Thought for the Week - 19th FebruaryPastor Alison Speirs
Exodus 23: 20-33
“See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey
and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.
Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions.
Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative,
and he will not forgive your rebellion.
But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions,
then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you.
For my angel will go before you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, so you may live there.
And I will destroy them completely.
You must not worship the gods of these nations or serve them in any way
or imitate their evil practices. Instead, you must utterly destroy them
and smash their sacred pillars.
“You must serve only the Lord your God.
If you do, I will bless you with food and water, and I will protect you from illness.
There will be no miscarriages or infertility in your land,
and I will give you long, full lives.
“I will send my terror ahead of you and create panic
among all the people whose lands you invade.
I will make all your enemies turn and run.
I will send terror ahead of you to drive out the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites.
But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply and threaten you.
I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased
enough to take possession of the land.
And I will fix your boundaries from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea,
and from the eastern wilderness to the Euphrates River.
I will hand over to you the people now living in the land,
and you will drive them out ahead of you.
“Make no treaties with them or their gods.
They must not live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me.
If you serve their gods, you will be caught in the trap of idolatry.”
We all have a faith in God, but we’re looking for an ever increasing faith in Him. Today I want to look at the practical ways we can increase our faith.
In Exodus above we read about God’s covenant with Moses. This is the promise that is given to the children of Israel when they come out of Egypt. They’ve come out of Egypt and are then in the wilderness. We know the story of what happens to them in the wilderness; of the trials and tribulations they face. In the middle of all this, God is honourable to them. He makes sure they’re never hungry, feeding them fresh manna every day. When they cry out for meat, He sends a flock of quails, which they eat mightily. He takes care of them.
They moan and complain. As soon as things don’t suit them, they start moaning. They moan they don’t have water, about the fact they’re moving around, and the food they enjoyed in Egypt. They forget the bad things of the former life. They don’t cry for the slavery, but they cry for the good things of the former life. God is distressed by their complaints and murmurings. This carries on for some time.
Eventually they come to the border of the land God has promised them. This is the land, flowing with milk and honey, which God has promised them! Moses calls for twelve men to go to look over the land. He doesn’t call ordinary men, but the heads of each tribe. We know the names of two – Joshua and Caleb.
They go out into the land that is promised to them, and go around it for forty days. Thy find out that God is right in what He said. It’s incredibly fertile. They bring a huge, great bunch of grapes that is so big that it has to be carried on a big pole. They bring figs and pomegranates. They come back with all the produce of the land, just as promised by God. Before Moses and people they show that God was right. The people rejoiced.
Suddenly, one of the heads says the dreaded word… “but”. In Numbers 13: 28 we read:
But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified.
We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!
He says there are giants in the land who they cannot defeat, and who will wipe them out. He says there are massive cities that they cannot take. In that moment, the mood changes. The grapes are trampled, the figs are forgotten, and they start murmuring and complaining amongst themselves. The whole congregation. They’ve forgotten those words that were spoken to Moses back in the beginning… that God would send an Angel before them, and that their enemies would be His enemies. They could do was look at the natural difficulties in front of them, forgetting the promises of Almighty God.
God is furious with them. He warned them to remember to obey His angel and obey His words. In Numbers 14:27 we read:
“How long will this wicked community grumble against me?
I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites…”
God was going to let their bodies fall in the wilderness and not let them reach the Promised Land. Moses prayed to God and begged to let them live, for His glory. God agreed, although we read that the ten leaders all got plague and died. The punishment for their complaining and lack of faith was to wander the wilderness for forty years – one year for every day that they were in the Promised Land. Only the new generation would inherit the promises that were given to them. The children of Israel wander for forty years, experiencing all sorts of trials and tribulations, battles and troubles. The only ones to remain are Caleb and Joshua. They saw the promise of God and said “yes, we can do that”.
Before He dies, God tells Moses to pass His authority to Joshua, so the children of Israel will follow Him into the Promised Land. They’ve seen half of God’s promise, but they’ve also seen the bit to fear – forgetting His promise. When they get there and see the fortified city, they don’t attack it like an army, instead they listen for the word of God. We read in Joshua 6 that God tells them to walk around the city seven times and sound the shofar. They do and the walls come tumbling down! That which seemed so impossible to the spies forty years ago, in a moment was done. The promise given way back in Exodus came to pass.
They divide up the land, and they have everything they need. They have entered into that promise by faith. From that point on, there is a continued battle between God and the people. The battle is not territory and it’s not prosperity, it’s a battle of every human heart… the battle of faith in the Living God and the sin that’s endemic in the human heart. That battle continues until the coming of Christ. The story weaves through the bible… God has promised. Some men have believed that promise, some have not. Those who didn’t believe are dead in the wilderness.
We face the same battle that the Children of Israel faced. The battle to believe despite what we see. Our faith is in the God of power, the God of miraculous, and the God who overcomes all obstacles. But we’re subject to the frailties of the flesh. Our eyes look down and look at the difficulties. The difficulties because of our sinful nature, ill health, poverty, and the chores of life… these are the giants in our land. We might not have the Hittites, Canaanites and Hivites. Instead we have the sickites, boredites, povertites, and all the other “ites”.
We are called to be people who look above all that. That is an act of faith. Yes there’s hurts, but there’s an empowering God who looks after us. God knows and cares about you! So, what can we do to increase our faith?
We must keep in according to the Word. Constantly read the word of the Living God and see that God visits the most ordinary people. The woman with the issue of blood was despised and rejected. She touched His robe and was instantly healed! The gentile who asked for the crumbs off the table. The Roman Centurion who knew that Christ had healed his servant.
Watch the videos of the great lives! Watch documentaries on Evan Roberts, Rhys Howells, Amy Semple-McPherson and Benny Hinn – the great pioneers of the spiritual way – people used in great healing, and who started great churches. Watch the great preachers of today. Watch and increase your faith! That is your God today!
These things increase our faith. When we read the word of the Living God, when we read of the saints and watch the saints in action, our faith builds and our eyes look up to Christ. Believe in the power of God!