Before I get to dive into God’s Word, I want to take some time and simply thank the community of Sallisaw for being so supportive of my wife and me over the past few days. God is taking care of us in an amazing way, as He does for all of His people. I have had a greater opportunity to share His gospel as a result of everything that God is doing and will continue to do in my life. I have a peace that I cannot explain. I received an amazing opportunity to stand with Christ and, by His grace, He has furthered His own kingdom and glory as a result.
Needless to say, my wife and I are now looking for a church home and a place where I can follow Jesus while serving the role of a biblical pastor. Please keep us in your prayers, for we desire more than anything to see God accomplish His plan and purpose in us, through us, and in the local church. We do not know where God will lead, but we are more determined than ever to follow Him closely.
This being known, God definitely has a plan that He desires His people participate in. He will accomplish His plan. It wasn’t long ago that I got to walk through Genesis, Exodus 20, and Leviticus 19 with you. After God gave the Law at Mount Sinai and gave His people a structure to facilitate His own glory, God brought the people to Canaan (the Promised Land)!
In Genesis 15, we read the story of how God promised Abraham that, in 400 years, He would give Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. Now, that time had come. God had a plan and purpose that He was working to accomplish. Would the Israelites follow? Will we follow, today?
Numbers 13:1-25 HCSB
The Lord spoke to Moses: “Send men to scout out the land of Canaan I am giving to the Israelites. Send one man who is a leader among them from each of their ancestral tribes.” Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran at the Lord’s command. All the men were leaders in Israel. These were their names:
Shammua son of Zaccur from the tribe of Reuben;
Shaphat son of Hori from the tribe of Simeon;
Caleb son of Jephunneh from the tribe of Judah;
Igal son of Joseph from the tribe of Issachar;
Hoshea son of Nun from the tribe of Ephraim;
Palti son of Raphu from the tribe of Benjamin;
Gaddiel son of Sodi from the tribe of Zebulun;
Gaddi son of Susi from the tribe of Manasseh (from the tribe of Joseph);
Ammiel son of Gemalli from the tribe of Dan;
Sethur son of Michael from the tribe of Asher;
Nahbi son of Vophsi from the tribe of Naphtali;
Geuel son of Machi from the tribe of Gad.
These were the names of the men Moses sent to scout out the land, and Moses renamed Hoshea son of Nun, Joshua.
When Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, he told them, “Go up this way to the Negev, then go up into the hill country. See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. Is the land they live in good or bad? Are the cities they live in encampments or fortifications? Is the land fertile or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not? Be courageous. Bring back some fruit from the land.” It was the season for the first ripe grapes.
So they went up and scouted out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob near the entrance to Hamath. They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were living. Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. When they came to the Valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, which was carried on a pole by two men. They also took some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut there. At the end of 40 days they returned from scouting out the land.
From Genesis 15 onward, we know what God’s plan is for the Israelites. He was going to give them the land of Canaan so that they would be established in God’s name and so that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would be born through this people in this region. In verse two, God commands Moses, telling him to send men to explore the Promised Land, a land that God was giving to the Israelites.
There is something that we need to constantly remind ourselves of as we live. It is so easy for us to forget that God is sovereign, that He has a plan and a purpose, and that He is working all things together to accomplish that plan and purpose. When I think on God’s sovereignty, I am always brought back to Romans 8:28-29:
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.
Even when the Israelites arrived at the land of Canaan this first time, all things were working together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Throughout history, God has been constantly and consistently working all things together so that all of those He foreknew and predestined would also be called and glorified. From the foundation of the world, God has been working all things in accordance with His own purpose and to accomplish His own plan.
Even though God knew exactly what good things He was working together, the Israelites had no idea. They were in a foreign country. There were out of their comfort zone. They were in distress and they complained much about their circumstances. They were in the habit of committing idolatry over and over again. Just before we arrive at this text in Numbers, Miriam and Aaron (Moses closest relatives), because they lack faith, turn against Moses and against God. God instructed Moses to send some men to explore what He was about to give. These men would go, they would gain a vision for the land, they would see the fruit of the land, and they would be dreamers excited about the good things that God had in store. God had already promised the land! God works all things together from the foundation of the world for the good of His people according to His own plan and purpose!
This truth speaks so deeply into my life right now. I am in transition. I don’t know what is next. I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that God is working all things together, even the circumstances of my life, for the good of His chosen people in accordance with His will and purpose. As the church, we can be excited about any direction that God wants to lead us in, even if it is different than what we are used to because God is the one who is working everything together. We remember, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. God is about to give them this land. God is also leading us for our own good and for His glory. There are fruits ahead that we cannot possibly fathom. So, like the Israelites, we can explore what God has as He points us in the direction of His will.
As we walk through chapters 13-14 of Numbers, I want to compare it with the letter that John wrote to a church in Revelation 3:7-11. John wrote the words of Christ to the local church in Philadelphia (in modern day Turkey). Jesus opens doors that no one else can open and closes doors that no one else can close. How magnificently does this idea speak into the life of the church? We can get excited about all that Christ has for our future because He is the only one who can open the doors and lead us into godliness. When we lead ourselves, though, we end up stuck because we try to open doors that only Christ can open. We end up trying to stop things from happening when those are precisely the things that Christ wants to do in us and through us. The Israelites would soon discover this truth, but we have not yet arrived at that part of the story.
God is sovereign, God has a plan, God has a purpose, and God is working all things together to accomplish what He has set forth to accomplish. There is both a great comfort and a great challenge in this truth.
Moses selected twelve men, one from each tribe, to go and explore the land of Canaan, and to discover all that God was going to give. He told the men to go and see what sort of opposition they had and to spy out the fruits of the land, bringing some back if possible. Indeed, the people saw all that God had for them in the land. They also saw giant men, sons of Anak. They saw mighty fortresses. They saw the sheer numbers of the Canaanites. Their fear began to overshadow their zeal for God’s plan. Thus, I am reminded of the sin nature of humankind. We can have the full promise of God, the plan and direction that God has given, and even the vision of what God is going to work together for our good. Still, the fear that we face in our sinfulness will cause us to lose sight of God’s promise and God’s sovereignty in and over our lives. We will get to unpack this more in the coming weeks, together. I will suffice, here, to say that God has very real fruit that He desires to bring about in our lives and in our churches. Many times, we reject that fruit because of our own sinfulness. God will accomplish His plan and purpose. We have the great opportunity to become either willing or rebellious participants in God’s grand narrative. In John 15, Jesus even promises that those who abide in Christ and in His word will bear much fruit because Jesus produces that fruit through His people, who have been grafted in by Him and Him alone. There is a very real promise that will be accomplished by Christ through His genuine people, His church, His bride! We don’t have to, in sin, allow fear to grip us and keep us from exploring what God has for our good and His own glory.
Considering this, the phrase, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” is truer than we know. What is to God already accomplished because He, the sovereign Lord, is working all things together according to His purpose and will, is to us only a possibility. Thus, we have a need for godly vision in the direction that God is leading. Without any vision of possibility, we prove that we are not willing pursuers of God’s direction; a direction that He has mapped out from the foundation of the world. Here, then, is the challenge for us as individuals, as families, and as local churches: We pursue God’s direction for our lives and ministries even though we may not understand what God is working out. When we try to hold on to what is, we render ourselves unable to enter a sort of promised land. We take comfort in the truth that God, in His sovereignty, is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and for the purpose of His own glory (which He graciously shares with His people).
On my first day of kindergarten, I did not want to go to school because I was afraid. It was my mom’s plan that I go. She took me to school and I began to be educated. Now I am glad that I went. There are no regrets when we follow the direction of the good, good Father. I am learning this more and more, especially here recently.