Learning to Love Israel's God

My favorite Old Testament passage: Numbers 13-14

Preparing my annual baccalaureate sermon, I thrashed about for an appropriately generic, one-size-fits-all biblical text for those who don't believe the Bible. I seized upon Numbers 13-14, Moses' sending of the spies into Canaan to scout the Promised Land for the arriving Hebrews.

This class of graduates seemed tentative, unsteady, uncertain of their future in a downsized, devoluted American economy. This seemed the perfect text for a final sermon on their way out of Dear Old Duke.

The Hebrews stand at last on the threshold of the Promised Land. What lies ahead? Two groups of spies are sent out to reconnoiter. At the end of 40 days, they return with their respective reports for Moses and Aaron-a majority report and a minority report.

"The land is plentiful," said the minority, "but the cities are strongly fortified."

"Let's go take the place!" exclaims Caleb. (Caleb means "dog," take it as you will.)

The majority report is more pessimistic. "The people over there, why, they're like giants! Next to them, we looked like grasshoppers!"

The majority report begins by saying that the Canaanites are men, then it says they are big men, finally calling them

"Nephilim" (cf. Gen. 6:1-4). Giants!

Actually, the majority and the minority reports agree to a great extent. The difference lies in the response. Caleb says, "Let's go for it; God is with us!"

But the people of Israel have a different reaction. "We should have died in Egypt! We had it better back in slavery!" they cry. "We're going to die out here, eaten by these Canaanite giants!"

You can see where I was moving with my sermon: Don't worry, graduates: you can do it! We can build cars and computers as well as the Japanese! The economy will get better! Let's go for the Promised Land-or at ...

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Christianity Today
Learning to Love Israel's God
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In the Magazine

October 28, 1996

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