Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 12 May 2022:
Numbers 13:1, 9 — “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites….. 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 gives us challenges as part of His blessings in order to mature and strengthen us, to teach us to trust and rely upon Him, to reveal Himself to others as He works miraculously through our lives, to develop our character and competence, and to prepare us for greater things in the future. For God’s children, challenges are not curses but blessings – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29)
In the beginning, God didn’t place Adam and Eve in a self-sufficient, self-sustaining garden with nothing to do but relax and enjoy it; rather, He gave them a garden which needed to be worked. Hard work was part of the blessing. It was Adam and Eve’s sin which turned the blessing of work into fruitless toil and bitterness – “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. …cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 2:18; Genesis 3:17-19) God intends for us to rejoice in all circumstance, radiating love, joy, and peace, knowing He is only providing us what is very best for us, whether comfort or hardship – “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) The Lord will “test” us with trials, not so He can see what we are made of (He already knows), but rather so we will see what we are still lacking and draw closer to Him as we grow up in areas of our lives where we are still weak and immature. God never tempts us; the world the flesh and the devil are what turn tests into temptations to distrust our perfectly loving and Sovereign Lord and to take matters into our own hands from a self-centered perspective for selfish purposes.
God promised to miraculously give the Israelites the choices land in the region after their 40 years of wandering in the desert, but the promised land included challenges as part of the blessing. Only through challenges can individuals or groups of people grow into noble character and culture. As someone once said, “A life of ease will ruin a person.” Today, when the spies observe the giant people of the land, all but two “rebel against the Lord” and turn the test into temptation, adding sorrow which God didn’t desire for them. Today, see your challenges as part of the blessing, and respond to them with love, joy, peace, contentment, and enthusiasm, resting on God’s promises and truths such as Romans 8:28. Don’t rebel against the Lord in ingratitude, bitterness, and self-centeredness. And don’t be like the rebellious spies who discouraged everyone around them with their doom and gloom spirits. Rejoice in all things and bring joy to others around you.
Here are several verses about remaining thankful through trials: https://www.openbible.info/topics/being_thankful_for_our_trials
God had given the Israelites the land of Canaan so His people would dominate and control the most strategic piece of terrain in the region for His glory. However, the people sinned and rebelled by failing to trust God and face the enemy. They failed to act because they were afraid. Due to their lack of faith and lack of action, the Canannites would control the crossroads of international trade and cultural influence for another 40+ years, and the Jews would continue to wander the desert. Arguably, we have largely ceded control of society’s major institutions of influence (schools, media, government, art, entertainment, science, etc) to unbelievers due to fear and rebellion against the King who called His people to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth — to make disciples among all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey. “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?”
Numbers 13:2 – “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.”
God made the promise before He demanded a commitment. Trust in God’s promises, accept His tasks, and obey Him in all things with not only steadfastness but also with confidence, joy, peace, and enthusiasm. Be known for your relentlessly positive spirit, and when others ask how you do it, introduce them to Jesus.
Numbers 13:1-2, 21, 25 – The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.”… So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, near Lebo-hamath…. At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land.
God’s people follow God’s instructions. God protects His faithful servants.
Numbers 13:30-33 – But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
Carrying out God’s mission is not enough if you do not learn faith in it.
God wants you to look at what He can do, not what the enemy can do.
1 Corinthians 6: 1, 4, 5, 7 — When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? … So, if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame…. To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
Christians are not to take disputes between one another to the secular court system – this is shameful and defeats our witness before the world. It is better to suffer wrong and be defrauded than to defame the Church and the Name of Christ with public, worldly disputes.
In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us specific instructions for how to settle disputes with Christians — “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Jesus spoke in a more challenging way about disputes in Matthew 5:38-41 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
Matters between Christians are to be settled within the church by leaders within the congregation; but how often have you seen Christians actually adhere to this teaching? Today we even see entire church denominations suing each other in public, secular courts, surrendering their authority as “priests” to unbelievers. And how often do we see Christians going to secular counselors to solve their problems instead of church leaders? What does this say about the condition of the church? How much do church culture and norms reflect what God actually intended for the body of Christ? What might you have accepted that is unacceptable?
More verses for consideration:
- Romans 12:17-21 — Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Matthew 5:43-48 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- 1 Peter 3:9 — Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:15 — See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
- Proverbs 20:22 — Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
- Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 May 22: Today, practice being wronged in a way that brings glory to God, using the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel rather than to defend your ‘rights.’