by Zac Poonen 4 Feb 2018
In Numbers Chapter 13, we find that the Israelites came to Kadesh-barnea at the border of Canaan – the land that God had promised them. It was now two years since they left Egypt (Deuteronomy 2:14) and God told them to go in and possess the land. The Israelites sent twelve spies to survey the land. All twelve of them came back saying that the land was indeed a wonderful land. Ten of them however said, “But there are huge giants there and we cannot conquer them.” But two of them – Caleb and Joshua – replied saying, “The Lord will help us to conquer those big giants”. But the 600,000 Israelites listened to the majority.
How do you identify the man with whom God is standing? He speaks the language of faith. (Which comes from hearing the words of Christ)
What do we learn from this? First of all, that it is dangerous to follow the majority – because the majority is invariably wrong.
“The way to life is narrow and very few find it,” Jesus said.
The majority still go on the broad way to destruction. So if you follow the majority, you will certainly be along with them on the broad way to destruction. Don’t ever imagine that a large church is a spiritual church. Jesus’ church had only 11 members in it.
When ten leaders say one thing and two say the exact opposite, whose side will you take? God was on the side of the two here – Joshua and Caleb. Unbelief and Satan were on the side of the other ten. But the Israelites foolishly followed the majority – and that was why they had to wander in the wilderness for the next 38 years. They did not have the discernment to see whose side God was on! God plus one person is always a majority against any number of people – and so I want to stand with God always. We saw in Exodus 32 that God was on the side of just one man Moses, when all the Israelites were worshipping the golden calf. But of all the twelve tribes, only the tribe of Levi could see that then. And now when God was with Joshua and Caleb, even the tribe of Levi could not recognise it!
All of this has lessons for us today. Christendom in general is full of compromise and worldliness. Here and there, God raises up a few who stand for the truth of God’s word without any compromise. If you have discernment, you will recognise that God is with those few, and you will stand with them against the majority. And you will enter the promised land with them.
How do you identify the man with whom God is standing? He speaks the language of faith. Joshua and Caleb spoke the language of faith: “We can overcome. We can overcome the giants of anger, sexual lust, jealousy, murmuring and the love of money. We can overcome Satan. God will crush Satan under our feet” – that is the language of the man with whom God stands.
The man who is not with God says: “We must not take the Bible so literally. After all, we are only human. We will be defeated until the end of our lives. You have to understand human psychology.”
Quite honestly, I don’t care for “human psychology”. I believe God’s Word. Many Christians go astray exactly like those Israelites – through human reasoning. God has hidden these truths from the clever and the intelligent and revealed them to babes. If you use your human reasoning and your cleverness to study the Bible, I can guarantee that you will go astray.
What you need is the revelation of the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus picked fishermen to be His disciples, and not professors like Gamaliel and his students. He did pick one of Gamaliel’s students later – Paul. But the Lord had to take Paul into the desert for three years to bring down all his pride to nothing before he could get revelation.
God was so angry with those Israelites who doubted His power that He told them “Surely all these people before whom I performed all these signs will never enter the promised land. They will all perish, these people who have put Me to the test ten times” (Numbers 14:22). “Ten times” was not an exaggeration. They had actually rebelled ten times.
Here is a list of their ten rebellions:
- When the Egyptians chased after them at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:11).
- When the waters were bitter at Marah (Exodus 15:24).
- When they didn’t have bread in the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:2, 3).
- When they kept the manna overnight (Exodus 16:20).
- When they went out on the Sabbath day looking for manna (Exodus 16:27, 28).
- When there was no water to drink at Rephidim (Exodus 17:3).
- When they worshipped the golden calf (Exodus 32).
- When they complained at Taberah (Numbers 11:1).
- When they asked for meat (Numbers 11:4, 33).
- When they refused to go into Canaan (Numbers 13).
God gave them nine chances. They took advantage of His forgiveness – just like many believers do today – not realising that the ninth chance was their last.
God’s patience had run out and they were punished when they rebelled the tenth time. There was no way to go back then. They repented when they heard their punishment and asked for one more chance. But it was too late (Numbers 14:39–45).
Many believers will find one day that the opportunities to enter a life of victory are also not available forever.