Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Advent: The Long Road to Bethlehem (4)

Scripture Readings

  • Hebrews 2:10-18;
  • Judges 16:1-7, 23-31

Introduction

Han van Meegeren painted a work in the style of the great Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer and titled it “The Supper at Emmaus”, fooling the critics who thought it was a lost masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer. The painting was sold for millions of dollars, and displayed in the Boijmans Gallery in Rotterdam.

Van Meegeren painted more, raking in millions more dollars.  After WWII, a receipt led two investigators from the Allied Art Commission to the studio of Van Meegeren, who wanted to know from whom he had bought the artwork. Unwilling to divulge the truth, Van Meegeren was arrested on charges of treason and faced the death penalty. Van Meegeren then confessed, but no-one believed him. Even experts testified that his work was without question was originals of Vermeer, which it was not. The only way to prove his innocence was to produce another fake!

Van Meegeren later wrote that he was sure about one thing: if he died in jail, people would forget the details of his fraudulent paintings. Because “I produced them not for money but for art’s sake.”

What about Samson, was he a fake deliverer, or just a con artist?  Must we remember him for his sins, for his achievements, or for his failures? More importantly, was Samson the leading actor in the drama of Judges 13-16? Why is his life recorded in the Scriptures?

Wrecking victory 

What stands out like a sore finger in the ministry of Samson is that his work was a one-man-show.  His methods and strategies did not appeal to his fellow-countrymen.  Did they regard him as a fraudulent, self-appointed freak?  Not many people want to be associated with a seemingly out-of-the-box person who claims to be the liberator of the people. So, Samson went solo.  All along, he subdued the enemy, even if they only observed from a distance.

Did those who divided the Bible into chapters and verses do a good job in dividing chapter 15 and 16?  Maybe not.  A careful reading of chapter 16:1-3 would instead add these verses to the end of chapter 15.  Why?  Chapter 15 tells of Samson’s victories, explicitly stating in verse 20, “Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Chapter 16:1-3 takes us to another significant victory.  Reading some commentaries, and drawing from superficial observations, this episode in Samson’s life is lumped together with his bad choices of women.  Verses 4-21 is without a doubt about his arrogant fall into sin with Delilah.  More about that later.

Judges 16:1-3 happened in Gaza, miles away from his meeting with Delilah?  So, what was Samson’s business in Gaza?

All of this is significant with the light of another episode in the Bible.  When Israel took possession of the Promised Land under Joshua, they destroyed the Anakites who lived in the hill country to the Mediterranean Sea (Joshua 11:21).  This is roughly where Samson and his parents settled in the towns of Zora and Eshtaol. 

Who were the Anakites?  This takes us back to the report of those whom Moses had sent to check out the land.  They also visited the Sorek Valley with all the vineyards (where Samson killed the lion? [Judges 14:4]), and even took a cluster of grapes back, so big that they carried it on a pole between them (Numbers 13:23). Some came back with this report: 

“There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33, NKJV)

After the forty years of wandering in the desert because of their unbelief (Numbers 14:11, 21-23), Joshua led the people into the Promised Land.  The occupation of years later under Joshua was not complete.  We read, 

None of the Anakim was left in the land of the children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod. (Joshua 11:22, NKJV)

And now we find Samson in Gaza!  

With the fearlessness of someone who understood something of delivering his people from Philistine oppression, Samson went to their own fortified capital. Gaza was the most powerful border-city of the Philistines.

Too quickly may we jump to conclusions about Samson spending the night with a prostitute.  Why was he in that house?  It was custom that the houses of prostitutes stood open to all, including strangers who had no friends in the city to take them in.  Do you remember the spies who visited Jericho and stayed the night with Rahab, the prostitute? (Joshua 2)  

Samson did not go to Gaza to visit a brothel.  Because he wished to remain there some time, there was no option for him but to check in with the prostitute. Who else would have taken him in?

Keep in mind, this was supposed to be the territory given to Judah (Judges 1:18), but they were nowhere near now?  They were hiding in the clefts, caves and strongholds (Judges 6:2) out of fear.  But Samson marched into the lion’s mouth.  The enemy had one desire:  kill him!

When they were keeping guard through the night around the city to prevent him from escaping, they fell asleep.  At midnight Samson “took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two gateposts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.” (Judges 16:3, NKJV).  To take possession of an enemy’s gate is to have a complete victory over them.  When Samson pulled out the gate of Gaza, he inflicted national humiliation of the Philistines before Israel, as if Israel, in the person of its representative, took their capital by storm.  

What did he do with the gates?  He planted them on the hill the faced Hebron.  Is it of importance?  Sure!  Hebron was the city Joshua gave to Caleb (Joshua 15:13).  Hebron had been occupied by the giants, the Anakites, but Caleb was one of the spies who reported back to Moses in Numbers 14 with these words:  

Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them. (Numbers 14:8–9, [24], NKJV)

And, of course, Hebron was the country of David, the king who would later totally destroyed the Philistines.  And not far from Hebron, in Bethlehem (the city of David) the Christ would be born, who single-handedly destroyed the enemy of enemies and enlarged the territory of God’s people into all the world.  To Him was given all power in heaven and on earth.  In His Name, we are marching on into final victory when He will crush all resistance and treads all enemy under his feet  (Psalm 2 and 110).

Samson was a man of faith, just as the Bible teaches in Hebrews 11.  Single-handedly, he made a spectacle of the oppressors.  He connected the Promised Land back to the former days, but his ministry also linked to future deliverance.  

He became a wrecking victory. 

Victorious wreck

The next and final episode in Samson’s life is a picture of failure.  In more than one sense Samson’s life became a symbol of the experience of his adulterous people, who traded her privilege as God’s treasured possession to become a spectacle of shame.

Samson toyed with his victories, took his eyes off his mission and, in arrogance and pride, squandered his God-given abilities.  

His power did not lie in his hair; his hair was merely a symbol of God’s presence with him.  In the lap of the adulterous women, now not deep in Philistine territory, but actually not far from home—and maybe because he felt safe in these environments—probably knowing that his hair had nothing to do with his strength, thought nothing of it to disregard God’s claim on him as a Nazirite.  He had Delilah snip off his hair. It was precisely because this careless attitude which dug the hole of his defeat. 

But God did not leave him at once.  Samson stretched the grace of God.  It was after the fifth time that he was not the deliverer of Israel anymore; what was left was just mortal Samson of Eshtaol. He became powerless and ended up blind, helpless, humiliated, labouring like an animal as a slave of the very people he was to destroy.

This was the story of Israel.  This was the story of the other judges.  A human deliverer would always fail.  God’s people would always fail.  They needed a Perfect Deliverer, a sinless one, a Saviour who could finally satisfy God’s wrath on sin, a Saviour who would finally destroy the enemy to set his people free.  

This Saviour was the One born in Bethlehem and who went on to destroy death and sin and hell and Satan on Calvary’s Hill.

Who knows what went through Samson’s mind as he, with eyes cut out, in the darkness of the mill floor reflected on his life.  What went through his mind when they came to get him to entertain them as they were gathered in the temple of Dagon, jeering: 

“Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy!” (Judges 16:23, NKJV)

Dagon’s temple was most probably in Ashdod north of Gaza  (1Samuel 5:1).  

Wesley penned down this poem:  

Into their hands by sin betrayed,
(The sin I cherished in my breast)
Low in the deepest dungeon laid, 
Fettered in brass, by guilt oppressed;
A slave to Satan I remain,
And bite, but cannot burst my chain.

Now to their idol’s temple brought, 
A sport I am to fiends and men, 
They set my helplessness at nought,
They triumph in my toil and pain: 
Th’ uncircumcised lift up their voice, 
And Dagon’s worshippers rejoice.

He shuffled in, chains around his ankles.  He was stripped of all dignity and pride.  Around him, there was just darkness.  

All the rulers of the Philistine were there, and the galleries were packed with 3,000 Philistines.  Guided by another servant he asked to put between the pillars supporting the roof.  

Wesley’s poem continues: 

Remember me, O Lord, my God, 
If ever I could call thee mine;
Though now I perish in my blood,
And all my hopes of heaven resign,
Yet listen to my latest call, 
Nor suffer me alone to fall.

O cast not out my dying prayer, 
Strengthen me with thy Spirit’s might
This only once: I pray thee, hear, 
Avenge me for my loss of sight,
Avenge it on mine enemies,
For they have put out both mine eyes.

Was his prayer sincere?  Calvin helps us to understand:  

“…even though there was some righteous zeal mixed in, still a burning and hence vicious longing for vengeance was in control. God granted the petition. From this, it seems, we may infer that, although prayers are not framed to the rule of the Word, they obtain their effect.”

God gave him the strength to push the supporting pillars over, killing the rulers and the people—and most importantly, making a spectacle of the god of the Philistines. Yet, it was the end of Samson, killing “at his death were more than he had killed in his life.” (Judges 16:30)

Another deliverer failed.  Samson died a victorious wreck.

Conclusion

The scene shifted to Bethlehem where Christ was born.  Our reading from Hebrews states: 

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14–15)

If your Christmas only takes you the stable, and not to the cross, you miss the message of Scripture.  If you do not worship Christ as the One who destroyed death and Satan, you will find yourself with Samson in the lap of sin, and with him, you will die with the enemy.  

I plead with you, fall down and worship Him as Lord and Saviour.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 16 December 2018

 

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The Devastation of Disobedience

Lessons from Joshua

Scripture Readings

  • 2Corinthians 6:14-7:1
  • Joshua 23:1-16

Introduction

There was a man who sold his house. The buyer was somewhat surprised when the owner had one last request:  he wanted to have the hook behind the bathroom door.  “No problem”, the buyer said, “let’s go and get it for you.”  “No,” the owner said, “could you just leave it there.  I just want it there.”

It all sounded a bit strange, but the buyer was happy with the arrangement.  They signed the paper work and the previous owner got into his car, drove off, and for the next few years they did not hear from o him.

Then one day, he knocked, having a paper bag in his hand.  “I just thought I’d use my hook for a while.”  He was allowed into the bathroom where he pulled a piece of meat out of the bag and hung it over the hook. He then left.

He was not back for days.  The meat started to smell.  They rang him up and asked that he would remove the meat.  “It is my hook by arrangement.  I checked very carefully that the meat does not touch the paintwork on the door.  Thanks very much!”

Now, this is only an illustration – such thing will not stand up in court.  But it teaches us something we will learn from the Scriptures today.

Inheritance received

In chapter 23 Joshua called all the leaders of Israel, God’s covenant people, together. He was an old man at the time.  Joshua pointed three things out to the leaders:

The battle belongs to the Lord

You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you. (Joshua 23:3, NIV)

The Lord your God himself will push them out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you. (Joshua 23:5, NIV)

Yes, they were involved in it, they had to take up the armour and the arms and be there on the ground where the battles took place; they had to face the enemy and see the blood; they had to advance into the new territory, and they had to physically take possession of it.  But, before them the Lord went, behind them He followed, and when they rested of their campaigns He was above them, blessing them all the way.  He did so, because He promised the land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He did so for his glory.

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors… (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, NIV)

Ultimately those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him as his disciples will inherit a new heaven and a new earth. The Israelites who believed in God and loved Him with all their hearts were saved by grace and they will also be in heaven.  But between heaven and being saved, God has a plan for us:  we need to conquer this world in the Name of Jesus.  We have his promise that He will be with us till the very end of this age.  He gave us his Sprit to empower us for our task.  Not all of us will have to do all things, but all of us need to do some things in this world-wide task of evangelism and mission.  We are not saved for the sake of being saved; we are saved for the glory of God.  In this task God says, “I am with you; I will give them in your hands.”

Be courageous and faithful

Joshua had something else to say to the elders and leaders:

“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. (Joshua 23:6, NIV)

This is an echo of the words God spoke to Moses earlier while they were still in the wilderness:

You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt… The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear… Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. (Deuteronomy 7:17–21, NIV)

When Caleb saw the giants of the Anakites, he first of all saw this awesome God.  When Anakites saw Goliath, he first saw this awesome God.  When Jonathan and his armour-bearer faced the Philistines, he said, “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, wether by many of by few.” (1Samuel 14:6)  It is because the disciples believed in this awesome God, revealed in Jesus Christ, that they could face the Jewish Council, kings and caesars.  And God helped them out and protected them miraculously.  If He didn’t, his Name was always glorified – and that is the point.

To be faithful and to be courageous is what the Lord still demand of his church today.  There is one verse in the Scriptures that really scares me.  In Revelation 21 John saw the new heaven and the new earth. And then this verse:

Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:7–8, NIV)

There is another:

Whoever is ashamed of Me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26, NIV)

Be holy

 “… be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. (Joshua 23:6, NIV)

These were the same words the Lord gave to Joshua at the beginning of his leadership. Now, in the evening of his life, most probably about 100 years of age, he could say as the apostle said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2Timothy 4:7)

King Saul was disobedient to the command of the Lord and spared the life of the king of the Amelikites.  Samuel said to him:

For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23, NIV)

Valiant acts of courage are not as useful in the eyes of God as obedience in the first place.  To “be careful to obey all that is written in the Book” equals holiness.  God delights in obedience and accomplishes his purposes through obedient holiness.

There is something else the Lord commanded his people.  Add to this the command to not intermarry and associate with the nations.  Why?

But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you. (Joshua 23:12–13, NIV)

The blessing of the Lord will disappear and the enemy will become more arrogant.  The same thing happened in the time of Ezekiel.  The people said:

You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen. (Ezekiel 20:32, NIV)

They thought if they would become like the nations they had a better chance on survival.  There are Christians and even churches who think that way too.  Becoming like this world is not a recipe for survival, but a sure formula for destruction.

John writes, “Do not love this world.”  Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2, NIV)  Worldliness is the death nail to the life of the Christian and a cyanide capsule to the church.  It makes us powerless, not becasue we follow the world in the first instance, but because God withdraws his presence and blessings. The Holy Spirit is not at work where the spirit of this world is at work.

God is faithful

Joshua concludes his instruction to the leaders reminding them of the faithfulness of God.

You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. (Joshua 23:14, NIV)

This would strengthen them enormously.  You look back to where God started his grace in your life, you know what He promised and how He fulfilled all his promises, how He is with you just now, and look into the future and you may know for sure He will be with you all the way until He reached his purposes.  So, when the Israelites understood that they should complete the task of driving out the rest of the enemy, they could count on God for his faithful help.

The same applies to the church in its mission charge: our Lord promised to be with us, He promised that when we pray He will give us what we need and have joy in Him.  Sometimes we ask wrongly, with the wrong motives, we do not wait, we follow our own heads, etc; the Lord then does not answer our prayers.  But when it is really his will and we follow in obedience, He is always faithful provide what we need.

The question is, Do we even pray? and, Do we indeed find ourselves on the road to do his will in bringing the Good News to the world around us?  Is what we keep ourselves busy with what God wants us to be busy with?

Inheritance cold-shouldered 

You have to turn to Judges the first chapter to read this recurring phrase, “they did not drive out”.  Let’s take one verse:

When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. (Judges 1:28, NIV)

What did they do with those they did not drive out?  They made them into forced labourers.  Just a little handy to have the foreigner in your midst as a labourer.  Nothing wrong with a hook behind The bathroom door! But what did lead to?  Turn to chapter 2:10:

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10, NIV)

What was the next step?

They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger (Judges 2:12, NIV)

What was the result?

In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. (Judges 2:14, NIV)

God sent his angel to the people with this message:

Yet you have disobeyed Me. Why have you done this? (Judges 2:2–3, NIV)

Is this not on average the state of affairs in the church of our Lord Jesus today?  There are scores of churches in the big cities and bigger towns who struggle for survival.  Yet worldliness has crept into the pulpits, the activities of the congregation and the personal lives of the members.  Large church buildings go on the market to become coffee houses and even pubs, while the church has become bankrupt.  Trace the ministry of such a church and one would most probably find a ministry which started out as an outward-looking church which gradually switched to an inward-looking church.  Vision on the big picture of God’s Kingdom is lost, and on what spot and on what pew people sit in church has now become its mission.  Such church has no place in God’s kingdom and it has lost its reason to exist in this world.  The world has no respect for such a church.  Such a church has shunned its inheritance.

We should learn from the letters to the churches in Revelation. Ephesus lost its first love, and they grew cold in their fervour for the work of God, became clinically inward-looking, and Christ warned them that their lampstand might be removed, that is that they run the risk of ceasing to be church in God’s eyes.

Smyrna on The other hand, was a small and poor church, but fervent for the Lord.  “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…  Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Revelation 2:10, NIV)

Conclusion

My dear friend, where do we stand with our task of conquering this world for Christ?  And in Wee Waa?  How do we stack up against the standard of holiness of Christ for his church?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14, NIV)

No, the true church of Christ is “the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” (2 Corinthians 6:16, NIV)

The disobedience leads to worldliness; worldliness leads to weak witness, weak witness leads to invoking God anger upon us, which leads to our destruction.  Disobedience is like the hook behind the bathroom door:  it provides the foothold for the devil. As disciples of Christ we need to leave everything behind and follow Him

May God help us.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 16 February 2014

Caleb – He trusted God all the way

Lessons from Joshua

Scripture Readings

  • Numbers 13:26-14:9
  • Joshua 14:6-15

Introduction

Dear brother and sister in the Lord Jesus Christ,

As most of you know by now, I served for some time as padre in the Presbyterian Inland Mission.  When working in the area of Wedderburn and Charlton in Victoria, someone asked me if I had been to the birthplace of John Flynn.  It was not far away, west of Bendigo in Moliagul. I jumped into my car and made my way there.  To stand next to the monument of a mostly forgotten man who changed the face of outback Australia, was just something.  Up the road were the remains of a timber cottage, which most probably was his birthplace.  Then, over the bridge were the ruins of the school where his father was the teacher, and across the road what remained of the church were they worshipped.

Me, a migrant to Australia stood on almost holy ground:  it was the closest I would ever get to the human being I admire for this dedication to the Gospel, his love for the Lord and his love for the people of the outback.

Caleb, the foreigner

A very interesting fact about Caleb is that he comes from a line of people who were not originally Israelites. Caleb is known as the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite.  Some time up the family tree of Caleb a son was born to Esau whose name was Kenaz, whose descendants became know as Kenizzites. During the course of history they occupied some parts of the south land, maybe in the southern districts of what eventually become known as the portion of Judah.  Some of Caleb’s family identified with the Jews and worshipped the God of Israel.  When exactly they ended up in Egypt during their 430 years sojourn there, we do not know, but the Bible tells about this young man, Caleb, who was amongst those who were now on their way back to the Promised Land.  About very time his name is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to the way in which he followed the Lord:  “with his whole heart”

He had heard of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  It was somewhere there back in land of his forefathers that this Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried.  The place was Hebron.  Abraham has bought a piece of land there as a family burial plot in the cave of Machpelah.  There Abraham buried Sarah.  Later, his son Joseph, then governor of Egypt, brought the remains of Abraham to the same place to be buried.  It was the place where Isaac, Rebekah and Joseph were buried.  Still, with them the Israelites had the bones of Joseph whose wish it was to be buried there.

It is not impossible that Caleb, from his early years, had heard from his parents about the Anakites, a boorish and brute group of people, physically strong, almost gaintlike.  They at some stage occupied the town of Hebron and renamed it Kiriath Arba, after Arba, the greatest hero of the Anakites.  I think it was quite possible that Caleb had it in his mind, that if God would give the land to the Israelites as He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he wanted to reclaim it for God, and in the process he would go back to his roots:  as his father who turned away from idols to worship the true God, so Caleb would go back to the land of his forefathers in the southland of Judah to conquer it for the worship of the true God; but he would go back as member of a new family, that of the Covenant family of God, where the father of all who believe was buried.  He wanted to reclaim God’s land, he wanted to reclaim the honour of the One he serves wholeheartedly.

One of the scouts

Forty five years earlier he stood with Joshua before Moses to report on the Promised Land.  Moses had sent 12 scouts out to come back with an exploration report.  There was a minority report.  Ten reported about the land and how good it was, but they also reported about the people, specially the brutal, barbarous Anakites.

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. 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.” (Numbers 13:32–33, NIV)

The minority report:

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:7–9, NIV)

What was the difference between these two reports.  Let’s hear the Lord’s own evaluation:

The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Numbers 14:11–12, NIV)

Unbelief.  Contempt.  The of the Hebrew word translated here as contempt  root signifies the attitude whereby someone who provide a service is consciously treated with disdain.  There are verse in the Bible where this word is translated as blasphemy.

Some comments on the majority report and says, “Preachers can sometimes proclaim the truth, lying all the way and as such lead the church of God to unbelief.  Truth can sometimes be presented in such a way that believers begin to turn away from the truth.”  This is what happened here.

Last week we stood before the miracle of the sun stopping mid-air for about a whole day while the people of God routed the enemy and God fought for them.  Now, if for some reason I did not believe that God is omnipotent, that He does not hold the stars, the sun and moon in his hand to control it as He sees fit, and tried to present what happened there in such a way that it does not say what the Word of God explicitly says, I would have sown into your heart seeds of disbelief.  You would then very quickly down the track find yourself asking if God can indeed do what the Bible says.  And thousands of people walked away from the faith exactly because of that.

Two men who were once very close fiends got together and began Christian crusades which rocked the world.  Both of them were extremely talented people, and thousands came to hear them speak, many became Christians as a result of it.  One died 13 years ago – a complete and utter atheist.  The other, now also an old man, still stands firm in the faith.  The one who became and atheist wrote a book Farewell to God, wrote about a discussion he had with his good friend in which he said,

“… it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.”

His friend replied:

“I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me.”

His friend replied:

“You cannot do that. You don’t dare stop thinking about the most important question in life. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.”

The truthful Bible preacher answered:

“I don’t know about anybody else,’ he said, ‘but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me.”

The man who became an atheist though he won the intellectual argument, but he lost his soul and died without God.  He was Charles Templeton.  His good friend is Billy Graham.

Caleb and Joshua, as one commentator puts it, saw little giants but believed in a great God and their hearts were strong in Him; the others knew a little God, saw giants, and their hearts melted in the face of the enemy.  In this they disdained God, blasphemed against Him, and displayed their unbelief.

Caleb, in the language of faith, said, “Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:9, NIV)

Something of the attitude and faith of Abraham lived in the heart of Caleb and Joshua.  Hear the what God said about Caleb,

Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

The majority of the people listened to the majority report and never saw the Promised Land.

The Lord promised

Then, forty five years later, Caleb stood before his leader and good friend, Joshua.  They had fought the good fight, even after the Israelites crossed the Jordan and by the grace of God pulled of the impossible:

Joshua took the the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions.  Then the land had rest from war. (Joshua 11:23)

For more that five years Caleb fought with the other tribes to secure the land and depose their rulers.  But there was so much more to do.  But it seems that every tribe had to continue in each of the portions of land the Lord had given them to complete the task of utterly displace the enemy and instate the rule of god over the entire land.

Caleb was by now about the oldest male in Israel; the others died in the desert because of their rebellion, disbelieve and disdain with God.  He was with the men of Judah, because he was now reckoned to be one of that tribe.

He stood on the promises of God.  In his heart there was a living faith, the flame was still burning because God proved to be faithful to be with them and give them the ability to conquer the enemy.  So he stood there with this testimony:

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.’ (Joshua 14:9, NIV)

Because of the faithfulness of God he claimed:

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.” (Joshua 14:12, NIV)

By God’s appointment

It is so marvellous to see how God worked behind the scenes in all of this.  Each tribe got their allotment not be choice, but by God’s choosing.  God ordained that the bigger tribes would receive bigger areas.  But God would give them their inheritance as He would make it clear by lot.

So, although there might have been a personal desire of Caleb to inherit Hebron, or Kiriath Arba, it had to be confirmed by God’s choice. As from the tribe of Judah they indeed got that potion of land, but then for Caleb, he stood on the promises of God.

Why did he seek this?  God said so.  Caleb, you’re and old man now, maybe you should just look for a place to with a giant fig tree to sit under and enjoy the last days of your life reflecting on the goodness of God.  The fight is over.

No, the fight is not over, the battle lies ahead.  God’s glory and honour must be seen by the brutal, barbaric Anakites who though the were invincible.  Like a David in the face of the giant Goliath, Caleb stood for the glory of God.  No rest till that is done.  He got what he claimed in the Name of God and went head.  The Bible says:

In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). (Joshua 15:13–15, NIV)

It is more than possible that under Caleb, once the Anakite giants were defeated, that the original name of Hebron was restored.  The Bible does not tell who buried the bones of Joseph, but one can only think that in some way Caleb was involved.  And I can only in my mind’s eye see Caleb at the cave of Machpelah recounting the words of Joseph, “God surely came to our aid.” (Genesis 50:25)

Conclusion

Lessons

Serve God wholeheartedly
  • trust and obey
  • with God’s help
  • no retirement
God puts a limit to the ability of our enemy
There’s a world to conquer

Conclusion

I stood at the birthplace of John Flynn and thanked God for a man who served Him wholeheartedly – he took the command of our Lord seriously and made it his business to claim the inland of Australia for his Lord.

In faith I also stand at the open grave of my Lord and Saviour who overcame hell and death.  And I can say, “God surely came to our aid.” I look up to see Him disappear into the clouds with the command to go to all nations.  And He called me into ministry to prepare his people for their task of evangelism and missions.

The question now is, do we follow Him like a Caleb, always wholeheartedly, faithfully, trusting in Him, single-mindedly, focused, never resting till we draw our last breath?  Blessed are those won the Master finds busy when He returns. Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 February 2014