Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: The Bible tells us that Joshua received an incredible message from God. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God said, “I’ve laid before you this land of good and plenty, this land that flows with milk and honey. It’s yours. Yes, there will be some battles. Yes, there will be hardships, but I’m going with you. I will conquer the enemies. I will make the walls fall down.” And years later, we see that happen at Jericho. God says, “I will do that, but if you will not believe me, you will never enter that land of promise.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, August 27, 2014.

At times you will be tempted to act or think like you don’t believe in God. Those moments are very important because other people are watching you. They want to know whether your belief is consistent with your life.

Nancy will show you how to act like you believe as she continues the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 3): Trusting God for the Promised Land." 

Nancy: The old time preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “Some esteem it a small thing for a believer to be vexed with doubts and fears, but God thinks not so.”1

As we continue in the story of the Children of Israel parked at the southern border of the promised land, where God is ready to send them in. But instead of reacting in faith, they react in unbelief and fear. As we continue in this story today in Numbers chapter 14, we’re going to see the consequences of their unbelief.

You remember that the twelve spies had come back from checking out the land. They had given, ten of them, a negative report about the land, “There are giants in the land. We cannot go in and conquer it” (see Num. 13:31–33).

And then we have Joshua and Caleb saying, “But God is with us. We can go in” (see Num. 13:30).

So you have the majority report, the minority report—the majority going based on fear, and the minority, Joshua and Caleb, operating based on faith.

Then we come to verse 10 of Numbers 14.

"Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones.” [That is, Joshua and Caleb.] But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. And the Lord said to Moses, "How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you [Moses] a nation greater and mightier than they” (vv. 10–11).

So God threatens to destroy the whole Jewish race and to disinherit the Children of Israel and to start all over again with Moses. Then in verses 13–19, you have Moses’ response to God as he intercedes, pleads on behalf of the people.

He knew they had sinned. He knew they deserved to be disinherited from God’s plan, but Moses was jealous for God’s reputation among the pagan nations. He was concerned about how the Canaanites and all the other inhabitants of the land would respond when they heard the news that God had wiped out His chosen people.

So verse 14, Moses says to God,

They have heard, [that is, the other nations have heard] that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.

The word has gotten out. Now he says in verse 15,

If you kill this people . . . then the nations who have heard your fame will say, "It is because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land that He swore to give them that He has killed them in the wilderness” (vv. 15–16).

He says, “God, they’ll think poorly of You. Don’t let that happen.” So Moses pleads with God to pardon his guilty people. And in His incredible mercy, God agrees to pardon the people, though the consequences of their unbelief are going to be stiff.

Pick up at verse 22. God says to Moses,

None of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers” (vv. 22–23).

Now they are right at the edge of the land, and God says, “They’re not going over the line.” They’re not going in. “And none of those who despised me shall see it.”

Look at verse 28.

“As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing,” [that is, all these murmuring, grumbling, complaining people] I will do to you.”

You said we’re going to die out here? Verse 29,

“Your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (vv. 29–30).

The two who believed me, they will see the land. The rest, the whole adult generation, twenty years and upward, they will die in the wilderness.

Verse 31, you said that I was bringing your children out here to kill them?

“Your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring into the land, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.

“According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure” (vv. 31–34).

Remember, Joshua and Caleb had said the Lord delights in us; He will take us into this land. The people rejected God, and God said, “Now you will know my displeasure.”

“I, the Lord, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die” (v. 35).

Where did God intend for His people to die ultimately? In the Promised Land. And instead, where would they die? In the wilderness. It is no small thing, as Charles Spurgeon reminded us, to see the glory of God and the signs that He has done for us along the way and then to put Him to the test and not obey His voice.

And in this situation, only those who chose to believe God survived the ordeal. Verse 37, the men, the ten spies who brought up a bad report of the land—what happened to them? They died by plague before the Lord. The ones who had said, “We cannot go in. We will die if we go in.”

God said, “You will die, but it will be at my hand, not at the hand of the Canaanites.” The ten spies who feared the inhabitants of the land and doubted the power of God were consumed by the power of God. And you think that wasn’t an object lesson to the millions of Jews watching it happen.

And verse 38,

Of those men who went to spy out the land, only Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive.

I’ve been meditating on this passage, Numbers 13 and 14, for much of the last year or more. I made a list here as I walked through this passage of characteristics of unbelief.  Feel in your heart what unbelief is like and what it does. Unbelief is contagious. It’s infectious. The ten spies were head of their tribes. They were influential people.

People respected them, looked up to them. And so the people followed after their leaders. And I think as a leader and you perhaps as a leader of your children or some ministry that you’re involved in, in your work place as a leader, our unbelief and our rebellion have consequences on those who follow us. We poison others with our unbelief; it's contagious.

Unbelief is rebellion against God. It disobeys His voice. It disobeys His Word. Fear and rebellion inevitably go hand in hand. And you see that in this passage. You see it in other passages in Psalms and in Hebrews that harken back to this passage

Fear, unbelief, and rebellion are a trio; they go together. Fear and unbelief are not just a weakness. It is rebellion against God. Fear and unbelief elevate the obstacles over God. The giants become bigger than God when you’re walking in unbelief; whereas, faith elevates God over the obstacles. Unbelief discounts the presence of God, where faith counts on the presence of God. “The Lord is with us.” That’s the word of faith.

Unbelief can lead to violence. It can provoke anger. All the congregation decided to stone Joshua and Caleb with stones. You see the intensifying conflict and the escalating tensions that come in human relationships when we walk in unbelief.

You’ve probably seen that happen in your family a time or two. Maybe not stoning each other with stones, although sometimes you think if you didn’t hold these kids back, they might do that. But violence—anger is often the cause of people walking in unbelief and fear rather than faith.

Unbelief ignores, overlooks, and minimizes what God has already done—just forgets all about it, what He has done, the ways He’s displayed His power. Unbelief conveniently forgets all that or is minimized in the face of difficult circumstances.

Unbelief, according to Numbers 14:11, is to despise God. Now, we don’t like to think of it that way. We think of fear as just a weakness that you can’t help. But fear is unbelief, and God says that unbelief is to despise Him. Unbelief greatly displeases God

Unbelief puts God to the test, and unbelief can easily become a pattern in our lives. God says, “Ten times the children of Israel put Me to the test.”

You walk in doubt and unbelief and fear in one area of your life, you’ll find that fear escalates, it expands, and it begins to cripple you and handicap you in other areas of your life. It becomes a pattern.

And you can probably think of some people you know, maybe someone in your family or someone in your circle of friends who just has developed a pattern of looking at certain circumstances through eyes of unbelief and fear, rather than faith. It’s become a pattern.

Unbelief keeps us from being able to experience the fulfillment of God’s promises. God said, “I’ve laid before you this land of good and plenty, this land that flows with milk and honey. It’s yours. Yes, there will be some battles. Yes, there will be some hardships. But I’m going with you. I will conquer the enemies. I will make the walls fall down.” And years later we see that happen at Jericho.

God says, “I will do that. But if you will not believe Me, you will never enter that land of promise.” You will not experience the fulfillment of God’s blessings and his promises in your life.

Unbelief can be forgiven, as God pardoned His people, but there will still be consequences. And it’s possible that you may end up not possessing all that God wanted or intended to give you, that in unbelief you will reject God’s best for your life.

It’s not that it can’t be forgiven. It’s not that you can’t repent. But there may be some ground lost. There may be some patterns established in your life that you will have to deal with for the rest of your life. When you give in to unbelief and fear, there are consequences.

Unbelief impacts your children. Your unbelief, your fear will have consequences not only on you but on the next generation. I heard in the room, just as I had read from that verse 33 of Numbers 14, just an inner groan when you read those words, “Your children shall suffer for your faithlessness.”

But haven’t you seen it to be true, if not in your own life, then in the lives of others that you know. And in some ways every mother has seen it in her life. Your children become a mirror reflection of your responses to God. And there are times when you walk in unbelief and fear that ultimately your children end up experiencing the consequences, the suffering for your faithlessness.

Listen, if you won’t believe God for your own account, for your own sake, will you believe God for the sake of the next generation?

I know I'm not just speaking to mothers but to some who like myself are single. Listen, our lives even as single women are setting a pattern for the next generation to follow. There are younger women, in this room, in my workplace, in my family, in my sphere of influence who look at me and try to determine based on what they see in my life, "Can God be trusted?" Can they move forward in faith, or will they walk in unbelief and fear? They are taking their cues from me. Unbelief impacts not only our own lives but also the next generation.

And then unbelief forfeits the presence of God. God says, “I’m not going up with you into the land. If you go up now, you’re on your own.” And remember, some of them did try to go up.

They said, “Oh, we’ll go into the land now.”

God says, “I’m not going with you. You have forfeited my presence. I’m not going with you into that place.”

Now, again, we said that the cure for unbelief is repentance and faith. Thank God for His mercy. I shared in the last session some of my own personal journey in a crisis of faith and a season of unbelief that for me lasted the better part of a year.

As I was walking through that and walking out of it into repentance and faith, God brought me to this passage, Numbers 13 and 14. I was preparing for a series to teach on the life of Joshua, but studying it first for my own life.

As I read over and over and over again through this passage and saw what God thinks about unbelief, I have to tell you, I was grieved. I was heartbroken at the thought of how I had dishonored the Lord and forfeited much of His blessing and His presence in my life over those months because of not being willing to walk in faith.

Sometimes that unbelief becomes a comfort zone for us. I’d rather live with my depression and my discouragement and my fear than get up off of this bed and move forward in faith. I was so grieved to think that my sin, as I read this passage, appeared to me to be far greater than that sin that we’d been reading about here that caused a generation of Israelites to die in the wilderness.

You say, “How was your sin greater than theirs?” Well, they grumbled in this incident for a day and a night. I had grumbled and whined and wallowed in unbelief and fear for the better part of a year.

And I have so much more track record with God and He does with me than the Children of Israel had. They had just been out of Egypt for a couple of years at the most. I’ve been walking with the Lord for close to forty-five years.

I’ve seen God over and over and over again come through on my behalf. I know the power of God. I know the promises of God. I’ve read His word from cover to cover, over and over and over again, scores of times over those years. I have every reason in the world to trust God, but I made a choice to walk in unbelief and fear rather than faith

I found myself just saying, “Lord, I am so, so sorry. Please forgive me for reflecting negatively on You, for dishonoring You through unbelief.”

Then I found myself incredibly grateful for the mercy of God—God’s mercy, His forgiveness, His pardon. And unlike the Children of Israel, to whom He said, “You’re not going into the Promised Land. That’s it. I’ve had it. You’ll die in the wilderness,” God has not shut me out of the Promised Land.

He’s not shut you out. As long as you’re alive and there’s breath in your body, there’s still time to exercise faith and move forward.

And I said, “Oh, God, you are a merciful, merciful God. Thank you, Lord.” I quoted from Charles Spurgeon at the beginning of this session. Let me continue reading what he has to say about doubt and unbelief. He said,

Think it not a light matter to doubt Jehovah. Remember, it is a sin and not a little sin either, but in the highest degree criminal. The angels never doubted Him, nor the devils either. We alone out of all the beings that God has fashioned dishonor Him by unbelief and tarnish His honor by mistrust. Shame upon us for this.

Our God does not deserve to be so basely suspected. In our past life we have proved Him to be true and faithful to His Word. And with so many instances of His love and of His kindnesses we have received and are daily receiving at His hands, it is base and inexcusable that we suffer for a doubt to sojourn within our heart.

I say yes, He has shown Himself faithful and powerful to me more times than I can count, over decades. Yet how often have I been focused on the obstacles and the problems than on His presence, His promises, and His power.

How often do I flag in unbelief and fear, my heart wavering, chosing to stay in that comfort zone of unbelief rather than to move forward in faith.

Spurgeon says,

May we henceforth wage constant war against doubts of our God and with an unstaggering faith believe that what He has promised, He will also perform.

How do you get that unstaggering faith? You live in the Word of God, and you count it true. You read it and you say, “When reason and revelation collide, I will go with revelation. I will go with what the Word of God has to say.”

When my natural human reasoning tells me something that’s contrary to the Word of God, I will reject my reason if need be and go with the Word of God, go with what He has said is true.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us the danger of unbelief. She’ll be right back.

I hope you’ll take her suggestion and combat unbelief with the Word of God. He has made several promises in the Bible that will support you when you’re tempted to doubt. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a list of biblical promises so that you could easily review them?

Well, we’d like to send you that kind of list in the booklet Promises to Live by. This booklet will strengthen your faith, remind you of God’s goodness, and combat unbelief. We’ll send a copy as our gift when you make a donation of any size to RevivOur Hearts.

Your gift will make a real difference as we continue providing Bible teaching that calls women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. To get the booklet, Promises to Live By, call us this week at 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, if fear holds you back from God’s best, don’t miss tomorrow’s program when Nancy and some friends talk practically about moving forward in faith, even when you’re afraid. Now Nancy is back to wrap up today’s program.

Nancy: Caleb and Joshua had not read the outcome of their story as we’re able to do today. So they had no way at this moment in their lives of knowing how determinative their response was, both in the immediate and in the long term.

They simply followed and believed God in the moment, even when the whole tide of public opinion and all the evidence—everything that appeared to be true—was going in a different direction. They were salmon. They swam upstream.

Joshua’s faith, his courage, his willingness to stand against the unbelieving majority in this test was further preparation for his ultimate calling to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. His faith and courage at this moment was evidence of his fitness for such a leadership role, even though he would not be given that mantle for another forty years.

My willingness to believe God and to walk in faith now in the things that don’t seem like such a big deal—that willingness to walk by faith is an indicator of where my heart will be later in life. It’s a determining factor in my long-term usefulness to God and His kingdom.

Whether you’re eight or eighteen or twenty-eight or thirty-eight, don’t think the decisions you make now are inconsequential. Your character is being formed; your heart is being revealed. And the way you chose to exercise faith in the Lord as a young mom or a young single woman or a high school student, that’s evidence of the pattern and inclination and direction of your life.

If you’re making choices of faith now, you will find most likely that later in life you will build on those choices and continue to walk by faith. My heart and my character—your heart and your character are being shaped now. They’re being seen now in how we respond to the tests and the challenges at this season of our lives.

I can’t walk in fear, disobedience, or half-hearted devotion to Christ now and hope that one day years from now I will be this godly, courageous woman of faith or that I will fulfill my God-given destiny decades from now, if I’m not making the choices now to walk by faith.

So Lord, I pray that as You look at each of our hearts and see us in whatever season of life we’re in right now that we would see the significance, the importance of making choices now that honor you—of saying yes, Lord, I will walk by faith—yes, I’m young, but I know that this choice matters now.

Lord, help us to be making choices now that will lay a foundation for a lifetime of walking by faith and fulfilling the purposes for which You put us here on this earth. Make us women who are known as living according to the promises of God. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Evening by Evening. May 11.

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