Stop being Defeatist!

Jim Voisey, Cardiff, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Category: Exposition

‘We are well able’, Num. 13. 30

‘We are well able’ is the language of faith in God, in His power and in His promises. It is sad when we do not have this faith, but give up easily. The spies had been sent out to see the land of promise; what sort of land it was, and the people of the land, ‘whether they be strong or weak, few or many’. They were sent so that on their return they could reassure the people and prepare them for the battles that were before them as they entered into their possessions. The spies had re turned and said, ‘surely it floweth with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it’. It was everything the Lord had promised it would be, Num. 13. 27.

Voices of unbelief

‘Nevertheless’, they said. Now they had big reservations and they were not confident of victory. ‘The people be strong’, v. 28, and ‘the cities are walled and very great’, and ‘we saw the children of Anak there’, v. 28. So they concluded, ‘we be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we’, v. 31. They were prepared to write off all God’s promises, and His power to fulfil them. They had turned their eyes away from the Lord, and saw only that the people there were ‘men of great stature’. Their fear was greater than their faith. They had lost their awareness of the awesome greatness of their God. They said, ‘we were in our own sight as grasshoppers’, that is, little insects. But to God all the inhabitants of the world ‘are as grasshoppers’, v. 33, and all the nations ‘are as a drop in the bucket, and counted as the small dust of the balance’, Isa. 40. 22. They are so insignificant they do not count. We need to see things in their proper perspective.

The people were discouraged

Their fears were all but confirmed. ‘And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron. And the whole congregation said to them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt or would God that we had died in this wilderness’. They murmured, but remember that God knows the very thoughts of our hearts and even subdued whispers of discontent will be known to Him. Their leading men had failed them, and they, the whole nation, would be led into unbelief. Those leaders, with the exceptions of Caleb and Joshua, would all die by plagues as a judgement from the Lord. They were even proposing a new leader to take them back to Egypt! Num. 14. 2, 4.

They had also forgotten they had been redeemed from Egypt, and had seen with their own eyes the overthrow of Pharaoh and his mighty chariots, that they had been miraculously fed in the wilderness, and when they were thirsty, God opened a rock to bring out water for them. He had given them victory over their enemies, but now these great things seemed to mean nothing to them, Exod. 15. 15, 16; Deut. 7. 1.

This is one of the defining periods in the history of the Exodus. It is mentioned in other parts of the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, and its lessons are applied to God’s people today. We must not sin as they did, by not believing God. ‘But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness’, 1 Cor. 10. 5. It was a sin for the children of God not to trust in Him. We also should note, ‘Take heed . . . lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end’, Heb. 3. 12-14. Whatever the difficulties we see before us, we must believe in the power of God to overcome them. The Lord referred to this occasion as a ‘breach of promise’, Num. 13. 44, that is they had broken their solemn undertaking to Him.

Unbelief limits the power of God

It was so in the days of our Lord, ‘though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him’, John 12. 37. At Nazareth, ‘he could there do no mighty work . . . and he marvelled because of their unbelief’, Mark 6. 5- 6. The ten spies who put doubts in the hearts of the people, and undermined their faith, should serve as a warning to us all, but especially to those who should be helping and encouraging others.

The people of God offended Him by asking if He could ‘furnish a table in the wilderness’, Ps. 78. 19. Of course He could; and did, all the way through. ‘And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years until they came to a land inhabited’, Exod. 16. 35. It was ‘angels’ food’, and ‘he sent them meat to the full’. But ‘they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation . . . and their heart was not right with him’, Ps. 78. 27. Isaiah condemned the people for not trusting in the Lord to save them when they were threatened with invasion.They had appealed to Egypt for help. It was looking to the power of the flesh to deal with spiritual problems. ‘Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear’, Isa. 59. 1. The appeal to Egypt would not profit them. Those who advocated it were unbelieving. ‘In returning and rest shall ye be saved; and in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. In the Lord above must be all our trust, Isa. 30. 1-3, 7, 15.

Voices of faith

Some of us by our nature are timid and perhaps even cowardly, ready to flee ‘at the sound of a shaken leaf’, and to ‘fall when none pursueth’, Lev. 26. 36. We must all have more faith and be ready to really believe all the promises of God. He will never fail us. That woman who came behind the Saviour, just that she might touch His garment, when she was healed, and bidden to make herself known, did so in ‘fearing and trembling’, for her faith was small, but enough, Mark 5. 33.

It is Caleb whose voice we hear speaking for himself and for Joshua beside him, ‘Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it’. How wonderful to hear faith speaking although they were in a minority. Caleb was one who ‘wholly followed the Lord’, Num. 13. 30; Josh. 14. 7, 8.

Caleb was not the only voice of faith, for Moses too was speaking to the Lord in intercession, ‘Pardon I beseech thee the iniquity of this people’. Awful consequences even worse than those which actually occurred, were turned away by Moses’ prayer. The psalmist refers to this, ‘Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them’. Did God’s people ever realize how much they owed to Moses’ intercession for them? Num. 14. 19; Ps. 106. 23.

It encourages us today to hear of the faith of others

David said, ‘I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me round about’. There were people resolutely bent on hunting him down, but he trusted in the Lord. Again, he said, ‘Though an host should encamp against me, my heart should not fear’, Ps. 27. 3. He could look at these dangers in the face and still say, ‘I will not fear’. Another psalmist said, ‘God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed’, Ps. 46. 1-2. Let our own hearts be warmed and encouraged by such men. When we are assured of God’s presence and concern for us, all our fears are taken away. Habakkuk was another who knew the reality of personal faith. There was so much he just did not understand but at the end of his poem he assures us his heart is fully trusting in the Lord, ‘Although the fig tree shall not blossom . . . yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation’, Hab. 3. 17- 18.

That same prevailing faith was in Daniel and in his three friends, and in the designedly most unreligious book of the Bible, Mordecai is confident too, and even if Esther should fail to rise to the privilege of her position at such a critical time, ‘then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place’. Paul assures us he knew the Lord would never let him down, whether it be in the face of imminent shipwreck and disaster at sea with darkness and stormy winds, or when he has to stand before Nero for his very life. No, the faith of those who trust in the Lord enables them to overcome all obstacles, ‘By my God have I leaped over a wall’, Ps.18. 29. Unbelief will make us doubt, but faith will enable us to realize we can be ‘more than conquerors through him that loved us’, Rom. 8. 37.

Let us be encouraged in the Lord. We can overcome those things we fear and ‘receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear’, Heb. 12. 28

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jim Voisey is in fellowship in the assembly meeting at Adamsdown Gospel Hall in Cardiff and has recently retired from his job as a university lecturer.