Files for youth pastors:
His mom walks in the room and says that it’s finally time to start packing for their week-long vacation and that they are leaving in the morning. While most teenage boys would throw everything they own into an overstuffed suitcase, this one looks at his mom and tells her he doesn’t want to go. “What do you mean you don’t want to go? You don’t even like it here at home.” That was true as he was having a real struggle liking, loving, obeying, and living with his family. Even with his own bedroom, a screened-in underground pool, a Wii, etc, he even hated his house. Refusing to pack, he ran away from home that night and was found by a Sheriff. Finally on the way to vacation the next day, he jumped out of the moving vehicle to make a statement: “I’m not going!”
If you think this sounds rebellious and backwards, this situation is only a hint of what Israel is doing to God at this point in Numbers 13 – 14. All the way since Abraham their forefather, God has promised His people to bless them with His presence (Tabernacle…check), to make them into a great nation (census…check), and to give them a great land to live in. That last part is the fulfillment of his three-fold promise…which they’re heading towards in this passage. In fact, they’re right on the edge of this promised land as their journey is over and they are ready to enter. But first, God calls them to do a little espionage by telling them to spy out the land to see that it truly is a land of blessing that He has promised (Num 13:1-2, 17-25).
You can almost hear the cheers of the people, the Israelite teenagers whooping it up, and the stomach’s growling as the spies reported back with the fruit of the land on their shoulders…even grapes hanging down to the ground (Num 13:27)! They described it as a land flowing with milk and honey. The people must be thinking, “Wow, our God is so good. He leads us. He even feeds us. He surely loves us!” When the spies should have left the report there, they said that powerful little word, “But!” I’ve heard preachers say that when it comes to serving, following, and their faith in God…everyone has a BIG but. The Israelites “big but” was that the people in the land were so huge, so many, and they felt so small compared to them.
It’s so easy to think how these Israelites must be a bunch of spiritual wusses and pansies. But don’t we do the same thing? We can do some espionage and spy on the future home God has for us by reading incredible passages like Revelation 21-22 (read), but then we don’t live in that hope. You get pumped up for Christ by a convicting worship service at your church, a deep Bible study with a friend, a powerful time of prayer by your bed…BUT then you walk into the real world. You see all the people. You look so stupid to the athletes, so dumb to the intellectual, so uncool to the popular. We allow our sins of faithlessness and fear hinder our hope of what God has promised for us eternally. Our sin holds us back from hoping for eternity.
How do we know if we’re hoping in eternity or not? Well, like the teenage boy I first talked about…I think it comes down to our willingness to pack. Do we see this life as a process of packing for eternity or as a time to pack-in as much fun as possible since this is our only shot? If we’re really hoping in eternity, wouldn’t we be packing more? What’s the only thing we can pack for eternity? People! We can take people with us to eternity, but that’s it.
Can you be set free from your sin of not hoping for eternity with Christ? Absolutely! Even the boy mentioned before is now seeming to grow in Christ as his love, appreciation, and tenderness is growing for his family. With all of this in mind, I think we need to focus on the same things that scared the Israelites, but we need to view them with eternal significance.
1. People. They were afraid of the inhabitants, but we need talk to people about eternal life. 2. Pain. They painfully wept all night, but we need to use our pain to minister to others in pain. 3. Past. They wanted to return to their past, but we need to let our past remind us of our hope. 4. Passing Away. They were terrorized of dying, but we need to see death as passing on to a greater land and kingdom ruled by Christ with God! Are you hoping and packing for eternity?