Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hebrews 3:7-12 A Field Trip into the Desert

Have you ever had experiences with a “Debby Downer?” You know her - the gal who finds something negative to say about EVERYTHING - her family, her health, her job, your ideas, your hair, your vacation plans . . . She has the gift of raining on every parade! These kind of people can be toxic - especially in the church! They find something to critique in the sermon, in the worship music, in the women’s Bible study. God has a lot to say about these people, because for the most part, the Old Testament is the story of the whining, grumbling, complaining, unfaithful “people of God,” and His amazing patience with them. Before we get into the judgmental mindset of “I know, weren’t they awful,” let’s make sure “they” isn’t “us!”

In his attempt to warn the Jewish believers that they absolutely do NOT want to turn back to the bondage of the Law, which was useless to save them, the author of Hebrews gives them a little refresher in Jewish history. He takes them back to the desert with the Israelites who were listening to the news of ten “Debby Downers!” Moses had sent out 12 men representing the 12 tribes to scout out the land of Canaan, the land God had promised to the Israelites, whom He had led out of bondage in Egypt. Ten of these men returned back to report that there was no way they could take this land. They looked at the strength of the inhabitants rather than looking at the strength of God who had promised this land to them. Only Joshua and Caleb gave a positive report, believing God would deliver.

Look at how the “Debby Downers” affected the crowd, the attempt of Joshua to point them back to God, and then the response of the crowd to Joshua:

That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.  All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!  Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”  And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” 

Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.  Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes  and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.  Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” 

But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. (Numbers 14:1-10 NIV)

Yikes! These are a people with a very short memory! They had completely forgotten the miraculous way that the LORD had delivered them from Egypt. They had turned away from their hope. And this is the reason the author of Hebrews warns his readers so strongly to stay focused! Oh, how often do we forget the God who rescued us from death! The Jewish believers, in yearning to return to their traditions, rituals, and the Law, were just like the Israelites who rebelled against God in the desert.

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice,
      do not harden your hearts

as you did in the rebellion,

    during the time of testing in the wilderness,  
where your ancestors tested and tried me,

    though for forty years they saw what I did.  
That is why I was angry with that generation;

    I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,

    and they have not known my ways.’  
So I declared on oath in my anger,

    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”   

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:7-12 NIV)

While this example of the Israelites is overt rebellion and disbelief, how often we must seem like them, shaking our fists at God when it seems like He is leading us to a scary place. Why do we so easily forget that He is sovereign and loves us with an everlasting, unchanging, abundant love?

Is God leading you to enter a scary place? Are you facing an overwhelming new job? [That’s where I’m at!] Are you facing the giant of cancer? Has your marriage fallen apart and you are left feeling completely inadequate to face life without your spouse? Are you being asked to trust God with your infertility? Do we doubt that He is able? Do we doubt that He is willing? Whatever giants you face right now, trust Him to deal with them. Don’t believe the doubts of “Debby Downers” or the outright lies of Satan, who wants you to believe that you are facing destruction. Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him. Do not turn to the left or the right, don’t turn back to Egypt, but trust solely in Christ to lead you into a place that is exceedingly good.


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