~ Who Is the Holy Spirit? ~
Part 3 of 4
In his book, Fresh Faith, Pastor Jim Cymbala provides one of many examples of why we shouldn't tell God how to do His job. Praying "God bless so and so" almost verges on being pathetically too general and trite. After all, "God bless you" is what many people say after someone sneezes. Our prayers do need to be specific, but, as I learned through the last few years, not to the point of specifying how our Father should do the job. Faith enters here. We hire a plumber or a doctor and explain the problem and our vision for the ultimate outcome. But between our explanation of the problem, our petition for help (grace) and the vision of the ultimate outcome is a stretch of work that we best leave up to those whose "ways and thoughts are higher" than ours. Especially if we are addressing our God.
Cymbala drew my attention to the instructions God gave Moses in Numbers 13: "The Lord said to Moses, 'Choose a leader from each tribe and send them into Canaan to explore the land I am giving you.'…Before Moses sent them into Canaan, he said: 'After you go through the Southern Desert of Canaan, continue north into the hill county and find out what those regions are like…See if the land is good for growing crops and find out what kinds of trees grow there. It's time for grapes to ripen, so try to bring back some of the fruit that grows there.'"
That was the sum of their instructions. They were to explore the land that God was giving them. Their exploration took 40 days and they did report great things. But they went beyond their instructions, without orders. God already promised the land. That was a given. Moses just needed an agricultural report for planning and encouragement. The explorers assumed more authority than given, as they described the inhabitants: "'Those people are much too strong for us.' Then they started spreading rumors and saying, 'We won't be able to grow anything in that soil. And the people are like giants. In fact, we saw the Nephilim who are the ancestors of the Anakim. They were so big that we felt as small as grasshoppers.'" (vs 31-33.) The explorers' interjected their own agenda, bumping out God's.
Well, as the account continues, "After the Israelites heard the report from the twelve men who had explored Canaan, the people cried all night and complained to Moses and Aaron, 'We wish we had died in Egypt or somewhere out here in the desert! Is the Lord leading us into Canaan just to have us killed and our women and children captured? We'd be better off in Egypt.' Then they said to one another, 'Let's choose our own leader and go back.' Moses and Aaron bowed down to pray in front of the crowd. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in sorrow and said: 'We saw ourselves and it's very good. If we obey the Lord, He will surely give us that land rich with milk and honey. So don't rebel. We have no reason to be afraid of the people who live there. The Lord is on our side, and they won't stand a chance against us!' The crowd threatened to stone Moses and Aaron to death. But just then the Lord appeared in a cloud at the sacred tent.'" (14:1-18.)
Many Christians concentrate predominantly on the New Testament since that is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, with merit. But think of a historical fact: Jesus and His followers relied exclusively on the Old Testament to bring an understanding of His Gospel to the world! So I am excited about the power of this account in the Book of Numbers. I am so struck by God's response to this whole affair: "The Lord said to Moses, 'I have done great things for these people, and they still reject Me by refusing to believe in My power.'" (14:11.) Hasn't God done great things for us? Have we doubted in His power? It was a scary thing that God told Moses, that He would no longer call the Israelites His people. But Moses was bold in God's presence. He could be because Moses had an intimate relationship with Him. He challenged God, "With Your mighty power You rescued Your people from Egypt, so please don't destroy us here in the desert. If You do, the Egyptians will hear about it and tell the people of Canaan…If You kill us, they will claim it was because You weren't powerful enough to lead us into Canaan as You promised. Show us Your great power, Lord. You promised that You love to show mercy and kindness. And You said that You are very patient, but that You will punish everyone guilty of doing wrong - not only them but their children and grandchildren, as well. You are merciful and you treat people better than they deserve. So please forgive these people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.'" (14:13-20.)
I remember reading accounts of people who witnessed Corrie Ten Boom in prayer. Like Moses, she would "argue" with God, even holding up the Scriptures and reminding Him of His promises. This was not arrogance. Corrie was obeying His instructions to boldly approach His throne of grace and challenging Him on His promises to fulfill prayers petitioned in Christ's Name. I do believe God loves that. And in support of that contention, let's read on in the Book of Numbers: "In answer to your prayer, I do forgive them. But as surely as I live, and My power has no limit, I swear that not one of these Israelites will enter the land I promised to give their ancestors. These people have seen My power in Egypt and in the desert, but they will never see Canaan. They have disobeyed and tested Me too many times. But my servant Caleb isn't like the others. So because he has faith in Me, I will allow him to cross into Canaan, and his descendants will settle there'…Ten of the men sent to explore the land had brought back news and had made the people complain against the Lord. So He sent a deadly disease that killed those men, but He let Joshua and Caleb live." (14:20-24;36-37.)
So what's the point of all this Scriptural recitation? 1) God has a vision and plan for our lives which we can discern through prayer and Scriptural study; 2) God provides His promises to fulfill our prayers according to His vision and will; 3) God tells us to explore the "land" He has promised in response to our prayers and His vision and will for us; 4) We better not come back to Him and complain about how powerful the obstacles are to our prayers and His vision for us! 5) God honors our boldness in approaching His throne of grace since that is what He invited us to do. As a father, I similarly honor and smile with admiration upon my son when he approaches me with challenges and petitions to honor my promises to him. And Jesus reminded us of how much more faithful our Heavenly Father is to do the very same, but with infinitely greater power and love!
What is the connection of all this to the Holy Spirit? Talk to you next week!
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © August 18, 2000
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