Land of the giants – Numbers 13-14

Back when I was a boy one of the very first television science fiction series told the story of a spacecraft which crashed on a planet remarkably similar to earth, except that on this planet the spacecraft is only a foot long and the passengers only an inch tall. The series followed the adventures of this gallant band in what was called “The Land of the Giants”. Anybody else remember that series? It was really “Gulliver’s Travels” in space! But that plot was really borrowed not from Jonathan Swift but from the Book of Numbers, where ten out of the twelve spies found the promised land of Canaan to be “a Land full of Giants”.

The spies reported back that it was indeed a land full of blessing.
Num 13:27 “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.
All God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and the Israelites in Egypt were fulfilled. God keeps His promises!

But it was also a land full of dangers.
28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there … 31“We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 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. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

The Nephalim were the great warriors, a legendary race of ancient giants. So the spies’ description of the Canaanites may have had some truth in it! Humanly speaking the Israelites did face great odds. But God is Almighty! God can do anything! Nevertheless the spies were afraid about the cost of the battles ahead and the Israelites began to grumble and complain again.
3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Like many other stories in the Old Testament, this story of the Land of the Giants is a picture for us of our own story. God calls us to claim the victory in our own lives and enter into the promised land. In particular God calls us to proclaim Christ and share his gospel with a needy world. But too often the world around, even Chelmsford, can seem like a land full of giants. Sent out as lambs amongst wolves, we can be paralysed with fear at the task of evangelism God has entrusted to us. We can be made to feel like grasshoppers when we consider the challenge of mission! And indeed in some ways even North Springfield is a land full of giants! Indeed the whole world can seem full of giants!

Nationwide challenges to the gospel

Britain is no longer a Christian country! But so often churches and Christians try to live as if it was! We live in a rapidly changing world. God calls His church to be “the people of the future” but too often we live as “people of the past”. The last 30 or 40 years have seen enormous changes in the world around.

SECULARISATION – the declining influence of Christianity and Christian values, decreasing importance of the church in the lives and thinking of ordinary people. We live in a “disenchanted” world, where worship of God has been replaced by science and technology. Now if people are looking for spiritual experiences, they no longer look to the church but rather to the occult and the New Age.

PLURALISATION – Christianity is no longer the only, or even the dominant faith. It is now seen only as one option amongst many on offer in the supermarket of beliefs. Political correctness now forbids Christians from claiming that Christ is the only way to God. Some local authorities are now removing Bibles and Christian symbols like the cross from places like hospitals and schools and prisons, ostensibly for fear of upsetting the other religions.

PRIVATISATION – our lives are becoming more and more isolated, local community and even family life are being replaced by the anonymity of “society” and the individualism which encourages us to communicate with strangers across the globe by phone and text and email, when we don’t even know the names of the people who live across the street. Faith is squeezed into our private lives – as the media portray Christianity as outdated and irrelevant.

CONSUMERISM – in every area of life people demand choice and satisfaction guaranteed, not just in shopping and entertainment, but this week in health and healthcare, and increasingly even in religion.

“Land of the Giants.” Against the international giants of Secularisation and Pluralisation and Privatisation and Consumerism, it’s very easy for Christians to be discouraged! Against such giants, God calls us to stand up for the historical truths of our faith and to give the world an example of true community, to believe what we preach and preach what we believe! We have GOOD NEWS – how can we keep it to ourselves?
Local Challenges to the gospel – particularly in Chelmsford

MATERIALISM – very many people in North Springfield have plenty. They don’t just have enough to survive. They don’t just have enough to be content. Compared to billions around the world most people in Chelmsford have more than enough and plenty to spare. Of cash. Of possessions. Of money in the bank to guard them for a rainy day. Very many people never consider whether they need treasures in heaven because they have plenty of treasures on earth. They are not necessarily trapped by greed, which is idolatry. They are simply deceived by all the earthly goods they possess into thinking that there isn’t anything more to search for. Instead of possessing their goods, their goods possess them! The God-shaped-gap in their hearts is buried under career and hobbies and holidays and “things” and that great god “entertainment.”

BUSYNESS – even if people in Chelmsford do start thinking about the ultimate questions of life and eternity, those questions get squeezed out of many lives by sheer busyness. Commuting. Hobbies. The demands of family life rushing to get the children to three places as once. The pace of life here means that nobody has time to reflect on spiritual things.
“What is this life, so full of care? We have no time to stop and stare!”

COMPLACENCY – the people around us, our neighbours and friends, are not usually people who are struggling to cope with life. They are not usually burdened with guilt looking for somebody to forgive them, because most haven’t ever done anything particularly bad. They are not ground down with poverty. Most aren’t trapped in alcoholism or drug abuse. Most people in North Springfield are living satisfying, contented lives. They don’t worry about what will happen when they die, because life here and now has been generally good to them. Most people are happy non-believers. They never ever ask the really important questions of life – where did I come from, why am I here, who created me, does God really exist? They never see the need to think about questions like that. They are not trapped by obvious sin, but simply by complacency.

“Land of the Giants”. Against the giants of materialism and busyness and complacency the church must be BOLD to proclaim the gospel. God is God Almighty, creator and sustainer of the universe! God deserves to be worshipped! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and exalted at God’s right hand! The gospel is not an offer which people can choose to accept or reject. The gospel is an announcement which demands our obedience. Jesus is Lord! And EVERY knee must bow!
Specific Challenges to the Gospel WITHIN the church

North Springfield Baptist Church is a small church.

Not enough people – to run all the activities we want to run. Not enough to do the kind of outreach we want to do.

Not enough money – facing a deficit of thousands of pounds in the budget for 2013

Not enough space – we had NINE babies and toddlers in crèche this morning. Not enough space in what we call the crèche room!

And then many of our church members and friends are facing all kinds of giants in their own lives. Battles with illness. Challenges in the workplace, or even to find a job. Struggles to survive on fixed incomes. The limitations which the passing years bring on. Stress, anxiety, insecurity, feelings of inadequacy,. And perhaps when it comes to evangelism, the great giant very many of us have to do battle with is fear. Fear that others will laugh at us or reject us. Fear that we aren’t really very good at sharing our faith and that we might make a mess of it. Fear that we will let God down.

“Land of the Giants”. God is calling us to claim the victory over all these giants we face as a church and indeed in our own personal lives!

Just as the Israelites had to face their fears, so God is calling us to face our fears and go forward to
Possess the land!

We face the same discouragements

We feel we aren’t strong enough!
13:30 “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
If we take on all the giants at once we will indeed be overwhelmed. But if we seek God’s guidance to do the work God has for us, the specific good works He has prepared beforehand for us to do, we will be victorious. If we go out in our own strength we will fail. But in Christ’s strength, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

We feel it will cost us too much.

14:3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

Sharing the gospel does cost! Helping people in need does cost. In time as well as money. In energy and emotion too! But in God’s strength we CAN cope!

2 Cor 1:3-5 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

As well as the same discouragements as the Israelites, we also have

The same promises

Just two of the twelve spies sent into Canaan had faith. Caleb and Joshua had vision
30 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.”
We can certainly do it! If everything I have said so far has left you discouraged and depressed like the ten spies, I have failed and the devil has won. Instead let God win!

Deuteronomy 1 records what Moses said to the Israelites on that day.
29… “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

The Lord your God will fight for you. He will carry you! We need to learn to see our giants from God’s perspective. We seem like grasshoppers to them. But they are smaller than grasshoppers to God. Humanly speaking the giants can crush us! But in God’s strength we can trample over them.

Listen to the voices of Joshua and Caleb as they pleaded with the Israelites.
“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
God will be with us! God will lead us! God WILL give us the land. Do not be afraid. But more than that – do not rebel! For the Israelites, choosing not to go on with God was not just a missed opportunity. It was an act of rebellion against God! Choosing not to enter the land at that point was a sin which God would punish severely – with forty years of wandering in the wilderness. And apart from Joshua and Caleb, not one of that grumbling generation lived to enter the promised land! And so it can be with us. If Christians choose not to step out in faith and claim God’s promises, they don’t just miss out on the blessings. If Christians disobey God’s commands to reach out with the gospel, they can end up in the wilderness!

God commanded the Israelites to take possession of the promised land – and they disobeyed. That wasn’t just a missed opportunity. They delayed God’s purposes for forty years until every one of that faithless generation had been punished by death. That is certainly a warning of a sin to avoid! God calls us to stand up and be counted – to be bold and be strong in living the gospel and proclaiming the gospel and so to take possession of North Springfield in Jesus’s name! It’s a land full of giants, but if we have faith and prayer and obedience, God WILL give us the victory!

There is a song which that tremendous children’s worker Ishmael has made popular.
You may think I’m so young, Too young to understand
Don’t forget in God’s eyes He looks on me as grand
He never never limits The giant that’s in me
He leads me through my childhood, Supernaturally
I’m not a grasshopper I’m a giant in the Lord
I’m not a grasshopper I’m a giant in the Lord
I’m not a grasshopper I’m a giant in the Lord
I’m not a grasshopper I’m a giant in the Lord

Secularisation. Privatisation. Pluralisation. Consumerism. Materialism. Complacency. Busyness. The challenges of being a small church. And a hundred and one very personal giants we may need to confront.

May God give us the faith and obedience Caleb and Joshua showed.
“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

This entry was posted in Joshua.

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