Ordinary (Numbers 13)



Many of us like to go to the zoo to see lions, tigers and bears, and more. It is sort of invigorating to be face to face with an animal that in other circumstances would be disastrous. Facing danger and risk has a way of awakening your senses and your being.

A few years ago in 2011, a man who owned a private zoo released all his animals—tigers, lions, bears—before taking his own life.[1] There were over 50 animals running wild. Some of you may remember the news coverage. The zoo was located near Zanesville, Ohio. Suddenly this small town was overrun with large exotic predators. Residents were ordered indoors while local law enforcement scrambled to protect the public.

When the residents of Zanesville heard there were wild and dangerous animals on the loose, they locked their doors and called the police.

However, personally encountering God is far more intense than any animal – yet our interactions with Him are often peaceful and predictable. We have lost sight of the fact that God’s power is incomparable and potentially perilous to any who treat Him casually. God can be unspeakably dangerous while we surprisingly yawn at God believing He is caged in the zoos of our churches.

We should not yawn at God but instead yield to His call and commands upon our life.


This sermon series and the next are meant to awaken us to action. Having faith in the Christian life is not a spectator sport. Faith is a verb as much as it is a noun. Believing in God has benefits for you and through you. Becoming a Christian is more than fire insurance saving you from hell. Trusting Jesus saves you from sin but also saves you toward a life of faith and obedience. God has a purpose for you. You are His workmanship created unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

Today’s message will help us to see how ordinary individuals have faith that leads them to …


EXAMINE                           Title: Ordinary: Joshua & Caleb

Numbers 13:1-3, 17-33

Background to remember

  • There has been an escape from the past. God freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Pharaoh let the people go only to pursue them again. However, God defeated the Egyptians by leading Moses & the Israelites through the Red Sea by drowning the Egyptian army. Israel was free from slavery and they celebrated God’s power and deliverance. Further, God revealed Himself to His people through His 10 Commandments. They were ready for their next journey and fulfillment of God’s promises.
  • There has been a promise for the future. Since Abraham, God promised to make the Israelites a great and prosperous nation (Gen 12:1-2). God commanded Moses to spy the land of Canaan (13:2 “the land of Canaan which I am giving to the people of Israel”). God promised a new territory of land for the Israelites to conquer and claim. The journey and battle would not be easy but victory was guaranteed.
  • There was a defining moment for their present. Moses sent out 12 men to spy out the land and bring back a report of the strength of residents dwelling in the land and about the quality of the land. After spying for forty days they brought back a fruitful report – literally! They returned with fresh fruit of the land (grapes, pomegranates, figs) and shared a report on the land.


Their report was precise. They showed them the fruit and said it was a land “flowing with milk and honey”. They noted that the residents were strong with fortified cities.

One of the spies, Caleb, was done with talking and ready to act: “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).

Their report was also pessimistic. The other spies were skeptical and lacked faith. They looked at the muscle of man rather than the mightiness of God.

Illus: Me with Washington Bullets, Gheorge Muresan (7’7”). I looked like a “grasshopper”.

The response of the pessimistic report was complaining. Complaining is contagious. The report of the 10 (minus Caleb & Joshua) carried unto the rest of the people and they all grumbled.

Their human focused identity shrank their confidence and faith. They wanted to choose a new leader to take them back to Egypt (14:4).

Israel’s Response: Complaining

  • They complained when the Egyptians approached just before the sea was parted before their eyes (Ex 14:10–18).
  • They grumbled at Marah because of the bitterness of the waters ( 15:22–26).
  • They grumbled against Moses and Aaron because they lacked food to eat (Ex 16:2-4)
  • They quarreled at each other and grumbled against Moses because they lacked water to drink (Ex 17:2)
  • They complained in the hearing of the Lord because of their travel hardship in the desert from Sinai to Paran. The text translates literally “and so the people became like those murmuring evil in the ears of Yahweh.” (Numbers 11:1)
  • They complained about not having meat to eat (Numbers 11:4-6). The Lord provided quail and pronounced a plague judgment upon Israel (Numbers 11:33).
  • The leaders Miriam & Aaron complained against Moses’ marrying a Cushite woman (Numbers 12:1-2).
  • And yet again, the people murmur and complain against Moses and God’s taking them away from Egypt to enter a land that has strong armies (Numbers 13-14).
  • Negativity masquerades as superior wisdom. It says, “You cannot” and then provides a list of reasons and questions that appear prudent but essentially are accusatory and judgmental. But do not be fooled, negativity is a noose, pessimism is poisonous, and cynicism is a coffin. The world needs people whom are positive.


Leader’s Response: Contrition

  • Moses and Aaron fell on their faces.
  • Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes. They did not dispute the report that taking the land would be a challenge but they trusted God’s faithfulness and promises. Further they exhorted the people to not rebel against the Lord and to not fear the challenge of taking the land.
  • Leaders response to complaining should be contrition. People’s complaints or rebellion is not toward the leader but toward the Lord (Numbers 14:11). It is not the leader’s role to condemn or chastise. Leaders can hold others accountable, just as Joshua exhorted the people to follow the Lord. However, the greatest response is to be broken over sin and selfishness resulting in humble prayer and encouraging others to trust the Lord.

God’s Response: Consequences

– Pardon but also punishment (Numbers 14:20-38). God pardoned their sin but punished the faithless and fearful generation. The nation wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and an entire generation had to wait for their relatives to die before they could walk in the promises and purposes God had for them.

Illus: Man buys 23 apple pies to spite a screaming and spoiled child who cursed and complained at his mom in line at Burger King for an apple pie.[2] Sometimes God will take away our desired apple pies as a consequence for our complaining.

Close with a few life applications:


  • Complaining is costly.
  • We complain when our preferences are not fulfilled and desires not satisfied.
  • We complain when our life doesn’t go according to our plans. Yet, we must remember that we are not the center of the world, God is. God does not exist for us, we exist for God.
  • “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as it fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
  • “Do all things without grumbling or disputing that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:14-15)
    • Complaining will cost you spiritual growth. Complaining is not Christ-like.
    • Complaining will cost you friendships and relational growth.
      • your complaining is charming… constructive… completing (fulfilling)   #saidNOONEever
    • We must work on restraining our complaining by turning our grumbling into gratitude.
    • We must choose between magnifying potential problems or potential prospects.


  • God is looking to bless those who walk in faith.
  • God’s plan was to give the land to the Israelites. It was His promise from generations ago.
  • “without faith it is impossible to please God” Hebrews 11:6
  • Only Caleb & Joshua trusted God’s promise and was ready to walk in faith (Numbers 13:30; 14:8-9).
  • “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39
    • Which is greater or more prevalent: your memories or your dreams? If your memories are greater than your dreams then you are likely nostalgic but also a little stuck in your present. If you are in Christ and as long as you have breath God has more for you.
      • What is one faith risk that you will take? Pray for God to show you.
      • Caleb at 85 was fearless and faithful (Joshua 14:6-14).
        • SPBC seniors, we are watching your example… lead us with fighting faith
      • Faith overcomes fear. Regardless how big your problems, God is bigger. Stop yawning and start yielding back to God to grasp a vision for God’s greatness and His glory.
        • My children look at the river in our backyard and think it’s our pool. Well, yes because they live in their Heavenly Father’s world! See the bigness of God and you will see the smallness of your troubles.
        • Only fear you should have is not trusting God and facing eternal consequences.


  • If you are seeking blessings without the Blesser then you’re seeking the wrong blessing. This week in the news we have had 2 hollywood celebrities commit suicide and saw a city erupt in violence because a police officer shot an 18 year old boy. The blessings of this life still result in us living in this world. We need more… we need God. I challenge you to seek God. In the gospel you exchange your sin and get God’s salvation. You add nothing to God’s everything and receive Him. A life that is unfulfilled and unhappy can receive unconditional love from an extraordinary God – the only true God.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/21/terry-thompson-ohio-man-wild-animals_n_1023710.html

[2] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/burger-king-customer-buys-23-apple-pies-teach-screaming-child-lesson-article-1.1898539

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s