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April 3—Lenten Devotional 2014

April 3—Lenten Devotional 2014

Lent 2014At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large”…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 this people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the Israelites an unfavourable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
Numbers 13:25-28, 30-33

Psst! I don’t like to admit this but I tend to awfulize. What I mean is, I tend to exaggerate the future in some awful ways. I can lie awake awfulizing, imagining the worst that can happen, hallucinating that I can somehow see the future. I escalate a minor incident into a catastrophe and fabricate mountains out of molehills.

So I read today’s text and think I understand what is happening: the Israelites are awfulizing the future. They have just left Mount Sinai where God has bestowed on them the dignity of being “a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). He commands them to go forward but they pull back in fear. They are unwilling to enter into the Promised Land and possess their possessions. Rather, they delay, asking permission to appoint a committee to conduct a feasibility study for pressing on to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:22). Although God had always promised to bring them safely to the Promised Land, they want to study it.

Today’s text provides the majority report from the committee: the land is good flowing with milk and honey, but “We are not able to go against this people, for they are stronger than we are…to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them”. Clearly they suffer from a grasshopper complex affecting how they perceive God, themselves, and their problems. C. H. Mackintosh comments on this sad episode in the Exodus story:

Not a word about God. He is entirely shut out. Had they thought of Him – had they brought the giants into comparison with Him, then it would have made not one whit of difference as to whether they themselves were grasshoppers, or whether they were men. But, in point of fact they, by their shameful unbelief, reduced the God of Israel to the level of a grasshopper (Notes on the Pentateuch).

Not a word about God! How tragic! When we shut God out, our problems naturally become giants. Oswald Chambers rightly reminds: “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties” (My Utmost for His Highest).

REFLECTION

  • Do you sense God calling you to move forward in some way but fear might be holding you back? If so, what is that fear? Talk to God about your fear.
  • Take some moments to meditate on the words of the Apostle Paul to an often timid and fearful Timothy: “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (II Timothy 1:7).
  • Take into your day the promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

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