The Crisis of Belief: Numbers 13-14

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Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes–all the time! It must be that way, for God’s glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.
― Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day

“What should I do when I doubt God?”

Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God powerfully pinpoints the spiritual struggles that accompany our walk with God. One of the key decision points in Blackaby’s framework is called the Crisis of Belief, a moment when we understand what God wants us to do and decide whether or not we will do it. There are steps that lead up to that moment, including accepting God’s invitation to work with him, and observing where God is at a work, but the Crisis of Belief is pivotal. It’s a go or no-go, in or out, fish or cut bait moment.

A crisis is a dangerous unsettled time. Unsettled because choices must be made. The status quo is no longer an option. The choices are not obvious or easy. Dangerous because bad outcomes are possible or likely. But as speech makers like to say, the dangers are accompanied by opportunities.

When the twelve spies returned from Canaan to report to Moses, their recommendations prompted a Crisis of Belief of national proportions. Blackaby points to Moses’ decision at the burning bush as a typical crisis, but the one which occurred when the spies returned was like that one multiplied a million times.

Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!” Numbers 13:30-31

Only Caleb and Joshua (and presumably Moses) faced the crisis and chose to believe God. Everyone else among the Israelites failed the test. The Israelites looked at their own weaknesses. Caleb and Joshua focused on God’s strength. The Israelites looked at what they could do. Caleb and Joshua saw what God would do. The adult Israelites who did not believe died in the wilderness. Caleb and Joshua believed and entered the Promised Land.

Blackaby wrote about several characteristics of the crisis:

  • It will involve a task that is beyond your own ability, a “God-sized” task
  • It requires faith in God
  • It will require action
  • It will require an adjustment to your plans as you follow God’s plan

Crises are risky times because of the dangers that accompany them. Like the Israelites, we tend to magnify worldly dangers and downplay the hazards of disobeying God. Instead we need to act like Caleb and Joshua, who magnified the reward God offered them and downplayed the worldly threat.

God doesn’t want people to do what they think is best: he wants them to do what he knows is best, and no amount of reasoning and intellectualizing will discover that. God himself must reveal it.
― Henry T. Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership

So, my Brothers and Sisters, let us strip our discouragements and murmuring of all their disguises and see them in their true character and they will appear in their own naked deformity as discrediting God. It is true the difficulty before us may appear great, but it cannot be great to the Lord who has promised to make us more than conquerors. It is true the circumstances may appear unusually perplexing, but they cannot perplex Him who has promised to guide us with His counsel! And since we are well aware of this, it is clear that the true reason why we are so dismayed is not to be found in the difficulties and the circumstances, but in our misgivings of God. – Charles Spurgeon

Image from pixabay.

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The anger of the LORD: Numbers 11-12

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Today’s reading: Numbers 11-13.

“The Old Testament God is an angry God.” True? Numbers gives some serious credence to that claim. If it is true, then it’s important to understand why, and to learn what it teaches us about God’s character.

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. Numbers 11:1

The Israelites angered God with their complaining, and his anger burned hot against them with literal fire.

Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Numbers 11:31-33

The people complained about eating only manna, and God responded by sending them a surplus of quail. But even as they ate the meat, his anger boiled over and struck them with sickness.

      Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this … “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them. When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam–leprous, like snow. Numbers 12:1-2, 6-10

Moses’ brother and sister were envious of his status, and openly criticized him, and in his anger God made Miriam leprous. In a short span of time the people kindled God’s wrath three times with devastating results. I’m not sure which was more predictable: God’s anger or the foolishness of the people who kept on provoking him. In thinking about the situation, I’m impressed by the following:

  • God and the Israelites now lived side by side, and interactions were immediate
  • The people were greatly accountable for they had been eye-witnesses of God’s repeated miracles, deliverance, and presence in the tabernacle
  • They had been promised great reward in the near future, with every reason to trust God’s promise based on his past performance

God’s anger was repeatedly stoked by their complaints. They complained about hardships, the lack of meat in their diet, and, in Miriam’s case, about Moses’ special status. The common theme was dissatisfaction; the people were unhappy and ungrateful with God’s provision. They said, in essence, “God, you are not enough.”

I have to ask myself at this point why God’s patience failed, for longsuffering is another hallmark of God’s character. But here all is feverish anger. To understand why, consider John Piper’s mantra: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” If God is most exalted, pleased, or praised when I most desire and enjoy him, then will the opposite also be true? Is God most dishonored when I am most critical, unhappy, and dissatisfied with him? And what if the ones who are most critical of God are also the ones who are closest to him, both physically and spiritually? Now I begin to understand the depth of God’s anger.  “To whom much is given, much is required.” The people who walked most closely with God complained most about him, and learned at great expense that God will be glorified, not dishonored.

Although believers by nature, are far from God, and children of wrath, even as others, yet it is amazing to think how nigh they are brought to him again by the blood of Jesus Christ. George Whitefield

Image by Uncle Jerry on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0