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Saturday, June 30, 2012

There are Giants in the Land

There Are Giants in the Land

God made a promise to the Jewish people-the people He called His own –a promise that He would give them a special land to live in – a land flowing with milk and honey – a Promised Land!  Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation.  And when God called Abraham and asked him to leave his home and his relatives, God promised Abraham that He would lead him to this special Promised Land. This new homeland would belong to him and to his descendants after him. God gave this promise again to Abrahams’ son, Isaac and again to Isaacs’ son, Jacob, who was later given the name “Israel” by God.   Every Jewish child born in the growing tribe of “Israel” learned that God had promised their people a special homeland. 

Jacobs’ large family (the Israelites) had gone to Egypt during a severe famine and had stayed there.  After four hundred years Jacob’s family was still in Egypt and had been forced into slavery by the Egyptians. And by now the Israelites had grown into a nation of about two million people. It was into this mix that God came to Moses and called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and back to their Promised Land. 

Of course the Egyptians did not want to lose their Jewish slaves and Pharaoh refused to allow them to leave Egypt. So God set the Jewish people free by sending plagues and even death (the Passover) upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh finally changed his mind and allowed them to go.  

 The Jewish people were overjoyed and they packed up and left Egypt, but then Pharaoh changed his mind again and sent his armies after them to bring them back. The Jewish people had traveled as far as the Red Sea when they looked back and saw Pharaoh’s armies coming after them.  Terrified, the panic stricken people began crying and screaming. The Red Sea was too deep for them to cross. What were they to do? They were stuck between the Red Sea and the cruel Egyptian armies wielding their spears and swords. Would they all be killed by the soldiers? 

So God performed yet another mighty act and caused a wind to open the Red Sea so that all the Jewish people with their wagons and animals and little children could cross over easily . Then when the Egyptian armies chasing them arrived and started to cross the Red Sea, the winds changed and the waters closed in around them keeping them from capturing the Jews. The Jewish people only had to stand and watch as their God delivered them from the Egyptians by performing one miracle after another.

But Gods’ miracles and protection did not stop for the Jewish nation after He delivered them from Egypt. To reach their promised land the Jewish people had to walk across a hot dry desert- a wilderness- with all their animals and wagons and children. And God was with them every step of the way.  By day God led the people through the wilderness.  His presence was with them in the form of a pillar of cloud and by night God stayed there in their campsite in the form of a pillar of fire.(Exodus 13:21-22)  God gave the Israelites food (manna) (Exodus 16:19-35) every morning and when they couldn’t find enough water He caused water to flow out of a rock.

This was a special time. God was performing miracle after miracle to bring the Jewish people back to their Promised Land. Wouldn’t you like to have been there? If you could take yourself back in time and visit those traveling Jews in the desert you could see for yourself Gods’ presence in the pillar of cloud gently leading the group during the day. And if you camped with them at night  you could look out of  your tent and see Gods’ presence in the pillar of fire standing there in the middle of the campground and you would know that God was there protecting everyone.

 Every morning you could run outside with a basket and gather your food for the day.  God left new  manna for them to eat each morning.-little pieces of sweet bread like dew scattered everywhere on the bushes and rocks.  New manna appeared each morning  month after month – enough for everyone to eat. (Exodus 16)  Everyone could clearly see Gods’ glory right there with them in the camp. And they could see that God was feeding them and providing for their every need.

After many months this large tribe of traveling Jews had finally crossed the desert and was getting near their destination - their Promised Land.  At this point, God told Moses to send twelve men, one from each of the twelve tribes, into the Promised Land (called Canaan) to check out the land.  So Moses called twelve men, one from each tribe, and sent them to spy out the land and bring back a report of what it was like. The twelve men left and spent forty days spying out the Promised Land, and when they returned to camp all the excited people gathered around to hear what they had to say.

Ten of the twelve men who checked out the land gave the Jewish people a bad report. And only two of the twelve gave a good report. This is what ten men in the group told the Jewish people. “The land truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. (They brought back some of the luscious fruits)  Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large: moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there - who are giants.”  (Numbers 13:27b-28) 

When the people heard this they began to cry and grumble.  Two of the twelve spies- Caleb and Joshua - didn’t agree with the other ten.  Caleb stood before the people and quieted them down and told them: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”  (Numbers 13:30)  Joshua agreed with Caleb and begged the people to trust God and not be afraid of the giants. God had taken care of everything else on their journey- with miracles and mighty acts- so He would take care of any problems they might have with giants as they took over their land.  Joshua and Caleb called upon the people to have faith in God and move forward.    

But ten of the men who had spied out the land disagreed and reported: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.  The land …is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people who we saw in it are giants.  …and we are like grasshoppers next to them.”  (Numbers 13:31b, 32b, 33)

After all that God had done for the Jewish people, taking care of them, and performing miracle after miracle to bring them this far, surely the people would trust God to take them on into their promised land!  But sadly Scripture says that the crowd listened to the ten men who scared them with stories of giants. And they forgot that God had always been there for them in power.  All night long the people cried and wept.  They complained against Moses and Aaron and against God and said to one another: “Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims?  Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?...Let us select another leader and return to Egypt.?  (Numbers 14:3-4)  They all refused to trust God and move ahead and instead decided to select another leader to take them back to Egypt and slavery. 

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes.  Then Joshua stood up and pleaded once more with the crowd.  But they all started shouting frantically and running at him, grabbing stones to stone him.  As the crazed crowd circled around Joshua to kill him, God showed up. “The glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all of the children of Israel.” (Numbers 14:10b)

And God was angry.  He spoke to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me?  How long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?”  (Numbers 14:11)  God said that He would disinherit the Jewish people and make Moses’ children into His people.  And amazingly Moses argued back with God and begged Him to give the Jewish people another chance. And then even more amazingly, God listened to Moses, and changed His mind. 

Since the Jewish nation had refused to trust God and go into their land, God gave them what they wanted.  God promised that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years.  He promised that all of the adults who had voted against going into the land would never go into the land.  And after they had all died (over the next forty years) out in the desert then their children would go into the land.

 And that is what happened. After forty years the generation who refused to trust God was all gone.  The ten men who checked out the land and didn’t trust God but stirred up the people with talk of giants – all ten got sick and died.  Only Joshua and Caleb, the two men who encouraged the people to trust God – lived and later led the next generation of Jews (the children of the faithless generation) into their land.

This is one dramatic Bible story. What can we learn from it?  The Jewish people in the story only focused on the giants and seemed to forget their God. They feared that they would fight the giants in their own strength. God was angry with their lack of trust in Him.  Because of their lack of faith in God they never entered the Promised Land.  Their unbelief left them in the wilderness.

Do we have impossible circumstances (giants) in our lives?  And are we afraid that we will have to fight our giants all alone in our own strength?  Are we like the Jewish people and forget that God is there with us? That prayer changes things? Scripture says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrew 11:6)  Faith in God is all important. God has so many good plans for our lives.  He wants to lead us into the Promised Land.  But we need to trust Him.  Let’s learn to trust God with our giants.  We don’t want to be left wandering in the wilderness.










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