One of my favorite studies in the Bible is the book of Joshua. I have taught on Joshua in the past, but not since I have come to Twin Oaks. Several times I have considered doing a series of messages from it, but is was not until recently that I have sensed an open door from the Lord. And so, beginning this morning, we’re going travel with Joshua into the Promised Land and see what adventures await us.
As you might notice, I have entitled the series ‘Be Strong and Courageous.’ I take that title directly from scripture.
Joshua 1:1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.
I. The Setting
After the death of Moses, God raised up a leader named Joshua. The name Joshua means – “Jehovah is salvation” and it is the Old Testament equivalent to the New Testament name, Jesus. The name Jesus and Joshua are the same name, one in Hebrew and the other in Greek.
In vs. 2 of Joshua 1, we read of God saying to him, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.”
Joshua and approximately 2 million people are standing on one side of the Jordan River, looking over into the Promised Land. Some forty years prior to this, they had been at the door step of entering in; yet failed to do so. Why? Hebrews 3:19 says, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” ‘Unbelief’ or ‘a lack of faith’ kept them from entering in and claiming the promises. A lack of faith will keep us from doing so as well. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” It is IMPOSSIBLE to please God apart from faith. What is faith? Faith is confidence that is based upon trust that gives us assurance. Faith is believing that God will do all He has promised He will do.
Because of ‘unbelief’, or ‘faithlessness’, the children of Israel were kept from entering into the Promised Land. Because of unbelief, God caused them to wander for forty years in the wilderness and a whole generation died before their children entered in. In other words, Joshua is about to lead into the Promised Land, the children of those who could have entered in forty years earlier. What caused the Israelites to be so faithless? To borrow a phrase often used by our family – “They let the giants get them.” Let me explain.
First, we need to have a little history lesson. Prior to all of this, the children of Israel, or the Jews as we might call them, had been living for 400 plus years in Egypt. They had been there since the time when Jacob and his sons moved there after it was discovered that Joseph was still alive. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, yet the Lord was with Joseph and by the providential hand of God, Joseph was made 2nd in command to Pharaoh in all the land of Egypt. Joseph had been put in charge of the distribution of the grain and during a time of famine, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to purchase food. After it was discovered that Joseph was alive, Jacob and the rest of his family moved to Egypt where Joseph could help take care of them. But the Bible says that after Joseph died, “There arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph”, and as a result, the children of Israel were made slaves to the Pharaohs. For centuries they had been slaves. Then we read in Exodus 3, that God called a man named Moses to deliver God’s people from their bondage.
After the children of Israel left Egypt, God led them to a mountain called Sinai. There Moses received the law, containing the Ten Commandments, as well as instructions on how to build the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle, as you know, was a kind of like a portable Temple where God could be worshiped through the sacrifices and offerings. The children of Israel were at Mt. Sinai for almost a year, during which time they were instructed on how to be the people of God, as well as the construction of the Tabernacle.
From Mt. Sinai, God led them to a placed called ‘Kadesh-barnea’ which was the gateway into the Promised Land. From that point, the rest of the journey was only a short distance, yet it wound up taking them another thirty-eight years. Why did a journey that should have taken them only a few weeks, last for forty years. It did so because of their sin of unbelief, or lack of trust in God.
II. The Struggle
The early part of the book of Numbers is kind of administrative. Moses was commanded to conduct a census and from that census he developed an army of over 600,000 men. Every man who was over twenty years of age and capable of fighting, was to be a part of Israel’s army. Why an army? Though it was a Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, it was already inhabited by people living in well-fortified cities. For those of you familiar with Blackaby’s Experiencing God study, this would be Israel’s ‘Crisis of Belief.’
Then we come to Numbers 13.
Numbers 13:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. 3 And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.
One man was selected from each tribe to go into the Promised Land and investigate what was there. Whose idea was it to send in the spies? We might say that it was God’s idea. Vs. 3 – “And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them …” Yet we learn from Deuteronomy 1, that it was originally the idea of the people. They were uncertain about what was ahead of them and therefore they asked Moses to send in spies to discover what was in this new, strange land. God’s commanding Moses to send the spies was actually a part of His response to the unbelief of the people. God was going to use the spies to ‘test’ the people to see whether or not they would trust Him. God often allows trials and testings in our lives in order to prove our true spiritual character. The truth always comes to the top in the furnace of affliction.
Numbers 13:17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: 18 And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; 19 And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; 20 And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.
21 So they went up, and searched the land … 23 And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes,and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.
First of all, the test proved the ‘Faithfulness of God.’ Can you imagine a cluster of grapes so large that it would take two men with a pole between them to carry it?
25 And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. 26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel,unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation,and shewed them the fruit of the land.
The Promised Land is often called a land ‘flowing with milk and honey.’ That’s figurative speech to demonstrate the enormous amount of blessings God wanted to bestow upon His people.
Yet the test also proved the ‘Faithlessness of the People.’
27 And they told him, and said,We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. 30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. 31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. 32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. 33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
They couldn’t deny that the Promised Land was a land full of promise, yet they let the giants get them. Were there actually giants? Indeed there were people living there who were much stronger and larger than the children of Israel and they were living in well fortified cities like Jericho. God never promised that there wouldn’t be a battle. What He did promise is that He would never leave us nor forsake us and that He would give us the victory in the battle, if we kept our trust in Him.
The old Irish preacher, C.H. Mackintosh wrote –
- “All these things they saw; but they did not see Jehovah at all. They looked at the things that were seen, rather than at the things that were unseen. Their eye was not fixed upon Him who is invisible. Doubtless, the cities were great; but God was greater. The walls were high; but God was higher. The giants were strong, but God was stronger. By their shameful unbelief, they reduced the God of Israel to the level of a grasshopper.”
In other words – ‘They let the giants get them!’
Numbers 14:1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! 3 And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? 4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
III. The Sin
The children of Israel were a bunch of ‘chronic complainers.’ This is the tenth time they have murmured against God. (Twice before they crossed the Red Sea, twice about water, twice about manna, twice about the quail, once while Moses was up on the mountain, and now because of the giants. It was the tenth time and the final straw with God. Did you know that you can cross the line with Him?
Numbers 14:2 Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
Numbers 14:26 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. 34 After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. 35 I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.
Twelve spies were sent out and ten brought back an evil report. Those ten men were struck with a plague and died shortly thereafter. According to the forty days of the test, when the men were spying out the Promised Land, the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. And everyone, age twenty and upward, except for Joshua and Caleb, the two good spies, died during the wilderness wandering.
Numbers 14:25 … Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.
Warren Wiersbe writes,
- “Be careful what you say to God when you complain, because He may take you up on it! After all, God’s greatest judgment is to let people have their own way.”
- “The entire experience at Kadesh-Barnea teaches us that there is no substitute for faith in God’s promises and obedience to His commandments. Faith is simply obeying God in spite of how we feel, what we see, or what we think might happen. When God’s people trust and obey, the Lord delights in doing wonders for them, because they glorify His name.”
IV. The Success
Ten of the spies died. Two of them lived and eventually entered into the Promised Land. Those two faithful spies were Joshua and Caleb.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “If you would find the men who serve God the best, you must look for the men of the most faith.”
C.H. Mackintosh said, “The Spirit of God fills the soul of the true believer with holy boldness.”
Numbers 13:30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
FB Myer said – “The ten spies compared themselves with the giants, whilst the two compared the giants with God.”
Numbers 14:5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: 7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
“If the LORD delight in us…” Joshua and Caleb demonstrated a form of worship that is extremely powerful. They were expressing their faith in the grace of God. As C.H. Mackintosh writes – “They were men full of faith, full of courage, full of power.” It’s hard not to admire Joshua and Caleb. They were courageous young men. Such courage and faith was a part of their character, even in their old age. These two men will eventually cross over and conquer their enemies. They will claim mountains, even in their old age, and they will leave a legacy that believers are still studying today.
What are the giants in your life today?
Henry Blackaby says in his study, Experiencing God – “
- “When God invites you to join Him in His work, He has a God-sized assignment for you. You will quickly realize you cannot do what He is asking on your own. If God doesn’t help you, you will fail. This is the crisis of belief when you must decide whether to believe God for what He wants to do through you.”
- “The way you respond at this turning point will determine whether you become involved with God in something God-sized that only He can do or whether you will continue to go your own way and miss what He has purposed for your life.”
- “At this point many people decide not to follow what they sense God is leading them to do. Then they wonder why they do not experience God’s presence and activity the way other Christians do.” (Experiencing God Workbook, pg 134)
For some it is stepping out and letting it be known publicly that you have put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. For others, it’s following Him in believer’s baptism. For some it’s sharing the gospel with a friend or loved one. For some it’s giving your tithe and offerings to the Lord. For others it’s reconciling a relationship. For some it’s dealing with the past. For others it’s facing the future. For some it’s yielding your life to serve God. For others it’s seeking God’s help to let go of a habit that inhibits your usefulness for God.
There were ‘giants’ (plural) in the land and there are giants (plural) for us. Do you have a giant in your life? My desire through this study is to encourage you to face your giant head on and to trust in God.