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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There Is No Promised Land for the Faithless

People act the same no matter how many years have passed. The people of the New Testament acted like the people of the Old Testament. Today people act like those in the New Testament. Human nature remains the same.

The Israelites could not see how they could get into the Promised Land because there were obstacles in the way. They simply could not believe that God would empower them, provide and lead them to take this land which had men the size of giants. They saw the obstacles and thought they were being prudent.

They wanted to go back to Egypt and be slaves rather than take a step of faith in entering the Promised Land. They would rather be mediocre than to follow God completely. They would rather keep their little idols that they had carried with them from Egypt than to serve the Lord God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength. They had been so corrupted by the world they had lived in that they could not believe in the God who had already proved Himself to be the Almighty.

It didn't seem to matter that they had seen God split a sea so that their enemies would be defeated. It didn't matter that He had provided water and food in the desert for them. It didn't matter that He provided the direction by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. They still clung to the faith they had in the world they had known. They couldn't understand the love of God, His power, wisdom or His truth. They saw Him as someone who might not prove faithful at a crucial moment even though they had already seen Him faithful.

When the spies came out of the Promised Land, they expressed their faith in faithlessness. They just wanted things they could depend on without faith. Isn't that the way many people who call themselves believers act today?

People are worried about the economy without regard that they have a God who loves them. They fret over their medicare or their job or their children or any number of things as if God has no plan. They live as if they are the masters of their own faith and they know how little power they have to do things. Their definition of faith is "believing in something that you know isn't true." They don't pray, give or serve because they lack belief. They haven't had any contact with God because they haven't truly believed in Him.

 O yes, they say they believe in God but the god they believe in is impotent rather than important. He is silent rather than speaking. He is absent rather than omnipresent. He is clueless rather than omniscient. He is stoic rather than compassionate. He is false rather than true.

Thus, they come to church with all their worries. They oppose anything that stretches them. They are willing to do anything in which they can see personal benefit that will not change their lifestyle. They don't want to be asked for another thing.

So, they never enter the Promised Land.

Do you know why?

It isn't because they won't try. They tried on their own after they had rejected God's promise. They assumed they could act like nothing had happened after they had been faithless. They were like people who after dying enter God's presence and tell Him that while they didn't ask Jesus into their hearts while on earth, they are quite willing to do so now. That's not faith. Its just fear of the consequences.

God leads a people of faith into the Promised Land. This land is before us every day. It is how our faith stands when the economy is bad. It is how our faith stands when we are challenged to join God in any endeavor. It is how our faith stands when the circumstances tell us that something else is more practical.

Of course, we have the Old and New Testaments to remind us of those things. We need to accept God's faith in all matters or else we are doomed to fail.

The Promised Land is for the faithful.

Numbers 14:39-45 (NIV) 39 When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. 40 Early the next morning they went up toward the high hill country. "We have sinned," they said. "We will go up to the place the Lord promised." 41 But Moses said, "Why are you disobeying the Lord's command? This will not succeed! 42 Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, 43 for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword." 44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord's covenant moved from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.


Anthony Chia said...

How true, "human nature remains the same", and that is why, the front part of the Book of Revelation (which talked about Jesus' sayings to the 7 historical churches) are as equally applicable to us all, as it did in the time of the 7 churches; and leaders of the faith should preach about them to the congregation.

Concerning the Israelites NOT entering the Promised Land (the first time they came near it), there are various angles we can look at the matter, and they included these:

1. They placed too much emphasis on sight than the unseen. 10 of 12 spies emphasized that which they saw, the giants. Victory is yet to be seen, and they failed to emphasize the victory God said; only the 2 remaining spies, Joshua and Caleb, emphasized the unseen.

2. They focused on the obstacles, and took their eyes off the LORD. They focused on the giants and their might; their own might was without doubt, paled in comparison; it was right NOT to be self-deluded, but it was clear that they had heard from God prior to that, and so, it was a case of them taking their eyes off the LORD, and focused only on the obstacles or problems.

3. They had NOT believed how mighty their God was. It was true that God did a number of miracles prior to their coming near to the Promised Land, and the Israelites saw those. But it was their case, and it, too, can be our case, that they or we do NOT believe what God said He is, that He is El-Shaddai, the Great and Mighty God with all capacity to bless, and there was and is none like Him. In other words, they failed to see that in any fight, there is none who could match God.

4. We must always remember, and the Israelites then, failed to note, too, that we cannot rely solely on our experiences. Yes, our experiences (positive ones) testify to the greatness and faithfulness of God, but our experiences are nevertheless, limited. Is your God only as great as your experience of His greatness? If you think he is only that, then when a different or bigger obstacle or problem than those of the past, present itself, you will NOT be able to trust your God to win for you.

5. Stand NOT just on experiences, BUT on what God Himself said, either verbally or in His written Word. Experiences only testified to the Word; the Word precedes all. Scriptures spoke that we are to ascribe glory to God for both who God is, and what He has done. Who He is, is primary, what He does, is secondary. Even if, He has NOT done anything for you and I for the last one month, we are still to ascribe to Him glory, for glory is due to Him just because who He is. The Israelites failed to take note of what God said. Are you taking note of what God said? Do you study His Word? Do you know what the Word said of who God is? You and I have to do that, study His Word and know what it said who God is, so when the next obstacle or problem hits us, we can say, "The Word said God is bigger, and therefore I shall NOT fear".

Cont. on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

6. Salvation faith and unbelief. There is a distinction between the 2, and it did apply to the Israelites, even when it is perhaps, more easily understood in the case of New Testament believers.

For a New Testament believer, salvation faith is present, and generally is still present in all believers; the faith with which you entered into salvation is the salvation faith; and you are to continue to have that salvation faith, in order the living hope continues to be alive in you. But a person with salvation faith can fail to act in accordance to what God wants, because of his unbelief.

In other words, it was NOT that the Israelites doubted that they were people of God, but it was their unbelief of God was mighty enough and/or would be fighting for them to gain the Promised Land from the giants and local inhabitants, that was getting the better of them. Also, it was unbelief that they doubted their God would be bringing them into a land better than Egypt, and so they thought perhaps, they ought to go back. Overcoming unbelief is the responsibility of the believers; it is through repeated overcoming of our unbelief that a believer grow to know his God more and more, and testing and refinement of God are towards this end, too.

7. Often when there is blessing to be had, there is/are obstacles. Is it NOT true? Was NOT the Promised Land a blessing from God? Of course, it was; it was to replace the land of slavery of Egypt in which the Israelites had been living prior to this. But, look there were giants there, in the land of blessing! Why didn’t God just wipe the giants off, and then bring the Israelites to it? Why is it so, that often, when there is blessing to be had, there is/are obstacles?

It is because, God is using the circumstances of life to reveal Himself to us, in such a way that we are to overcome our unbelief, and know who He is. No, bringing the Israelites to the Promised Land with the giants wiped off beforehand does NOT help, even if God told them, He had already done that for them. You see, God already did a number of miracles for them, prior to this, yet they still were with unbelief. We should stop telling, in our heart, what God should be doing so that we will know Him more; God actually knows what would work and what would NOT work for you and I, individually; do NOT try to think you and I know better.

In the New Testament, the rich man who died asked that Lazarus, the beggar, who begged at his mansion gate before they both died, be allowed to return to the land of the living so that he could tell the rich man’s brothers about what they had to know and believe. The answer was that, that was no use; because God knew, it would NOT work for the brothers that way. In our earthly lives, there will be blessing, and often there are also obstacles present. Be prepared to face the obstacles connected with the blessing, if we want to reach for the blessing.

It is wrong of preachers, and overly grace teachers are culprits, to tell believers that if what they are doing is hard, then what they are attempting is a wrong project, by over-simplistic application of Jesus’ saying that His yoke was light, and so, what we are attempting to do, if it were God’s assignment, it cannot be hard to us!

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Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

8. Last but NOT the least, many of us are guilty of taking God for granted, and being ungrateful. Despite God’s promises to Abraham (Gen 17:8), and He, God, wanted to be faithful, God did NOT necessarily need to deliver the Israelites from slavery, but He did that; He did NOT necessarily need to travel with them to the Promised Land, but He did that. He did NOT have to designate the Canaan Land as the Promised Land for the Israelites, but He did that. The attitude of the Israelites then was “since God brought us up, out of Egypt, to go to this land that He wanted to give to us, He must do all the work, take care of everything, and without any delay!” This attitude was reflected in their frequent murmuring against Moses and against God. Is it NOT frequently the case, for many of today’s believers (in fact, heretic preachers even said that or insinuated that, God is to do everything; nothing we, men, need to do), encouraging expectation that God is to spoon-feed us all, and we can act like spoilt-brats. I will quote this again; I quoted it before, I believe: “What is wrong with you? God does NOT eat for you. He gave you the food; you still expect Him to eat for you!”

Failure to honor God often comes with consequences. Yes, the Israelites did enter into the Promised Land the second time they came near the Land, but that was NOT after some serious consequences, which included:

1. God was entitled to release Himself from His promise. And God did release Himself from His promises in a number of historical accounts. One account was explained in the text given by Ps Prentis at the end of his entry – Num 14:39-45, where the Israelites subsequently wanted to go in (the Promised Land), to fight, after the glory of the LORD appeared to them and convicted them of their failure to honor God. Moses told them it was too late. They insisted, and they went and they were beaten back.

2. All the adult Israelites who left Egypt, except for Joshua and Caleb, did NOT make it into the Promised Land. Even, the select team of 3, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (Moses’ sister, who was the prophetess), did NOT enter; and

3. 40 years of hard wandering for the Israelites in the desert.

It was God’s graciousness and faithfulness that the Israelites (as a people) were still able to enter into the Promised Land eventually, but as that history illustrated there are consequences to failure to honor God, to overcome our unbelief, and to take God for granted. Preachers failed to preach against it, that there are consequences to failure to honor God, and believers have come to believe that the holiness of God is subordinate to God’s love, graciousness and faithfulness. On the contrary, as this historical account illustrated, despite God is love, graciousness, and faithfulness, holiness was NOT subordinate to all these nice attributes we liked; the demand of holiness of God precedes all other attributes. There were consequences then, the adult Israelites died in the 40 years of wandering in the desert because the demand of holiness of God decreed a punishment for them; and there are consequences for us all, in the life of the modern day Christian when he disregards the demand of holiness. Even though New Testament Scripture said that where sins abound, grace also abounds, such a saying does NOT negate the need for us to repent and ask for forgiveness from God. NOT repenting and asking for forgiveness is NOT honoring God.

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Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). I submit to you that the faith referred to here, is NOT referring to the specific faith - salvation faith, but the absence or lack of faith as in our unbelief. The Book of Hebrews was directed at the believers, and the preliminary verses of Hebrews 11, amply showed that God was referring to His people (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc). Believers have to get back on track (from being distracted by overly grace preachers who implied there is no issue of lack of faith, and no issue of them NOT pleasing to God, arguing that they stand on their salvation faith in Jesus, and their righteousness in Christ Jesus), to overcome unbelief, and NOT just sit there, doing nothing about what God wants done. Unbelief or without faith (not salvation faith), does NOT please God.

To please God, we should NOT be aiming for the after-the-fact, resolution. Yes, when after-the-fact outcome shows that you are wrong, you need to repent (at least, you repent, and ask for forgiveness from God, unlike the overly grace believers who do NOT, but instead tell the devil off!), and God is gracious to forgive you, you have still to change your attitude to one of acting in faith to please Him, and NOT as one who will only time and time again, repent, after the fact. There are consequences to sinning or being disobedient, even when the Hell destiny is set aside each time you ask for forgiveness (note: NOT all consequences of a sin is set aside).

Last but NOT least, it is worth noting that this historical account illustrated God’s dealing with men, has 2 dimensions, corporate and individual. For example, corporately, the Israelites, as a people, still entered the Promised Land, but individually, all the “guilty” adults did NOT enter, but lived “sub-optimal lives” wandering in the desert for 40 years - they could have entered and lived in the Promised Land the first time they were nearing it, but instead they led wandering lives in the desert.