IN OUR OWN EYES

 

By Lisa Huddleston

“To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them” (Numbers 13:33).

Moses told the 12 scouts, “See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. Is the land good or bad? Are the cities encampments or fortifications? Is the land fertile or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not?” (13:18-20). And because it was the season for grapes, he asked them to bring back some fruit. And, oh yes, he also told them to “be courageous.” So off they went. Up to the land of Canaan. From the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob. Through the Negev to Hebron. They looked it over from end to end. They saw the cities, and they saw the people. They remembered to cut down a branch with an enormous cluster of grapes and also picked some pomegranates and figs just for good measure. And at the end of 40 days, they returned from scouting the land carrying their fruit loot and tales of giants with an air of assurance. They had done all they were told to do and even a little more. Moses would be proud of them. The people would approve their efforts and agree with their conclusions. Mission accomplished.

Yes and no. All but two of the scouts seemed to have missed one important step in Moses’ instructions to them. While they remembered to scout out the land and the people and even remembered to bring back fruit for Moses, they forgot to “be courageous,” and as they gave their report to the people, their oversight showed. Yes, it was a fertile land, flowing with milk and honey in fact. Yes, the fruit was tremendous. Yes, it was an amazing place. But—and here their courage failed—the people living in the land were strong, and the cities were large and fortified. There were descendants of Anak there and Amalekites and Hittites and Amorites and Canaanites, too. Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my! “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!” (13:31). And in their fear, they shrunk to the size of grasshoppers. Yes, the people who were led by a pillar of cloud and flame, who had seen the sea open for their passing and bread fall from heaven, who had heard the rumble of the Lord on the mountain and had seen His shining glory on their leader’s face. These same people, the people of the Lord, became nothing but grasshoppers in their own eyes. And they were sure that they looked the same to the people in the Promised Land. How could grasshoppers conquer giants? It was a no brainer. They would not go up against the people in the land.

But Caleb and Joshua saw with a different set of eyes. They said, “If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” (14:8-9). And 40 years later, Caleb ran in glory into the hill country of giants. Victory ringing from his throat and heart. His God leading the way! What an awesome “I told you so!”

Just grasshoppers against giants? That’s how many of us see ourselves in this world. Faced by financial stress, medical worries, family issues, loneliness, and so on, we become grasshoppers in our own eyes. Easy to defeat. Simple to squash. Hopeless in our struggles which we really don’t even attempt to attack. After all, what can grasshoppers do against giants? We give up before the battle begins. But we aren’t seeing clearly through our buggy eyes. We are the children of the Lord! He is our strength. He is our shield. He is the King of all creation, and what He says goes. We may be puny in our own eyes, but in His we are of gigantic importance! And it is His perspective that counts—the perspective of Truth.

Come on. Stand up. Be strong and courageous. Devour the enemy like a swarm of locusts or a green grasshopper army. If we follow where He leads, the Lord is with us. What else needs to be said?

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ACTING ON FAITH

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By Lisa Huddleston

“Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. … The land is to have a year of rest” (Leviticus 25:4-5).

Every seventh year the Israelites were supposed to leave the fields of the Promised Land unsown.  God commanded a Sabbath of rest for the land as well as a weekly Sabbath for the people. For their obedience, God promised them “such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years.  While you plant during the eight year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in” (Lev. 25:21).  What a harvest!  What blessing!  What a scary proposition!

I can understand their fear.  Can you?  Not plant a crop for a whole year?  Trust in a promise to feed your family, your wife, your children, yourself, for a whole year?  Sure, the promise came from God, but still.  Tough to bank on a word for food.  What if they didn’t plant and there wasn’t enough to eat all the way until the distant harvest of the ninth year?  What if their families starved?  What if …?  Fear got the better of them so they never saw the promise fulfilled, and they suffered for their disobedience by spending one year in exile for every sabbatical year they ignored.

I wonder if God knew the intent of their hearts so that he didn’t multiply the harvest of the sixth year.  Or did they receive the triple blessing of that year and simply store it away to secure their futures?  That is more likely to me.  God would keep his word, but the people let fear keep them in bondage.  Figuratively as they labored over fields that were not really theirs to tend, and literally as they eventually were taken into captivity by the Babylonians (2 Chron. 36:20-21).

Reading their story leads me to ask questions I dread to even ponder.  What promises of God am I afraid to trust?  What has he already provided for me to use in obedience to his will?  Am I storing it away for a rainy day or am I using it all up in obedient faith?  As I read this account in Leviticus, I am struck by the truth.  Fear is holding me back just as it held the Israelites.  Fear of being embarrassed.  Fear of failure.  Fear of not having enough.  All selfish thoughts.  All focused on me and not on him.  God has prepared me with knowledge to give away, and I am hoarding it in barns.  When will I step out in freefalling faith?  Will I trust him with my fears?  In my case, that may mean putting myself in some very uncomfortable situations—maybe leading a Bible study or teaching a Sunday school class.  Speaking in front of other people.  You see I know what God has provided for me.   But I am often afraid to even whisper what he may be requiring of me.   Oh God, help Thou my unbelief!

And I believe he will!  Just as soon as I obey.  As soon as I leave the field unplowed, dip my toe into the raging river, or put myself in front of a group of fellow disciples to help them find more truth.

I know he wants to bless me abundantly.  And he wants to bless you, too. What promise is he asking you to act on today?  Do you know what he’s already provided for you to use?  What’s keeping you from trusting him right now?  What will it take for you to obey his commands?  Ask him to help you and then step out—fearlessly and in the freedom he promises to bring.  He is the Lord our God!

FACE TO FACE

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By Lisa Huddleston

“Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split” (Matt.27:51).

The earth shook, and the world changed.  Forever. Everything had revolved around laws and sacrifices.  Burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings, fellowship offerings.  Offerings for intentional sins and offerings for sins you didn’t even know you’d committed.  But now, suddenly, all that was over.  No more priests.  No more bleating sheep and bleeding goats.  No more incense smoke screens. No discreet distance nor safe separation.  Suddenly, with earth quaking immediacy, we stood face to face with God.  Like Adam and Eve running for cover to hide their nakedness, we no longer had a place to hide.  Jesus’ once-and-for-all sacrifice brought us straight to the throne of God himself.

But we can’t look on the face of God and live.  Can we?  It’s too much holiness.  Too much God.  Sometimes I long for a temple.  A place where I could take my unsuspecting little lamb and slit its throat to atone for my unholiness.  My sin.  Do you know what I mean?  Actually do something that shows me and those around me that all is forgiven.  Then I could walk home in my blood-spattered jeans knowing, for after all seeing is believing, that I had confessed.

Too bloody?  Too violent?  Okay, then what about a confessional?  Maybe that would do it.  I’m just imagining here, but I bet it could be pretty intimidating telling my sins to a priest.  Whispering with shame.  Hanging my head as I revealed my failures to one who actually stood in God’s place.  Then gladly receiving my punishment.  (Is it called penance?)  I think it would feel much the same as taking my offering to the temple.  Confession.  Restitution.  Done deal.

But where is the altar for today’s confession?  Where can I slit the throat of sin and bleed my woe upon a stone?  Many may point to the front of the sanctuary.  The cushioned, carpeted steps on which we are invited to pray.  But I don’t see the blood spilled there.  I don’t feel the relief of true repentance.  I find myself asking forgiveness many times for past and present transgressions.  Rehashing the same old mistakes.  Revisiting with insecurity the same old offenses.  But I know I am wrong.  Blood has spilled.  A great sacrifice has been paid.  True penance has been done.  It just hasn’t been my blood, my sacrifice or my penance.  It was paid in my place by One who never sinned.  And it was finished just before the curtain split.  My altar is the cross.

Now I feel the blade in my hand.  Now I see the blood poured out.  Now I whisper my shame and hang my head.  And now I receive His gift.  Forgiveness!  Paid in full and done once and for all!  Forever.  And forever and forever, I can boldly approach the throne of God and see Him—face to face.