For two consecutive Sundays (1 and 8 September) I preached at my home church of Becontree Avenue Baptist Church. I dealt with the subject of “Giants” , firstly looking at people who would not face up to their giants and then how one young man dealt with a giant.
As the Bible reading is rather long you can find it here.
Many times, in our lives, I’m sure we’ve looked at situations and thought “If only….”
I recall some years ago listening on the Radio to an extract from a biography. If I remember correctly it was Charlie Chaplin. He was just a boy of 14 when his brother drowned. His mother due to the shock and the grief was committed to a mental asylum. Years later she said to him about that fateful day “If only you had made me a cup of tea, I would have been alright”
So here we are in the desert. Moses acting under God’s authority has led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. They had been slaves for many years and the Egyptians had treated them harshly even having the male babies killed.
If you know the story, then you’ll remember that Moses requested of Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh refused and so brought upon the Egyptians a series of plagues which got worse and worse until eventually the Angel of the Lord killed the first born of every household in Egypt except where the Israelites lived. They had been told to take a lamb, kill it and eat it. The blood from the lamb was smeared on the doorposts of the house and the Angel of the Lord “passed over” the house and the people were saved. Hence where the Jewish feast of “Passover” comes from.
Then Pharaoh let the Israelites go. However, he had a change of mind and pursued them with his army. God parted the Red Sea and the Israelites walked through it on dry land, but the waters closed in after them and Pharaoh’s army drowned in the waters.
God had miraculously provided food and water for the Israelites as they crossed the desert. And they groaned and grumbled all the way. At some points they were so fed up and ungrateful that they said they would prefer to be back as slaves in Egypt and they reminisced about the onions and the cucumbers they had had in Egypt. If only we were back in Egypt. They were so ungrateful. They didn’t however mention how badly they had been treated as slaves in Egypt. All the way across the desert you can hear the moaners and groaners “If only….”
But finally, the whole nation of Israel is on the boarders of the promised land., ready to go in and take over.
However, before they cross into Canaan, God tells Moses to send 12 men to go on a recce and spy out the land.
The men set out and eventually after 40 days return laden with samples of the fruit they have found – a bunch of grapes so big it took two men to carry it. It truly seems to be a fruitful place. For people who have been wandering the desert it must have sounded wonderful.
However, in the few hundred years that the Jewish people have been in Egypt other people have moved in and settled the land and have naturally built fortified towns and cities to protect themselves.
This is what the spies reported: “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. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.”
One of the spies has no doubt that if this land is promised to us by God then we can go in there. We read in Numbers 13:30 “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.”
Remember the Israelites had seen Pharaoh’s army swallowed up by the Red Sea. One of the most feared fighting machines in the ancient world was destroyed just like that. They had experienced God’s amazing provision for them as they travelled through the desert. Water flowing out of rocks and manna falling form heaven. They had fought off other tribes as they crossed the desert. They knew how powerful God was, and they knew he had and would protect them.
And now when they are facing another problem, their faith in God seems to fail them. Caleb had no doubt that the Jews should go for it and possess the land but the rest of the spies, except for Joshua, are not so sure: “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 Nephilim were a legendary race of giants who were mentioned in Genesis 6:1 – 4.
The spies felt that they were so small and insignificant compared to these giants. A bit like you and me looking down on grasshoppers.
And here the people’s courage failed them. In Numbers 14 we read that the people had a meeting and this is what they said Numbers 14: 1 – 4 “That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
I am sure many of you will remember the TV series “Dad’s Army” and the aging Corporal Jones who would shout “Don’t Panic” as he did exactly that.
Many years ago I was on the church council at the church where Gaynor and I grew up. We were face with repairs to the church roof possibly costing £12,000. What were we to do as we only had £30,000 in the bank after everything else had been paid. People were in a terrible state. They were wringing their hands in despair rather than lifting them to God in prayer.
Fear and worry are very closely linked. I am told that the root of the German word for worry is strangle, and sometimes that is exactly what our worries and our fears do to us.
Somebody once described worrying as sitting a rocking chair. It can take a great deal of effort and gets you nowhere.
The American preacher and author Max Lucado in his book “Come thirsty” writes this about worry:
- 40% never happens
- 30% is about unchangeable deeds of the past
- 12% focuses on the opinions of others that cannot be controlled
- 10% centre on personal health which only worsens if we worry about it
- 8% concern real problems that we can influence.
Lucado concludes that 92% of our worries are needless.
I’m going to read a short passage from a children’s book, in fact one that I used to read to my sons when they were very young. You may think that the Mr Men can’t teach you anything but you’ll be surprised.
“It was a beautiful autumn morning. The sun was shining. The leaves on the trees had turned to a glorious red. And the wind stirred gently in the treetops. A single leaf fell gently from the tree right outside Mr Jelly’s house and quietly brushed against his bedroom window as it fell. Mr Jelly awoke with a start.
“What’s that terrible noise?” he cried, “Oh heavens! The house is falling down! Oh disaster! It’s an earthquake! Oh calamity! It’s the end of the world!” And he hid under the bed clothes, trembling with fright”
An extract from Mr Jelly by Roger Hargreaves.
A quick search of the Bible found 116 references to “Do not worry”, “Don’t be anxious” “Don’t be afraid”. So it must be important because it is repeated so often.
Sadly the Jews rebelled and refused to go into the promised land. For their lack of faith and their rebellion, they were condemned to live in the desert for 40 years until all of the adults had died, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. It would be the next generation under Joshua’s leadership who would make that journey into the promised land.
Maybe that’s a lesson for us in that if we don’t deal with the giants in our lives, God may not be in a position to bless us and we may not enter into what God has promised us.
We all have giants to deal with in our own lives. They may not be physical giants as they are few and far between, although there is a man who works on security in my local Tesco’s who is over seven foot tall.
But physical, emotional or spiritual problems can stand as giants in our lives.
Illness can threaten our wellbeing as well as our lives.
What about redundancy? Losing our job, our means of livelihood can be a major problem and overshadow us like a menacing giant.
When we’ve experienced the death of someone close to us it can be frightening.
We have to, with God’s help, face up to our giants.
23 years ago I was made redundant. There I was with a wife and four young sons and not in the best of health. By God’s grace we survived for three years on Gaynor’s student nurse’s bursary. God provided for us as we learnt to trust in his provision.
And as many of you know I was diagnosed with prostate cancer just over six years ago. Yes, at times I was frightened, but I knew that God was with me in the battle and that many many people were supporting me in prayer. So here I stand 5 ½ years clear of that cancer. Praise God!
I think it was the German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke who founded “Christ for All Nations”, who said that sometimes when we hear the devil roaring it’s only a mouse with a megaphone.
In other words, our enemy is just noise and no substance.
Our God is far greater than our enemies.
So, what should we do when we are confronted by giants in our lives?
We can do what the Israelites did and refuse to deal with them and in effect run away, or we can do what Caleb wanted to do when he said “”We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
When 40 years later the Israelites under Joshua entered the promised land, God gave this promise to Joshua, which I would urge you to take to heart as you face the giants in your life. Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”