Sermon Summary. The possibilities and promises of God are wonderful and immeasurable. Unfortunately, what sometimes stands between us, God’s promises and God’s possibilities are . . . God’s people. How do we, as God’s people respond to the possibilities of God? In this text, we see God’s people on the threshold of receiving a powerful promise of God. They had been anticipating this moment for generations, and now the Promised Land was within their grasp. God’s possibilities and promise are before them in the same way they are before us. Tragically, a majority of God’s people in this biblical narrative operate out of a spirit of fear, doubt and negativity. 12 spies are sent to report on what they see. Joshua and Caleb come back in confidence. They see what God has promised and believe they can go receive God’s. But, the other spies are fearful. They see the wonder of what God can provide but see it as outside their grasp. They say . . . “we can’t.” Their doubt, fear and negativity is not only bad for them but it also infects the rest of the community. “We can’t.” We must continue to examine our lives to make sure that we are seeing life and God’s promises like Joshua and Caleb; we must know that “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” (Philippians 4:13). This is not only for us but also for our brothers and sisters in Christ. What we say and do about the possibilities of God has an impact on those who watch us.
The Backstory and the Future. It is important to see the significance of the Promised Land to God’s people. The people began their journey of faith with God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3. Many generations later, God fulfills that promise in the generation of the Joshua generation.
- Read Genesis 12:1-3. What does God say about the land that God’s people will someday inhabit.
- Read Joshua 1:6-11. What is God going to do about the Promised Land?
- How excited do you think the people were after Joshua’s declaration in verses 10-11?
- Do we get excited about the possibilities and promises of God?
Anticipation. In between God’s promise in Genesis 12 and the fulfillment of the promise in the Book of Joshua is this narrative. The possibility of God’s promise was at hand. Read Numbers 13 verses 1-3 and verses 26-27 and think about how the people of God would have anticipated the return of the spies.
- What direction did Moses give to the spies in verses 1-3? Was there ANY reason to think they wouldn’t take the land? What had God said?
- How do you think the people – and Moses – would have been waiting for the return of the spies to tell them about the Promised Land? How do we feel about the possibilities when it appears a promise of God is about to be fulfilled.
- How is the report in verses 26-27?
But (v28-29) The narrative takes a tragic turn in verses 28 and 29. Whenever we see God moving, we must resist with all God provides the desire to say “but.” But is a word of doubt and fear. We see it here.
- After reporting positively about the land God has promised, what do the spies do in verses 28 and 29?
- What happened? Why do we think they changed and spread, as it says in verse 32, “a bad report?”
- A “but” is a failure to stand on God’s word. Why do we do it?
Yes We Can (v30). Sadly, both in this text and in modern times, the people began to believe the negative report. Fortunately, it was not everybody. The Joshua generation (Joshua and Caleb) stand up and deliver a word of force and a word of faith.
- There is a moment of confusion and the people are clamoring. What does Caleb do in verse 30?
- How does Caleb feel about whether they can capture the land . . . the promise of God?
- Do we think it was easy for Caleb (and later Joshua) to stand up in the face of the other 10 spies and the people?
- How important is it for us to stand up and speak up about the possibilities and promises of God? Is it easy?
Promises Delayed (v31-33; 14:1-4). Sadly, negativity won out here. Instead of following the word of faith and promise spoken by Caleb (“yes we can”) the 10 spies dug into their negativity. Worse, the people followed their lead. And, as a result, it was 40 more years before the people claimed the promises of God. When are you like Joshua and Caleb? When are you like the other 10 spies (failing to stand on God’s promises and possibilities)? Why? Remember part of our function as God’s people is to point others to the activity, possibility and promises of God.