Sermon 2-8-2015  

Numbers 13-14:9

Pastor Ruthie Tippin; Indianapolis First Friends Meeting


Just imagine being one of those twelve men chosen to ‘scout out’ the Promised Land.  All those years of waiting to finally return to Canaan, and you’ve made it.  You’re here, on the border, and now, out of all the thousands of people in your company, you’ve been chosen to enter first.

Twelve men – one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel - each tribe named for one of Jacob’s sons.  Abraham, Isaac and then Jacob.  That Jacob.  Jacob’s sons:  Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Gad, and Joseph.  That JosephThe one who drove their dad crazy, parading around in that fancy coat… as if they didn’t know ‘Dad always liked him best’.  The one they threw in the pit.  The one they sold into slavery to a caravan bound for Egypt.  The one who recognized them when they came begging at Pharaoh’s house for food during famine in Canaan.  The one who settled them there.  The one who forgave them saying, “Do not fear.  Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.”  [Genesis 37-50]

Now, generations later, the descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons had escaped eventual slavery in Egypt.  Remember?  There were too many Hebrew immigrants in Egypt, so they were made slaves.  The Hebrews had escaped under the leadership of Moses, and now he has brought them home – to the edge of the Promised Land.  Back to Canaan.  And twelve men will go scouting.

What they find is horrible and wonderful.  They found wilderness and wadis.  Desert and seas.  Milk and honey.  Figs and fruits.  Settled peoples and giants in the land.  And don’t forget the ‘nephilim’ – mystical beasts - half-human, half-divine.  The scouts report is fantastical.  Imagine the best camping trip you’ve ever been on – the biggest Boy Scout Jamboree… beautiful mountains, serene lakes, and strange sounds in the night.  All those things and more were reported by the scouts to Moses and the people of Israel. 

No one wanted to go home.  No one wanted to go into the Land of Promise.  No one wanted to return to Canaan.  No one wanted to go back to the future. 

“Why did we ever leave Egypt?  I wish we had died there!”  They didn’t trust God, and they didn’t trust Moses. They wanted to choose another leader who would take them back to Egypt.  The past looked so safe.  They didn’t remember any giants in Egypt.

And then, Caleb and Joshua stood.  They tore their clothes – a sign of grief and sorrow at the people’s rebellion against Moses and against God. They told the people of the ‘exceedingly good land’ that lay ahead, of God’s provision for them all.  And they warned them not to rebel, and urged them not to fear, but instead to remember that God was with them. But they would not listen.  And they did not enter the land… no one in their generation entered the land of Canaan, except for two scouts named Joshua and Caleb, and they entered it much, much later.  The people who had refused the future and only wanted the past, the people who feared the unknown and wanted to remain unknowing, the people who could not trust themselves, or God, or anyone else with the future, would never see promise.  They were turned back into the wilderness, in the direction of the Red Sea. 

Last weekend, Dan Moseley reminded us that the future is all we have… and we have no idea what it will be.  We can scout it out.  We can imagine it.  We can dream about it.  But we can’t live it until we live it.  And if we refuse to live it, we will re-live the life we have already experienced.  And that is not what God intends for us. 

Ask any Scoutmaster, especially one who is also a father or mother… ask John Broadwell, talk to Carolyn Tinsley.  Do you want your Scouts – your children, to have the same experiences over and over again?  Are they supposed to earn the same badges over and over?  Or are they supposed to move forward, rank by rank?  Daisy, Brownie, Girl Scout?  Tiger, Cub, Webelo, Boy Scout?

God doesn’t walk backwards.  Jesus didn’t walk backwards through Galilee.  They are always moving forward.    Jesus was, is, always calling us to move forward – challenging us to move with him, serving others, suffering for others, suffering with others - calling people out of death into life – from slavery, prisons, asylums, prostitution, gambling, alcoholism, and more.  Teaching others new ways of seeing themselves, seeing God, seeing the world.  Jesus lived for the future.  Jesus died for the future.  Jesus lives now in us, for the future. And the future is… wait a minute… now!

Count on it… the future holds giants in the land.  Mystical beings.  Strange, unimaginable things.  It’s not that Caleb and Joshua didn’t see those things… they just understood that nothing could overcome them, as they walked with God.  Did they want to deal with the descendants of the Anak?  No.  But they knew they could if they had to.  God had been with them in the past, was with them now, and would be with them in the future.  And the gifts of the future far outweighed their fears. 

It takes guts to step into the future.  And that’s why God turned those folk toward the Red Sea.  God knew they would run at the first sign of trouble.  And most importantly, they were rebellious, had turned from God, and would not trust God.  God won’t take you to a place you refuse to go.  God will leave you where you are, allow you to remain in your circumstances, rather than move you forward into a future where you will not trust God.  If you’re wondering why your life does not change, check out your “Trust – O - Meter.”  Talk to the Spiritual Scoutmaster.  Ask God what place is next in the Handbook.   

17% is a pretty crummy ratio.  How much better would it have been if 73% of the scouts had come back saying, “Wow… that place is fabulous! There’s some strange looking characters living there, and a bunch of walled cities, but you know what?  God’s helped us deal with stuff like that before, and God’s always been faithful.  I think, with God’s help, we could handle it.  And check out these grapes!  And you should see the pomegranates!” 

I want us to live a 73% life… maybe even a 93% life.  A life for the future… a gutsy life – a bold life – a life like Jesus lived.  A life that says, “I may be scared.  I may not like this.  This feels really crazy.  BUT… I’m not just gonna sit here.  I’m gonna move forward, and trust God.  I’m going to trust God for all the nephilim that flies by.  For the giants, the deserts, the unpredictable things that come.  And I’m going to exult in the lush rivers and streams, the mountains, the seas, the milk and honey that I find along the way.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.                     Proverbs 3:5-6