Take a moment to read Numbers 13+14 in your favorite Bible. I used the NIV (1984) to research these remarks.
I think it’s something that happens to all of us at one time or another. We’ve prepared for something, enjoyed success, felt elated and satisfied…and then we wake up the next morning and realize that thing is over. There’s an obvious hole where that thing was, and we wonder, “What now?”
It’s the feeling Simon Peter had the day after the resurrected Jesus appeared to him and even Thomas was finally on board. Being a man’s man, Peter met the “morning after blues” head on and said, “I’m going fishing.” Look it up. It’s in John 21:3.
This is a twice-yearly feeling for pastors, one that is felt most keenly the day after Easter. Andy Fuqua described it pretty well in an article entitled, “The Post-Easter Blues.”
“You might think that a large attendance, a big production, a chance to passionately share the gospel, and an opportunity to rejoice because Jesus is alive would mean that pastors go home from Easter Sunday on cloud nine. It may come as a surprise to learn that many, many pastors contemplate quitting the ministry the day after Easter. The ‘post-Easter blues’ aren’t logical, but they are real.”
(Read the whole article at andyfuqua.com/2016/03/28/post-easter-blues/.)
When dealing with “morning after” moments and the other disappointments of life, the bottom line is this:
Don’t give up on God.
This morning we’ll take a quick look at one instance where the people of God gave even before they got started. They gave up on God, suffering devastating consequences. We can learn from their mistakes.
- 12 spies had 40 days of fruitful research. (13:23-27)
The first half of chapter thirteen details the first committee formed in the Bible; the twelve men sent in to scout the Promised Land. This was a 40 day trip; pretty extensive searching and a rather daring thing to do considering they didn’t know any languages or cultures.
The last half of the chapter deals with the report they filed. They brought along physical evidence; a CLUSTER OF GRAPES, with POMEGRANATES and FIGS. This collection of fruit was so great it took two men to carry it. They said, “WE WENT INTO THE LAND TO WHICH YOU SENT US AND IT DOES FLOW WITH MILK AND HONEY! HERE IS ITS FRUIT.”
- 10 spies gave up on God’s promise. (13:28-33)
After attesting to quality of the land and its produce, the majority gave up on the LORD when they got around to describing the people who lived there. “THE PEOPLE ARE POWERFUL,” they said, and embellished on that with, they are “DESCENDANTS OF ANAK (28), and THE NEPHILIM (33). You might read Genesis 6:1-4 to find out who these legendary characters were. But please don’t ask me to explain; we don’t have enough room for that.
It seems to me the majority is making excuses; “ALL THE PEOPLE THERE ARE OF GREAT SIZE” (32) and “WE SEEMED LIKE GRASS-HOPPERS IN OUR OWN EYES, AND WE LOOKED THE SAME TO THEM (33).” These exaggerations are bent on disguising the fact that it was their fear of the size of the task that motivated their pessimism, not the size of the people. The true comment is added almost as an afterthought: their “CITIES ARE FORTIFIED AND VERY LARGE (28).”
The two dissenting members were Joshua and Caleb. Caleb voiced the minority opinion in verse thirty, trying to impart some faith-fueled confidence to these cowering characters.
- 40 years and 1 generation later, they would finally enter the Promised Land (14:1-45).
The majority worked their tale-spinning until the whole COMMUNITY spent the night grumbling and bawling (14:1-4). They were ready to elect someone to lead them back to Egypt and a return to slavery!
Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb tried to talk them out of this dumb idea (14:5-9). They gave four excellent reasons for obeying the LORD and entering the Promised Land.
Verse seven: The “LAND IS EXCEEDINGLY GOOD.”
Verse eight: The “LORD…WILL GIVE IT TO US.”
Verse nine reveals two “do not’s.” One, “DO NOT REBEL AGAINST THE LORD,” and the other, “DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE PEOPLE OF THE LAND.”
The people’s reaction was violent (14:10). To make room for new leadership, they decided to stone their current leaders to death!
But God Himself intervened and the GLORY OF THE LORD APPEARED AT THE TENT OF MEETING. From the beginning (see Exodus 20:18-21), the glorious appearing of the LORD had filled the Hebrews with fear.
God’s reaction sounds extreme (14:11-12). He was justifiably angry and said to Moses, “HOW LONG WILL THESE PEOPLE TREAT ME WITH CONTEMPT?” Adding, “THEY REFUSE TO BELIEVE ME IN SPITE OF ALL THE MIRACULOUS SIGNS.”
How could they be so slow to believe? Not for the first time, God threatened to strike them all down and start over with Moses: “I WILL STRIKE THEM DOWN WITH A PLAGUE” (v. 12). That was not an empty threat. Though the nation was spared total destruction, the ten negative spies were NOT spared and, in 14:36-38, died from a PLAGUE.
Moses interceded in prayer for the nation (14:13-19). Here is Moses’ reasoning: first, killing the entire nation would undo what God had done, causing the nations to disbelieve (14:13-16). Killing the entire nation would also be contrary to God’s character. God is love: He is “SLOW TO ANGER, ABOUNDING IN LOVE AND FORGIVING SIN AND REBELLION” (14:17+19). God is holy, too, demanding justice for the sake of the victims of sin: “HE DOES NOT LEAVE THE GUILTY UNPUNISHED” (14:18).
God forgave the people, but did not tolerate their sin (14:20-38).
According to verse twenty, the LORD had already forgiven them. Regardless of how it may appear, this conversation is not Moses talking God into forgiving the people as He’d already done it.
But forgiveness does not always mean the offender avoids the consequences of his offense. Indeed, avoiding discipline or the natural consequences of one’s actions is a shallow perversion of love, not the genuine thing.
That generation of adults had repeatedly been guilty of committing serious sins against the LORD. In this situation, they had:
DISOBEYED and TESTED Him (22).
Treated Him with CONTEMPT (23).
GRUMBLED against Him (27).
Enacting love and holiness, God gave Moses new orders: “Go back the way you came” (14:25). This is ironic justice: they’d been plotting to return to Egypt, so God sent them in that direction.
God’s wrath would take 40 years to satisfy. That complaining, disobedient, and contemptuous generation did not enter the Promised Land; they wandered the wilderness until every member of that generation died (14:26-31).
The people suddenly repented but disobeyed the LORD again and got a whuppin’ for their foolishness (14:39-45). The death of their ringleaders (36-38) put the fear of God in the nation. When Moses repeated all God had to him, they MOURNED BITTERLY (14:39).
After what was probably a sleepless night, they were all ready to repent and obey God’s original instructions (14:40). But they were too late. This illustrates the principle of “obedience in time” as essential to complete obedience. When we delay, make excuses or procrastinate, we are being disobedient. Complete obedience requires doing what you’re told and doing it right away.
Talk about stubborn! These people thought they’d avoid God’s justice by disobeying Him AGAIN (14:41-44). The first time they disobeyed Him by refusing to fight. Now they disobeyed the LORD by refusing to leave, insisting on a fight. In verse forty-four the writer rightly identified their sin as PRESUMPTION.
Moses warned them a battle now would end with a number of deaths (14:43), which was the awful outcome (14:44-45). When are we going to learn to obey? When will we learn going our own way results in calamity?
Notice that in verse forty-four neither Moses nor the Ark of the Covenant was involved in this doomed military expedition. This battle was not the Lord’s doing & He didn’t assist them.
Don’t give up on God.
You may’ve wondered earlier if I got the “post-Easter blues.” Not an extreme case, but a little. I pursued an unusual cure. I went to a public library and pulled a book from the shelf that expresses some very critical views of the Bible. I spent the afternoon reading that book and I hope very soon to post a rebuttal on our website. It sounds weird, but this guy’s heretical opinions set me on edge and that got me out of any sense of the “blues.”
The better part of the experience is being reminded that Easter is not the end of Jesus’ story nor is it the end of ours. There is a lot of living, loving, and serving in the days ahead. We might as well be grateful for what God gave us on Easter and get on with it.
That’s a little bit of what Jesus said to His disciples just before He returned to heaven. To paraphrase just a bit, He said, “It’s time to get to work. There’s a whole world out there and everyone in it needs to learn about me. We’ll go together.”
The God who began that work in you will surely see it to completion. Just don’t give up.