2007August16, Thursday

A Concrete Example of Faith and Works

Posted in Theology at 8:15 by Trey Austin

In Numbers 13, we read that Moses sent twelve men into the land of Canaan to search out the land that God had promised to give their forefathers. They were to bring back a report of the land, the people in it, what condition it was in, and what kind of fortifications that the people in their cities had.

Of course, we know that when those spies came back, ten of them did everything that they possibly could to dissuade the people from going in to the land to take it, and only two of the men (Caleb and Hoshea, called Joshua) counseled the people to go into the land to fight and conquer it. Of course, those ten spread such an ill word among the whole camp that it turned all of public opinion against going into the land, and they would spend the next forty years (one year for every day that the spies were in the land) wandering in the desert because of their sin.

But here’s the question: God had promised Israel that land; what did the people have to do in order to receive what God had promised? Well, the answer, of course, is to trust God’s promise. But is it possible that it could have been an uninvolved, arms-folded, camped-outside-the-land, lives-not-at-risk kind of trust? In other words, was it possible for Israel to receive by faith what God had promised wholly apart from any kind of works or effort on their part? Obviously not.

However, even if they had gone into the land and conquered all of its inhabitants right then—even if they had all the best and grandest works that they could have had—would Israel have earned the land that the Lord had promised them? Would they have merited it by their works? I think the answer to that is obviously no. Even when we must work and obey God to receive what he has promised, we are still receiving his promises by faith.

I say all this because it seems to me that the ten spies had some kind of false notions about God promising to give them the land. What did they really think would happen if they simply didn’t go in and try to fight all of these people? Did they think they’d just go back to Egypt? Did they think they’d just go somewhere else? Or did they, as i suspect, think that God would give it to them in spite of the fact that they didn’t actually go in, risk their lives, fight, and possess it for God’s glory? Was their attitude one that we see very often today, that no matter what i do, God will still give me everything he has promised, just as long as i still believe in him? That’s what i suspect.

So which of these two groups more exemplifies the faith that Scripture commends us to have: Joshua and Caleb, the two men who wanted to put their works together with their faith; or the ten spies (and ultimately the whole nation of people) who wanted simply to believe, no works going along with their “faith” at all? Any thoughts?

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