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WE ARE TO DO AS THE LORD DIRECTS US AND NOT STAND IN HIS WAY

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

14 MAY 1995

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Numbers 13:1-33
            14:1-38
Acts 11:1-18

So often we want something, and we even pray to the Lord for it, but we don't always like the way the Lord may answer us. This is similar to a child’s asking a parent for something.

Also, as a child with a parent, sometimes the Lord will give us everything we ask for, but we don't trust Him enough to go about it in the way He directs us.

Sometimes the Lord uses other people to answer our prayers, or uses us to answer theirs.

For our part, we must be willing to carry out the Lord's commands, both for our blessings and for the blessings of others.

We are not to stand in His way, just because the Lord's ways are not necessarily our ways.

The Lord knows best, and we are to trust Him.

Two weeks ago we saw how Ananias obeyed the Lord in going to Paul, even though he was afraid of Paul's persecution of the Church at the time.

So, this morning let's look at a couple of other examples of people doing or not doing as the Lord directs, and the results.

Let's begin with Acts 11:1-18.

1. Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

2. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him,

3. saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."

The initial reaction of these people was to oppose the work of the Lord in the Gentiles and Peter's involvement in their salvation.

They fail to see God's grace and love beyond the Law; and thus, they are standing in the way of the Lord's work.

But the Lord desires a softening of their hearts as well, so Peter answers their grumbling.

4. But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying,

5. "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, a certain object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me,

6. and when I had fixed my gaze upon it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air.

7. "And I also heard a voice saying to me, 'Arise, Peter; kill and eat.'

8. "But I said, 'By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.'

Initially Peter opposes the direction of this command, for it goes against the Law of the Lord.

9. "But a voice from heaven answered a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.'

10. "And this happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky.

11. "And behold, at that moment three men appeared before the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea.

12. "And the spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. And these six brethren also went with me, and we entered the man's house.

The Lord wasn't really telling Peter to kill and eat these animals, but that he would not be contaminated by entering the homes of Gentiles, and even eating with them, for He was offering His salvation to them as well as the Jewish people.

13. "And he [the man to whom Peter was sent] reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, 'Send to Joppa, and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here;

14. and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.'

15. "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning.

16. "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'

17. "If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?"

18. And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."

Because Peter obeyed the Lord, God's grace, love, and salvation came to these Gentiles.

Peter and his associates brought the answer to this Gentile's prayer.

And the results of this action, and Peter's love and patience toward those who opposed him, also brought a blessing and peace to many of his fellow Jews.

Now let's go back some 1,500 years earlier and look at a time shortly after the Hebrews left Egypt, beginning at Numbers 13:1.

1. Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying,

2. "Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers' tribes, every one a leader among them."

Note carefully what is happening.

First Moses is being called to perform a task; and part of his task is to get others to perform another task.

They are to spy out the land that the Lord has promised to give to the sons of Israel.

3. So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran at the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the sons of Israel.

Moses didn't just choose anyone.

He chose the leaders of Israel.

4. These then were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur;

5. from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori;

6. from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh;

7. from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph;

8. from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun;

9. from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu;

10. from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi;

11. from the tribe of Joseph, from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi;

12. from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli;

13. from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael;

14. from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi;

15. from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.

16. These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.

Moses chose a leader from every tribe but Levi.

This would be like calling upon one member of every family in this church to do a job for the Lord; or, it would be like calling on a representative from each church in our community; or, perhaps calling upon a leader from every Christian denomination in the world to work in unison with every other leader for the common purpose of fulfilling the Lord's desire.

17. When Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, he said to them, "Go up there into the Negev; then go up into the hill country.

18. "And see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many.

19. "And how is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are they like open camps or with fortifications?

20. "And how is the land, is it fat or lean? Are there trees in it or not? Make an effort then to get some of the fruit of the land." Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.

21. So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, at Lebo-hamath.

22. When they had gone up into the Negev, they came to Hebron where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)

23. Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs.

24. That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the sons of Israel cut down from there.

The promised land must have been some place!

Can you imagine a cluster of grapes that was so large that it had to be carried on a pole by two men?

Everything that the Lord has promised them seems to be there.

But how did they see it?

And how did they report their findings?

These men definitely went out to perform the task, but did they fulfill it, so that God's blessings could be poured out upon them and the people they represented?

25. When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days,

26. they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land.

After showing the people the huge fruit, there should have been considerable excitement to enter the promised land.

But did that same excitement exist among the spies?

27. Thus they told him, and said, "We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey [an expression meaning the best of everything], and this is its fruit.

28. "Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there.

29. "Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan."

The sons of Amalek were giants, and this report seems to be intended to frighten the people, rather than to encourage them.

After all, didn't the Lord himself promise to give this land to the Israelites?

30. Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it."

Caleb is trying to fulfill the task given him by Moses and the Lord, but are the other spies and the people listening?

31. But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us."

They’re forgetting that so were the Egyptians, but the Lord overcame them.

32. So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size.

33. "There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."

Do you know people who do this kind of thing?

They don't want to do a job, so they spend more time thinking of excuses why they shouldn’t do the job than it would take to actually do it.

They exaggerate the negative aspects and tell very little of the positive things.

So, to whom do you think the people are going to listen?

Remember as you answer this question, that all of the people also knew that this was their promised land.

Now we’ll turn to Numbers 14:1-38:

1. Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.

2. And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!

3. "And why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?"

4. So they said to one another, "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt."

So much for remembering the miracles the Lord performed in Egypt to free them from their bondage.

So much for remembering the way the Lord parted the Red Sea to let them cross, but restored the sea to destroy the Egyptians who tried to cross after them.

So much for remembering the food and water the Lord provided for them.

Why would God do all those things if He wasn't going to fulfill His promise by giving them the Promised Land?

Where is their faith?

Like Caleb they should be encouraged in spite of the negative things they saw, simply because of the Lord's promise, for He is faithful to perform all that He promises.

But now the people are actually trying to hinder the Lord's work.

5. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel.

6. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;

7. and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, "The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.

8. "If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us--a land which flows with milk and honey.

9. "Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them."

10. But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.

If you don't like the message, kill the messenger.

But that won't change the truth; it just hides it.

And justifiably, the Lord becomes quite angry about their lack of faith in spite of all that He has done for them.

11. And the Lord said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?

12. "I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they."

God appears to be as angry with these Israelites as He was with the inhabitants of the Promised Land whom He planned to dispossess.

And like Jesus Christ, Moses now stands in the gap between heaven and hell, praying for the people’s lives and reasoning with the Lord.

If you haven't done this kind of praying, try it, as we listen to Moses' words:

13. But Moses said to the Lord, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Thy strength Thou didst bring up this people from their midst,

14. and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of this people, for Thou, O Lord, art seen eye to eye, while Thy cloud stands over them; and Thou dost go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.

15. "Now if Thou dost slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Thy fame will say,

16. 'Because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.'

17. "But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as Thou hast declared,

18. 'The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.'

19. "Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Thy lovingkindness, just as Thou also hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."

Do you think the Lord would listen to you if you prayed in this manner?

If you think not, you are mistaken; for if you are a faithful servant of the Lord, He will indeed listen and will likely respond positively.

20. So the Lord said, "I have pardoned them according to your word;

21. but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.

22. "Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice,

23. shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.

24. "But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.

All things are possible.

Only believe!

But now it's too late for the naysayers.

25. "Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys; turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea."

26. And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,

27. "How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.

28. "Say to them, 'As I live,' says the Lord, 'just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you;

29. your corpses shall fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.

30. 'Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

31. 'Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey--I will bring them in, and they shall know the land which you have rejected.

32. 'But as for you, your corpses shall fall in this wilderness.

33. 'And your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they shall suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.

34. 'According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you shall know My opposition.

35. 'I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they shall die.' "

It would be horrible to have the Lord say something like this to us, wouldn’t it?

36. As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land,

37. even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the Lord.

38. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.

How many blessings have we lost because we failed to carry out the Lord's commands?

If we don't stand with the Lord and fulfill His desires we, in essence, stand against Him; for by our inaction we support the forces that work against the Lord.

As I was putting this lesson together, I couldn't help thinking about something Gertrude said last Sunday evening.

She said, "I don't understand why the Lord has allowed me to live this long."

Then after a short pause and a look toward her sons, she continued, "I suppose it's to make sure they remain with the Lord."

What greater Mother's day gift could a Mother receive than to have her children walk with the Lord all the days of their lives and to dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever.

Do as the Lord desires, and it will come true.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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