Sunday Sermon - 14th February 2021

Sermon for Sunday February 14th 2021: “What you believe is how you behave!”

 

(Please read, Psalm 95: 1-7; Numbers 14: 18-38; Hebrews 3: 1 – 4: 2)

‘Trust in Jesus Christ who is the great God who trumps all other human or celestial beings; who knows (as a human) the experience of human weakness but without the taint of sin; believe Him who has saved you through the exodus of His death and Resurrection; trust in the one who has gone ahead of you as the pioneer (and completer) of your saving faith; follow the one who has gone there and done that and who has given you (us) great assurance and victory over sin, death and the devil. Trust the risen Christ who will walk with you (all the way to death and beyond) in your journey of faith. All of our attempts to succeed (without God) are doomed to fail. Hebrews offers us a mix of encouragement and warning…’

 

And - If you don’t learn from the past mistakes of history you are (very likely) to make the same mistakes all over again. It is madness to do the same things again and expect a different result. That is the message given to these beleaguered 2nd generation Christians.

Here (in this long passage) Hebrews gives the church a much-needed history lesson – the “Failure at Kadesh”. In a two-year period the LORD had done great things for His people (The Exodus Generation). He had heard their cries; he had liberated them from a life of brutish toil; He had given them great leaders in Moses and Aaron.  They had seen and heard (ample) evidence of God’s majestic presence:  food and water; guidance and protection from (all) their enemies; daily miracles; evidence of God’s wrath against idolatry – ample proof of His power and His love for them…

 

But it didn’t take the people long to start complaining. First they moaned about food – they start dreaming about the “good old days” (back in Egypt) when they ate fish, cucumbers, melons, onions and garlic (Nu 12:5). They want to go back! They are fickle and forgetful…

It didn’t take them long to start rejecting God’s leader(s) and refusing to trust God’s promise(s) to them, going so far as to threaten them with stoning! (Nu 14:10). The LORD intervened to help them.

 

The Lord had promised them (from the time of Abraham) that He would see them right; He would grant them safe passage into a place of life and rest – of blessing (The Promised Land).

In fact, as they stood on the threshold of Canaan, the vast majority of one generation had reached the point where they had rejected God just one too many times.  This “failure of nerve” was the last straw.

 

After a 40-day exploration of Canaan, the explorers reported, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there…”

 

This report frightened the people (Nu 13: 27-28).  Caleb had a different attitude (perspective) from the other spies. Verse 30 records, “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’” Here is a CAN DO attitude – even if you can’t do it, the LORD can…

 

When the people complained that they could not go up to conquer the land, both Caleb and Joshua responded strongly: “Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh . . . 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’” (Nu 14: 6-9)

But history records that the ‘minority report’ was of no avail. Fear and unbelief and rumour are contagious. Good news soon becomes too good to be true

God judged the people of Israel by making them wait 40 years to enter the land. He also promised that every person 20 years old or older would die in the wilderness and would not see the land with two exceptions—Caleb and Joshua.

Verse 38 adds, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.”
Why? “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it…” (Nu 14: 24; & verse 30).

 

For the majority… their God was “too small”. They felt like grasshoppers next to the giants…and their God wasn’t up to the job.  They forgot all that God had done for them. They did not believe God.

The one thing God wanted from them and could rightly expect from – they would not do – they consistently refused to believe – not only the evidence before their very eyes – but they would not believe that God cared for them. I have done great things for them, still they reject me.

 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them” (Nu 14: 11)

However, Moses once again interceded for his people and turned away the wrath of God (Nu 14: 13-20). Although God did forgive them, He decided that, “Not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it…” (Nu 14: 23).

 

Rather, they would suffer by wandering in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each of the forty days they explored the land (Nu 14: 34). It seems a harsh judgment but really this generation only got what it truly believed in – failure, defeat and death. “I will do the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall, every one of you twenty years old or more” (Nu 14: 28 -29).

God would give them, in effect, what they asked for: ‘If you tell yourself enough times that ‘nothing will grow in that soil’ – then nothing will…’

 

Remember, these Hebrew Christians were themselves thinking about giving up on Jesus and throwing in the towel. The writer to the Hebrews asks his folk to do 3 things – 3 things the Kadesh generation would not do: 1. they would not hold on to their confession – the Word of God. 2.  They would not draw near to the Presence of God… 3.  They would not move forward physically or spiritually –

 

But they preferred to stay exactly where they were, doomed to walk around in ever decreasing circles – until they died. It only takes one generation for the church to die. Like so many Christians today, God’s people spent so much time worrying about the future; their bodies, their health and comfort – they failed to live in anything approaching the abundant life (REST) that Jesus promises his followers.

That is the great sadness of the church – and the danger that faces us – that we stay as “dwellers on the threshold” – paddling in the shallows…settling for business as usual!

We may be forgiven. (Notice those who fell in the desert were forgiven). We may end up in heaven, even.

But life on earth TODAY is so much less than it might be, in truth – had we only believed in God – and cast our cares up him – and (really) obeyed  - if we had taken the walk of “long obedience in the same direction”. (TIDE)

 

The writer to the Hebrews says: 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.

 

How much time and life (energy) we waste – how much is ours still to possess even now! We worry so much about getting there – or wondering if we ever will.  We miss out on the journey of faith. We wonder if we have been forgiven (really) instead of simply trusting that Jesus has done it for us…

We miss out on entering the rest (the peace, the blessing) God promises. Jesus invited us to come to him for that rest. (Mt 11: 28)

Often the very things we fear often come to pass. You see, God had promised the people victory. The land He commanded them to go in and take was already theirs; they simply had to trust and obey, but this they would not do.

They hardened their own hearts through the consistent habit of rebellion. “When the going gets hard, so do their hearts”. They cannot blame God for the state they are in.  At the end of Numbers 14 it looks as if the people have repented – but they haven’t. They try and take the land themselves. They can’t.

 

Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation – He went before us…So He, God will never ask us to go anywhere where His grace cannot provide for us.  Isaiah speaks of the LORD, ‘If you want me to protect you, you must learn to believe in me…”

The Israelites had seen the powerful hand of God at work during the plagues and miracles of the Exodus. Yet, like many people, they walked by sight and not by faith, and their unbelief displeased God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (He 11:6).

 

18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Quite simply their failure (refusal) to believe in God’s word kept them from entering the Promised Land. And that truth has never changed.

This is not just dusty (horrible) history – it could well become your present reality; you could go astray; you could end up with an evil (untrusting) heart which you have hardened; you too could end up missing out if you turn away from the living God. Those whose belief does not behave beware! Take care.

 

There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures. (Julius Caesar Act 4 scene 3)

 

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

And: 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

 

MFR

 

Prayers of Intercession:

 

Lord you are faithful and good. We thank you for your promises to your people – to give us hope and a future. Thank you for the assurance of the Holy Spirit, telling us that you have come to us in Jesus Christ with the free gifts of forgiveness and life. Whisper your grace to us. 

Forgive us the weakness of our faith – for our pessimism – after all that you have said and done and continue to do for us….

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek God’s will in all you do, and he will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, New Living Translation)

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8, New Living Translation)

 

Lord help us to trust and obey your Word – to seek your way forward for our lives and your church -

Trust in the Lord, and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. (Psalm 37:3-6, New Living Translation)

 

Lord help us to put what we learn into practice this week – we commit the work that the day and the week will bring to you. Bless the work of our hands, knowing that it is all your work…

 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4, NLT)

 

Lord help those who will be under medical care this week & those facing surgery. Grant them peace and protection & the faith to remain ‘in the day’.  Grant skill to the hands of those who heal

 

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. (Isaiah 40:28-31, N R S V)

 

Lord you have a special love for the powerless – grant your special strength to those who are weak…speak to your own people in war-torn lands your Word

 

 “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name—you are mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

 

For all those who live in fear and worry may they hear and trust in this truth

For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

(Isaiah 43:1-3a, 5a)

 

These are our prayers – TJCOL AMEN

 

 

 


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