I encourage you to join us Saturday morning Jan. 13, 10a-noon, for a brunch conversation with Prof. Jack Collins of Covenant Seminary. Dr. Collins is a Hebrew scholar who led OT translation for the widely respected ESV Bible, has written extensively on the historicity of Genesis 1-3, and is known nationally for his thinking on the interrelationship of faith and science. We need to get numbers for seating and food, so please RSVP to Julie in the CPC office by Wednesday the 10th.
Some thoughts on faith. In Numbers 13, Israel is wandering in the wilderness south of the land of Canaan and they send representatives from each tribe to “spy out the land.” You probably know the story. The land is rich and abundant, a promising place for Israel to settle, but there are fierce warrior tribes currently occupying it. Most of the spies see the situation as hopeless, except Caleb and Joshua who argue of the current inhabitants “their protection is removed from them, but the Lord is with us” (Nu. 14:9). The majority of the people don’t buy this (they’re terrified) and take up stones to kill Caleb and Joshua who are saved when “the glory of the Lord” appears outside the tent of meeting. (Notice the fear/anger/violence complex.)
Here’s what strikes me: both parties (Caleb/Joshua vs. Israel) presume to know the future. C&J see a future in which Israel is guarded and kept by the presence of God “if the Lord delights in us” (14:8); while most of the people see a future (I imagine they would describe themselves as “realists”) in which Israel is slaughtered by the Anakites, even though, as the Lord argues, they already know God’s power to save. Both parties are confident in their vision of how things will play out.
As a leader, I’ve noticed this at a number of key decision points over the years: people who look forward in fear and dread are almost always absolutely certain of their vision of the future. They tend to reason very clearly: “well, if we do that, then this will happen, resulting in…(disaster).” They have faith in their vision, which is usually a vision in which no account of God is taken, as though in the future he is neither present nor alive. If you call them on this, they often say we shouldn’t “presume” on what he will do.
But faith is exactly that: presuming on what God will do. It’s what Caleb and Joshua say: “their protection is removed from them, but the Lord is with us.” This isn’t so much presumption as it is what God has promised—if we trust him. That trust does not earn his protection, but it is the circumstance in which it occurs, the trust-based relationship that was always God’s longing in his covenant with his people. Heb. 11 says “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Life with God is faith.
Don’t take the counsel of your fears. They will always cast a vision of abandonment and dread. Rather, “it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut 31:6). Hope, anticipation, rest. These are yours in Christ.
– Pastor Eric