3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
Numbers 13:3-4 (NLT)
I have to admit and give credit to where credit is due. Today’s Kingdom Musings are inspired by something I read this morning from another fellow blogger Matthew Winters. Though we have never met, we are connected because we shared a dark journey through an identical situation-a pastor who experiences divorce first hand. I encourage you to read his blog Does Anyone Take Risks Anymore? Thanks Matthew for unclogging my mind to write in this blog again.
As with all Scripture, one needs to know the context of a passage in order to understand it and apply it to our lives. God has been leading the Hebrews to the Promised Land through His chosen leader Moses. Besides always providing for their physical needs, God has been visibly present with them. In the daytime it was in the pillar of cloud and at nighttime it was in the pillar of fire. Both evidences of His presence was clear and undeniable.
Even after a lot of grumbling and complaining, they are at the very edge of the land that God promised first to Abraham and now to them. Can you imagine the people redeemed by God’s grace, mercy and love actually grumbling and complaining? Aren’t you glad that people today redeemed by God’s grace, mercy and love never grumble or complain? Yes, I’m being sarcastic, one of my many gifts. To understand this passage we need to know what led up to it. In Numbers 13:1-2 (NLT) we read:
The Lord now said to Moses, “Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.” (emphasis mine)
They were to called out by God catch a glimpse of what HE was about to do. The inhabitants were formidable, but for God who spoke light into the darkness, it would be a walk in the park. Remember, HE is giving HIS personal guarantee that they would occupy the land and HE would give it to them. But when these explorers came back they acted in a very human manner-there was a Majority Report and a Minority Report. The Majority Report saw the risks and responded to the risks: “It just can’t be done! Before we even try, we are already whipped!” Remember that this report is given in the light of God’s Personal Guarantee: the land I am giving to the Israelites. It’s a report given by those who have been witnessing God’s faithfulness.
The Minority Report saw THE SAME RISKS and said, “Look, people, if God said HE will give us this land, let’s consider this a done deal. We don’t know exactly how He is going to pull this off, but that’s not my job. The fact is we were never called out to determine success or failure. We were called out to catch a wonderful glimpse of what God guaranteed HE would provide for us.” So, the people went with the minority report, right? WRONG!
People who had been faithfully provided food and water along the way, witnessed God delivering them in battle, AND who had witnessed the Faithful Presence of Cloud by Day and Fire by Night, want to go back to Egypt and back to slavery. Where did this come from? Well, it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. They had already given a clue to where they heart and mind was at before they arrived at the edge of risk. It is seen in Numbers 11:4-6 (NLT)
Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. 5 “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. 6 But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”
Rather than enjoying the faithfulness of God, they wanted onions. The price of the onions was to go back to slavery. The modern parallel is clear, at least to me. Today’s people of God, the church, are facing the same moment: Do we take the risk of going into God’s Promise or do we go maintain the status quo? The challenge for the Body of Christ here in the United States is do we keep on doing church work as normal or dare we take the risk of becoming involved in the work of the Kingdom of God? Congregations that have plateaued or declining are doing so for one of two reasons: Either their community is dying out, or they are more concerned with preserving the institution of their choice rather than doing the work of the Kingdom of God. There is an alternative to the slavery of decline.
There are congregations that are thriving and making new disciples. These are the congregations that have made Kingdom Work more important than church work. The promise of God is not to have a land of beautiful church buildings and wonderful church programs, but to put in the middle of the territory of the Enemy the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. This is our Promised Land-for the Kingdom of God to reach, touch and transform lives, homes, communities and nations. For this to happen we must be willing to take risks. And herein lies the problem.
When taking risks, there is the potential to fall flat on our faces. I see a lot of good people who mistakenly believe that failure is fatal. So to avoid becoming a fatality, they seek the comfort of the familiar because in the familiar, they live in the false illusion that they do have some type of control over their lives. And this false illusion makes them feel more comfortable than taking the risk of trusting the Guarantee of God! Comfort rules over risks for the Kingdom.
Recently I was at an event that was led by some of the Team Pastors of Grace Church located in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area of Florida. One of their pastor’s, Wes Olds said, “Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, do what we do. Fail early, fail often, and fail forward.” What he meant was that we need to be willing to learn from our mistakes and then move forward. Some of our best learning, especially in the realm of the Kingdom of God, happens through our failures. The problems arise hard and fast when we do not learn from our failures. Remember this: your failures, whether in the form of sin or in the form of trying to be faithful to our Kingdom God, never disqualifies you from God picking you up, dusting off your knees and telling you, “OK, get back out there! I still believe in you!”
So here’s what I would like to ask you to do. Answer this question:
Which do you prefer? Onions or The Promised Land?
Your answer is clearly revealed in how you feel about the risks of stepping into a future where success lies entirely in the Hands of The Faithful God, the hands that were nailed to a Cross, and a future that is never controlled by our hands. I personally know what it is like to walk into a future unknown by me. But I go ahead and walk into this future because I have chosen to hold the Hand, the ONLY Hand, that knows exactly how this future will turn out. My unknown future is only an illusion when I realize that God is in control of my life and my future; a future filled with His Promise. I love a good onion, especially with beans and cornbread, but I am choosing to let go of the onions of predictability and comfort and enter into an adventure with the One who redeemed me and calls me to catch a glimpse of what HE is about to do! Save the onions for hamburgers-go against the odds and remember that the Guarantee is given by the Faithful God!
Remember, love God with all your heart; love others the way God loves you; and make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Randy Burbank, a Kingdom Pastor…