Notes for the sermon I will be preaching tomorrow at Thamesmead Christian Fellowship.
Spies, Giants, and Giant Slayers
I love Fairy Tales! The best ones have giants, and the heroes always have to figure out how to deal with them. In Jack and the beanstalk, the hero runs away and kills the giant by chopping down the beanstalk while the Giant is on it. In Jack the Giant killer, the hero uses his intelligence, cunning, and the stupidity of his foes to kill many giants, and earn the name "Giant killer". In the brave little tailor, the hero tricks his 2 giants into killing each other.
Well, the other kind of story I like is a good spy story. James bond, Michael Weston from Burn Notice, even Spy Kids - the thrill of going undercover, the gadgets, surveillance techniques, daring escapes - all of these get my blood singing and stir my imagination.
What has that got to do with this morning? Well, this week as I was praying about what to preach on, I came up totally blank. So I wrote to Angela, and asked what God was speaking to you as a church. Angela's reply? "Blank is good!" Well, gee, thanks Angela! (Actually, she then went on to say you are looking at Enlarging your Borders, and the Character of God.)
So... I went away, picked something, and began to read. Turns out it was a both a SPY story AND a Giant story! Wowie! How could this get any better? I'll tell you how - the story also deals with enlarging your borders, AND the character of God! And the book I was reading was the Bible!!! Awesome huh? Anyone know which part of the Bible I am talking about?
Turn in your Bibles if you will to :
Lets read it:
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
3 So at the LORD’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4 These are their names:
from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur;
5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;
6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;
7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph;
8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;
9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;
10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi;
11 from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi;
12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli;
13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael;
14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi;
15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki.
16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
Report on the Exploration
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
The time had come for the people to go and take possession of the land that God had given them. Moses decided to scout out the land ahead. One man from each of the twelve tribes was chosen to be a spy, and each was a leader in his own right (v. 3), and given the task of surveillance. They were twelve men who without a doubt were chosen because of their personal suitability for the task, men of intelligence and courage. Twelve men sent out for forty days (v. 25), sufficient time for them to make their reconnaissance and report. Twelve men sent out as a company, drawing from each other mutual support and protection.
The twelve were sent to check out the inhabitants of the land - were they strong or weak, few or many. The twelve were sent to check out the countryside whether the land was good or bad. The twelve were sent to see whether the inhabitants of the land lived in tents or walled cities. The twelve had to assess whether the land was productive or unproductive.
The spies saw in Canaan (the land that they were sent to spy out) that everything was on a grand scale. The people and the produce of the land was nothing like what they had seen or known up until that time. Imagine a cluster of grapes needing to be carried by two men on a pole (v. 23). Imagine a people that dwarfed others, giants that made other human beings feel they were mere insects (v. 33). The land of Canaan was beyond their comprehension, larger than life. The land was good, but the people were strong, the cities were walled, and many giants roamed the land. To say the least, the spies were overwhelmed by what they saw!
For the people of God, to take possession of the land seemed to be an impossible task! That was the verdict of the majority of the spies when they reported back to Moses after the forty days.
Question: Have you ever thought that something was impossible? Have you ever thought that things could be different, but were afraid to do something about it? Have you ever thought that you were too inconsequential to be able to change that reality? Some of the spies felt the pressure of not being able to face up to their anxieties and fears. We can identify with the spies in that, for time and again in our life we fail to face up to our fears and anxieties. We would rather live with the status quo, than do something about our situation and circumstance.
The problem was - ten of the spies were comparing THE WRONG THINGS to each other. They were comparing THEIR size to that of the Giants. What they should have been doing is what the hero in the next story I read did.
This story is one about a King with a special sword and suit of armor, a mighty army, a giant, and a brave hero. Any ideas?
Turn with me if you will to:
1 Samuel 17
1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.[a] 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[b]; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him.
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.
17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah[d] of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance[e] from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”
20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”
26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”
28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”
38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
Wow! What a difference to our first story. Lets compare two of the verses to each other, and see what we can find:
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are....33 We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
1 Sam 17
37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine
You see, in the first story, or brave spies, who were leaders of the various tribes, compared THEIR WEAKNESS to their ENEMIES STRENGTHS. Do you ever find yourself doing this? I often do! Well, in the second story, we see the hero, a humble shepherd boy, doing exactly the opposite - he compares HIS STRENGTH (GOD) to his ENEMIES WEAKNESS (Uncircumcised = not of the people of God, forget that he is a giant - he hasn't got God on his side!!!)
So what can we learn from these two true stories about giants?
1. Giants are big and scary.
There are things in our lives, sometimes seemingly ordinary things, that overwhelm us, scare us, and that we just want to run away from. If you can think of something like this in your life, it's probably one of the "giants" of the land you are living in. And it might even be that they are guarding your promised land - or maybe I should say "infesting" your promised land.
For Karen and I, it's very often our finances. God has called us to be full time missionaries who live by faith. This is our promised land. And it's wonderful - full of Milk and Honey. But - there are giants in this land, and one of them is the faith challenge of living without a regular income. Sometimes, this overwhelms us. We very often fall in to the trap that the 10 spies fell into - that of camparing our size with the size of the giant we are facing. And when we do that, we look like grasshoppers in our own eyes.
2. In order to enlarge our borders, we need to take possession of our promised land - and drive out the giants!
One of the exceptions to the overwhelmed, "grasshopper" spies was Caleb. Not only did he come back saying "“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” , he actually put these words into practice when he was one of only two of that generation to enter the promised land. Not for him the easy route. We see in Joshua 14:6-15 how he did this:
6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’[a]
10 “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)
When it came to taking his promised land, Caleb remembered the promise of God. He claimed as his inheritence the most Giant infested part of the promised land he could find, where, if you like, the biggest, strongest, and most famous of the giants lived - Arba. And we see from the way these verses end that he drove them out, and fully claimed his promise! Just like David, Caleb placed his faith in God, not in the strength of giants, and won his battle.
Before you can enlarge your borders, you need to take your promised Land - will you stand up today, and like Caleb and David, put your faith in God, rather than allowing the giants in your way to intimidate you?