One of my joys every year as I read through the bible is the gripping narrative of the Pentateuch, from Genesis to Deuteronomy the story of God’s dealings with mankind is without doubt, compelling and intriguing. Not least, tucked away in the numbering of the tribes of Israel is its driving quest of finding, understanding and obeying its relationship with the God who reveals Himself.
He is a God not made by hands or the thoughts of man, totally unique, holy and unapproachable, and yet He stoops down from lofty grandeur of the inexpressible glory of His own rich glorious and self-existent, uncaused, and independent being, to reveal himself.
He not only reveals Himself, but also His Will for mankind. He is not ambiguous, and we are certainly never left to our own design or with the excuse that we were left unsupervised. That probably is the blame-shifting excuse of my life!
In not leaving us to our own devices but (in breath-taking providence that has incalculable genius at its core) carefully directing us in our choices, God knows how to motivate our heart and stir us from the complacency that does not reflect the richness and challenges that life is meant to carry.
I love the story of Numbers 13 where God commands Moses to send out spies into the land they faced to check it out. Nothing is said by God about what they should expect, but what God has waiting there for them is certainly a lure. He is sending the spies out with the certain intention that they should see the bait, and bite the hook.
“When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, 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. That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there.” (Numbers 13:23-24)
You know the story well. The story is compelling. The Israelites have to weigh in the balance the risks – yes, YHWH (or God as we properly know Him)is with them and for them, and wants them to go into the land, but do they want to? God lets them choose!
Fear rules the moment and has an impact on the nation as they make the terrible decision to not listen to Joshua and Caleb, the two future leaders of Israel but in a moment lacking all faith in God, turn away to listen to a majority who say that it cannot be done. Fear is the antithesis of faith. They already have forgotten the incredible moments of their liberation, and emancipation from the slavery of the magnificent Egyptian army, forgotten the miracles, forgotten the provision and forgotten that God is there.
What fruit, what spoil! Look at what we found, listen to our stories! God is with us! In our day the same can be said. God continuously, in every generation calls us to be like the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do. He also brings these stories to life, for as the Apostle Paul said, these stories were written for us upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
It is not the transfer of wealth of the nations to the Church that we are looking for, but the Lord is certainly luring us, it is not the bait of food and provision (He already said He knows about those things and will provide) but something that will give us great joy. Go and make disciples of all nations, telling them everything about the wonderful God that welcomes them. God never throws down a red carpet for us. It is a fanciful idea. Sure, there is a red carpet metaphorically speaking, but it is for Him. We are not even invited to follow Him, not invited to walk in righteousness or godliness. It is not an invitation, it is imperative.
We want to see God do, what He said He will do. He calls us to Himself, and in that calling He is always sending. The giants I refer to in the title of this post, are those who have given themselves to the pursuit of leading others to Jesus as disciples and lovers of God. It is a table of fellowship and communion, and the reality is that everyone in the Church has a place at that table. They just have to find their setting place, and decide that they will take their place.
And if the grapes are magnificent, the wine will be amazing!