I suspect that a lot of you are like me. Have you had (or how often have you had) that dream where danger in some form was pressing in on you…your house on fire, an intruder approaching your room, a looming car crash….and. you. are. paralyzed. Your window won’t open; your feet can’t grip the ground; your legs are immovably heavy. You are stuck and have to face sure doom.
This stuckness has sprouted roots into all of our hearts ever since the Garden. It was there that Adam and Eve, after cracking Creation itself, hear the footsteps of the Lord and crouch down in shame and fear. And they’ve passed this inheritance down to all generations like a bad heirloom that nobody wants.
To get a better understanding of this incapacitating fear, let’s look at a beautiful comparison/contrast in Numbers 13 & 14 where God’s people are on the verge of entering the Promised Land after being miraculously rescued from Egyptian slavery through the parting of the Sea:
30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
A collection of men were sent to scout out the land that the Lord has sworn to them. But there was a problem Most of the men came back with a terrifying report that the land was teeming with murderous overwhelming enemies that would surely wipe them out. And then there was Caleb and Joshua who were sure of their victory.
The difference between these two responses has nothing to do with how big or how real their opposition was. It was about how big and how real they saw their Lord, and how sure his promises were. And it still is.
We are currently living in a crisis that virtually nobody alive has ever experienced. Adding fuel to this fire is the instant availability of information, much of it powerful enough to save countless lives (i.e. the “flattening the curve“), some of it so false and/or inflammatory that it might actually cost some lives…for certain cost many of us a peace and strength that the Lord wants for us.
So what does the Gospel actually mean in this territory, where microscopic giants are wreaking havoc? Let me pull a few things out of this passage (and beyond) to give us direction and hope:
- Use Wisdom: God’s people, holding onto God’s promises, also used the brains, hearts and information available to make the wisest moves forward, especially when it came to protecting the most vulnerable among them. Moses send scouts ahead not out of fear but out of wisdom. As we see at the end of the story, the faithlessness of God’s people caused them to wander in the wilderness, but the Lord still protected His children, the vulnerable ones, and would still guide them into the Promised Land behind the leadership of Joshua and Caleb.
- Hold onto God’s Promises more than the empty threats of this world. Yes, COVID-19 is a very serious problem and has/will cause untold destruction. And God is even bigger, and has/will bring about untold glory and restoration. We see in Numbers 14:21 this promise among a fainting people: “But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.”
- We as a church aren’t going underground or crouching in fear, but mobilizing into smaller “scout groups” (like Moses sent out) so that we can be more relational, more effective, more personally and practically loving than we could be in a larger cluster. This pandemic is absolutely horrible. And yet an opportunity for us to be refined as followers of Jesus as we hold onto him rather than this world, and sacrificially serve others as a living testimony not to our own courage but to the One that has come to set us free.
- As you read that, please wisely evaluate your current role and calling. Moses sent out “heads of the people of Israel” (Num 13:3). He did not send out those who were the more vulnerable and at risk. If you fall in this category, please allow the rest of the Body of Christ to go ahead on your behalf. Let the body serve the body, and serve the community. To God be the Glory.
- Finally, in the end not only will God get the Glory (Num 14:21) but he will also bring his people into the Promised Land…in His perfect way and in His perfect time. We know that to be perfectly true because Jesus has already gone before us and defeated the greatest threatening giant: sin, fear and death. On the cross we see the death of death itself. Whereas as ALL fearfully looked on the horizon and saw the grim reaper justly swinging his sickle, Jesus stood his ground, was cut down by the sickle meant for us, and three days later rose again in full beauty and glory so that now the sickle, though it will one day take our flesh, will never touch the hearts and souls of those that know and trust in Jesus as the Giantest Giant of all.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Jesus said) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I encourage you to join me in sitting at the Lord’s feet, even if your knees are knocking together and you don’t want to, meditating and worshiping using the song embedded below: Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me