Monday, October 8, 2012

Tragedy of Unbelief

Numbers 14:2-3  2All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

The Tragedy of Unbelief
What happens when people don't believe God's Word? One word: Tragedy.  In today's blog I want us to look at the tragic decision made by a whole generation that rejected God's Word.  This decision led Israel to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.  Like the barring of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden following their rebellion, we see God barring these people from enjoyment of the promised land due to their rebellion. 

What makes unbelief so tragic? Consider the story of Israel's rebellion in Numbers 13-14 in the following points below:

1. They were to Consider the Promised land. Numbers 13:1-24
God had redeemed these people out of Egypt to not only bring them to Mount Sinai to worship, but to ultimately bring them into the Promised land.  God's Covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been a promise to both they and their descendants.  God was wanting them to possess the promises.  However they first had to consider the land - which meant exploring it.  They were given the opportunity to spend 40 days investigating the "promised land" to determine if it was what God said it was.  Would they trust their reason and opinion, or God's revelation and Word? 

2. A Conflicting Report.  Numbers 13:25-33
After 40 days the 12 spies returned.  10 of them stated that the land was too big and the occupants too strong - whereas two of the spies (Joshua & Caleb) said that the land could be taken.  The ten spies said that it was impossible; whereas Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who believed God, said that with Him all things are possible.  Which report would the people believe? The majority or minority report?

3. A Costly Choice.  Numbers 14:1-10
Some of the saddest words in Holy Writ are recorded in Numbers 14:3-4  3“Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

4. A Compassionate Intercessor.  Numbers 14:11-19
God was rightfully and justly provoked at these people.  He desired to destroy them (Numbers 14:12).  Yet Moses interceded and pleaded for them (Numbers 14:13-19).  Remarkably lest God the Holy Spirit had raised up in Moses the desire to intercede, there would had been no intercession in the first place.  Moses - picturing for us Jesus Christ - stood in the gap.  The people were spared total immediate destruction - however their decision came at a great cost.

5. A Curse. Numbers 14:20-38
Numbers 14:29 says it all - "29your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me."  Reminiscent of Adam and Eve in the Garden whenever they received the curse of God for their sin, the unbelief of those ten spies spread like gangreen through the whole camp - consigning a whole generation to non-entry into the promised land. 

6. Concluding Tragedy of Unbelief - Death.  Numbers 14:39-45
The people of Israel refused to accept God's sentence.  They presumed that they could possess the promise of God without God.  To presume means taking God's word out of context, making it fit my context and thus assume I still have His blessing.  Unbelief will use God's word from yesterday to attempt what needs to be done today.  Unbelief wants the things of God - but not God Himself.  According to Hebrews 3:19, the people could not enter due to unbelief.  As a result of their folly, Numbers 14:45 tells us that the enemies of Israel struck them down.  Tragedy indeed!

How to avoid the tragedy of unbelief
The tragedy of unbelief does not have to be your tragedy nor mine.  Hebrews 3 and 4 revisits this episode from Numbers 13-14 and states in Hebrews 4:11 "Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience."  Christians have the scriptures (Hebrews 4:12); the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14) and the power of prayer (Hebrews 4:15-16).  True faith receives and pursues what it receives.  If you have received Christ by faith - pursue Him!  Only in Him can you avoid the tragedy of unbelief. 

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