to the natives.  His journey only lasted a few days, after which he wrote back to the main office.  “Don’t send any shoes.  I’m returning home.  None of the natives living here even wear shoes.”  Not wanting to lose a potential market the shoe company sent out another salesman.  Within a few days they received a note: “Please send more shoes.  The market here has great potential.  Not a single native living here owns a pair of shoes.” How we choose to see a situation often determines our course of action.  Is your glass half empty or half full?  You get to decide.

Tucked away in the 13th and 14th chapter of Numbers, we find a little story about a big decision. The people made a choice that would forever change the history of this great nation.  Since they could only see the negative they took a path that led to failure.

Moses led the people through the wilderness to the very border of the Promised Land.  According to God’s instructions, he chose twelve men to go and spy out the territory.  (Numbers 13:1-16)  Among the commissioned spies was Caleb from the tribe of Judah and Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim.  Their mission was to 1) find out what the inhabitants were like (Numbers 13:17-19) and 2) bring back samples of the crops grown in the land (Numbers 13:20-25).

All twelve spies agreed.  The land really was plentiful.  They all described Canaan as “flowing with milk and honey.”  Joshua and Caleb’s report was filled with enthusiasm.  The land is wonderful!  And if the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us safely into the land and give it to us.  The inhabitants of the land have no protection because the Lord is with us. (Numbers 14:6-10) 

On the contrary, ten men reported that the inhabitants were powerful, and the cities and towns were fortified and very large.  They even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak.   “We felt like grasshoppers next to them, and that’s what we looked like to them!” (Numbers 13:26-33).  It was easy for the ten spies to insight terror and dread among the people. 

These people were familiar with a life of uncertainty. They had to leave Egypt and venture into the wilderness without any real plan or guarantee.  Reluctantly they followed Moses through the wilderness, witnessing miracle after miracle along the way.  They were required to pack their belongings and follow a cloud which guided them by day and fire which guided them by night, not ever really knowing where they would wind up at the end of the day.  Each time they were required to have at least a little faith.  But this time something went wrong.  Fear took control and caused them to give up. 

They did not give up on the passing dream of an enthusiastic leader.  They gave up on God’s promise. God himself promised this would be a good location.  He promised wealth and blessing beyond their imagination.   Yet, as they stood at the very brink of blessing they hesitated. They based their decision on the witnesses of others and their own imaginations not on the promise God had given.  They could only imagine the worst and they had 10 eye witnesses to substantiate their reasoning.  Therefore they determined they could go no further.

Compare the reactions of the people to that of Joshua and Caleb:
1.    The spies reported that the land was bad. (Numbers 13:32)
2.    The people considered themselves to be weak. (Numbers 13:31, 33)
3.    They made plans to go back to Egypt. (Numbers 14:2)
4.    They protested against Moses and Aaron. (Numbers 14:2)
5.    They gave in to their fears. (Numbers 14:3)
6.    They demanded a new leader (Numbers 14:4)
7.    They took matters into their own hands and chose not to follow the Lord.  (Numbers 14:42-45)
8.    They became violent against Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:10)

Joshua and Caleb
1.    Joshua and Caleb saw that the land was good.  (Numbers 14:7)
2.    Caleb saw the strength of the people. (Numbers 13:30)
3.    Caleb urged the people to go and occupy the land.  (Numbers 13:30)
4.    They relied on the strength of the Lord. (Numbers 14:8)
5.    They chose not to live in fear. (Numbers 14:9)
6.    They urged the people to not to rebel against God. (Numbers 14:9)
7.    They considered the enemy as already defeated. (Numbers 14:9)
8.    Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes which is an expression of sorrow and despair. (Numbers 14:6)

Read Numbers 14:11-48
1.    How did Moses react to the situation?
2.    Moses asked God to be merciful to the people.  What defense did he make?
3.    What was God’s response? 
4.    What does this story tell us about God’s mercy?

Now read Numbers 14:39-45. 
1.    It appears as if the people did not learn their lesson.   The fickle crowd decided that they wanted to enter the Promised Land after all.  What was the consequence of their rebellion?
2.    Why was God so patient with the Israelites?

Life Application
1.    Do you believe that God wants to bless you and that He has a wonderful plan for your life? Why or why not?
2.    Are you willing to follow Him, even if you are unsure what lies ahead?
3.    The Children of Israel were about to enter the great unknown and they were terrified.  Because they were unwilling to courageously follow God into the land He had prepared, they forfeited all the wonderful blessings He had in mind for them. 
a.    What fears keep you from becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ?
b.    What can you do to overcome those fears?
c.    How can the members of your MOSAIC group help you become fearless and faithful?
4.    The verses below are filled with words of encouragement.  Have the members of your group read these verses out loud.  Pick your favorite and memorize it this week.
•    Jeremiah 29:11
•    Philippians 4:13
•    Proverbs 3:4-6
•    2 Timothy 1:7
•    Romans 8:28
•    Isaiah 43:1-3   
•    Romans 8:31
•    Hebrews 12:1-2


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