Now that book 2 is at the publishers, I’ve started the outline of book 3! In doing so, I’ve been reading through Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. It’s really fun, but also really crazy all at the same time! Lots of books and lots of numbers and laws and details!
I spent a long time on Numbers 13 in my Bible study. This chapter always makes me so sad. This is when the twelve spies went into the Promised Land to spy it out, and came back bearing news of giants and more people than they could count. Ten of the spies (and by the way… One of those ten spies is going to be very important in book 2! I can’t wait for you to meet him! ) spread bad reports and anger and fear amongst the Israelites.
Only two out of the twelve spies, Caleb and Joshua, stood up for what was right.
Caleb said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”
How did Caleb know this? Because God had said in the beginning of the chapter, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel.” (emphasis mine)
God had already said that He was going to give them the land! He would give them the strength, the power, and perform whatever miraculous signs He needed to in order to give them the land. What did the other ten spies say in response?
“We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.”
Too strong for the Israelites, yes. But too strong for God? No way!! How did they so quickly forget that God had killed all the firstborn males in Egypt in one single night? Or all of the devastating, terrible plagues? Or the parting of the Red Sea? Or the incredible victory against the Amalekites? Or His display of power at Mt. Sinai?
But the Israelites are like us. We forget. We focus on our feelings and how inadequate they feel instead of what God has promised that He will do for us.
This is going to sound like a very random tangent, so bear with me here for a moment. But I was studying this passage a lot last year when a big thing happened to make me realize that I wasn’t any better than the Israelites.
Last year I was an assistant pianist and acting coach in a modern-day play called “An Audience of One” with my acting group, Spiritual Twist Productions. The story was about two girls who had dreams of going to Broadway and were stars in their local high school. But when a new youth pastor comes to their church and starts talking about glorifying God with everything in their lives and doing “real musical theatre,” the girls lives are changed. The play is very funny, entertaining, but has so much truth about living holy lives devoted to the Lord and finding His will for our life. And since this was a modern play, it was also really hard to pull off the acting. After all, there weren’t really costumes or make-up to help us get into character. We had to become someone we weren’t, but in our normal clothes! It was hard!
Many of the characters – well really, the whole cast and crew! – where having a hard time “letting go.” We all prayed so hard, but yet we’re all perfectionists. We kept trying in our own strength, and we kept falling flat on our faces. We wanted to control our performance instead of giving it to God. We knew that His strength was sufficient for us, but we didn’t really believe it.
Finally, our director had us gather in a circle and we spent almost forty minutes as a cast and crew praying for God’s anointing, His Holy Spirit, and most importantly, His strength. We all finally let go of ourselves and our desires and our fears and our strength, and allowed God to fill us with His.
And He did.
He made the play more amazing than we could ever have imagined. But everyone will gladly tell you that it wasn’t us at all. It was all God. But God had to bring us to that breaking point of realizing that we couldn’t rely on our strength anymore. Instead, we had to rely on Him and His power and His Holy Spirit and His strength. The Israelites forgot that. And we forget that, too. Sometimes I feel like I forget that lesson and learn it again every single day!
I wish the Israelites had gone into the Promised Land the first time and not focused on what they couldn’t do, and instead focused on what God could do. But then, I guess we wouldn’t have learned this really important lesson about not trusting in ourselves. I hope this lesson encourages you like it encouraged me and the whole cast and crew at Spiritual Twist Productions. I guess we’re not much better than the Israelites, after all.