Tonight we are going to talk to you about the Kadesh Crisis. All that we have been saying about the preparation of 3 million people brought out of Egypt, trained and prepared in the wilderness to go into the land. All that we have been saying about that has been exciting and full of promise and hope and challenge. Then we come to the point of time when God says, ‘Now’. And we find that great body of people so signally blessed, so mightily visited by God who had seen signs and wonders and miracles, who had witnessed God in prodigies of power – drying up the bottom of the Red Sea so that they walked through on dry land. They didn’t slug it through in the mud. Manna on desert sand every morning and water out of the flinty rock. They lived in a miracle realm. They sat in the Presence of God and heard Moses mediate the Law of God. They saw the Tabernacle reared by the Spirit-inspired craftsmanship of God-chosen men, the beautiful garments of the priests woven supernaturally by Bezelial and his specially anointed craftsmen helpers and the pillar of fire and cloud constantly hovering there reminding them that God was with them. Then they come right up to the moment of crisis – the time to go in and take the land.
Tonight is a very solemn message because we are just going to deal with it as it happened historically, draw some lessons from it and let him that hath an ear to hear, hear what the Spirit is not only saying to the churches but is saying to you and me in this very significant week that we have convened together. So if you will take your Bible we will turn first of all to Deuteronomy chapter 1. We will be moving back and forth between Numbers and Deuteronomy. Let me just say a word about Deuteronomy. It’s a great book. It contains Moses swan-song. He is going to go home shortly to be with the Lord. I have a deep, poignant love for this man. There is something majestically beautiful about this meekest of all men. This man that the writer to the Hebrews says was loyal in God’s household. Yet God holds such a tight reign on His leaders that for one small slip of anger, God said to Moses, “You can’t go in”. Leaders carry a special responsibility and James says, ‘Be not many leaders brethren for theirs is the greater judgement’. If you aspire to leadership, you must aspire to excellence for God holds you to a higher standard – you must be an example to the flock. When the time came for the second generation to go in – forty years had transpired – and Moses just mentioned it to God. He said “I know you said I couldn’t go in but … er … I was just wondering if … maybe perhaps”. God was very abrupt with him. He said, “Moses you’re not going in and I don’t want to hear anymore about it”. Now Moses could have gone away and moped and pouted in a corner like a spoiled child. But he didn’t and that’s where my respect for him rises. I see this man who can’t go into the land that he has trained the people to go into but he can’t go in himself just for one small violation of the law of leadership. Yet he stands before the people and he is faithful to the end.
The book of Deuteronomy is Moses speaking to a new generation. What an experience it must have been as the old eagle eyed leader stood up in front of the whole new generation and he looked down and saw strong broad shouldered young men. I imagine he would have had to have bit back the tears as he looked at them and said, ‘I remember your mum and dad and your uncles and your aunts forty years ago’. It must have been mixed emotions but he held himself in strong emotional restraint and spoke a word of warning to them that they mustn’t make the mistakes their fathers made. Now that they are going in there is some things that they must now. He recites what happened forty years previously and so we break in now at Deuteronomy chapter 1 and verse 6. Remember Moses is speaking about something that happened forty years before. It must have been very difficult for Moses to speak of this but he says quite clearly without a P.A system in that great beautiful natural amphitheatre at the foot of Sinai (if you ever go you will see it). This great throng of people with the mountain rearing up behind him and serving as a sounding board. Now he is full of years but his eye is not dimmed and his voice is clear and his heart is strong in his God and then he remembers and he tells them;
“The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbours in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the low-land and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, a land and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, to them and their descendents after them”.
He said, “You have been around this mountain long enough”. Bryn and I were speaking this morning just before the morning service and we were talking about this week. Bryn very graciously was speaking of what he felt had been my contribution to the week and I said to him, “Bryn I appreciate that but really I think we are just blessed to be in the timing of God”. We just happen in the grace and goodness of God to be men present when God is doing a seasonal thing and how I thank God for it. I sure don’t deserve it but I’ll take it Lord. There is a timing in God and if you haven’t learned it, you will learn it. That you seem to go along for a time and then the Lord will say, “That’s enough of that. I want you to move on”. Then you will move on and you will camp again. And He will set a time on it. It may be a week, it may be a month, it may be a year. But now He had been doing this for quite a while as they broke camp and moved on and then the cloud would stop and they would camp and the cloud would shiver and shake and they would take off again and camp and then they got to Horeb – got to Sinai and they stayed there for quite a while. Big business was done at Sinai. At last it was all finished and God said to Moses, “You have been here long enough. This is D-Day. You go in now. This is the time”. There is a timing in God.
Precious people I believe sincerely and Ruth (Baxter – Ern’s wife) will bear witness that I have said this all over the world – I believe that this visitation of the last ten or more years is God saying, “You have been around your ecclesiastical mountains long enough. It is time to move on”. So in the timing of God the Lord our God said to us; “Behold I have set the land before you, go in and possess the land”. So they start off and very dramatically in (v19) it says;
“Then we set out from Horeb and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the hill country of the Amorites just as the Lord our God had commanded us; (and here’s the drama) and we came to Kadesh-barnea”.
Could it be dear people that we tonight are standing on the border at Kadesh? Could this be our hour of crisis? Whether or not, let’s learn the lessons. They didn’t go in. We know that so there is no sense of me saving that for later. They didn’t make it. But I want to know why they didn’t make it. So we see the beginning of the disobedience. They came to Kadesh. (v20) says;
“And I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites which the Lord our God is about to give us. See, the Lord your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the Lord the God of your fathers has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed”.
Now that was Moses best counsel. That was Moses the man, the leader, the man of God, the type of Christ, the head of the 1st church. That was him speaking the clearest word of God – there is no equivocation. There is no hesitation. Everything in it is positive. It’s full of faith and confidence in God. This is a leader speaking with his heart fresh with divine inspiration. His eye is keen and he is speaking to the people that he has led thus far and he says, “Let’s go in! And take the land that the Lord our God has given us”. No hesitation here – none whatsoever. Now look – (v22); “Then all of you approached me”. They held a congregational meeting. And it was a whopper. (*laughter*). Can you imagine a 3 million congregational meeting? I am relatively sure that all 3 million didn’t come but they sent a healthy representation.
“Then all of you approached me and said, ‘Let us send men before us that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up and the cities which we should go up”.
He said, “You came near to me everyone of you and said, “We will send men”. We will. We will? What business has we willing against His will? He said, ‘Go up and take the land’. They said, ‘Just a minute God. We will take some precaution. We will send men before us. We will send men before us and they will search out the land and find out the way by which we should go up”. So they moved from cloud direction to man direction. God had not said, “Go in and see if you like it”. Since when were they to determine what way they should go up? What’s happened to the cloud? It’s still there. It has been good enough up until now. But now they are facing the crisis of going in and they decide to hold a council meeting to determine whether or not they should trust God. The book of Hebrews very simply says “And they entered not into the land because of unbelief”. They simply did not believe what God had told them and they started to reduce the divine dictum – the divine decree and they reduced it to something negotiable.
Men and women – God’s decrees are not negotiable! When He said, ye must be born again He didn’t offer any viable alternative! The Great Commission is not negotiable! Repentance is not negotiable! Baptism is not negotiable! Discipling the nations is not negotiable! Yet we have spent centuries sitting in our ecclesiastical and theological councils watering down the decrees of God to accommodate our unbelief while the world outside waits for a generation to obey God. They would send men in and decide whether they liked the will of God and if they did like it, in what manner they would fulfil it. God never asked me to pass my opinion on His will and He never asked me how I would like to obey it. He told me what it was and He said, do it. If I do not have in my faith the ingredient that believes that my God in His will has determined the highest best for me, my faith is deficient. Whatever my God says to me, even though it may seem painful and difficult I have to have such confidence in His ultimate and infinitely accurate love and concern for my highest best, that I will do it because I believe in the character of God. What happened to Moses? Vox populi, vox dei. (v23) “And the thing pleased me”. And the thing pleased me.
Alright let’s go to Numbers now – chapter 13 and (v17). When Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan he said to them; “Go up into the Negev, then go into the hill country and see what the land is like and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, and how is the land in which they live, is it good or bad and how are the cities in which they live, are they open camps or with fortifications”. Moses sent them to spy out the land to see the land. God didn’t say go look at it, He said go take it! Do you know why some of you have hesitated on the brink of believing what I have preached this week? Those giants are too tall! Those walled cities are too impregnable! The thing I have asked you to do is beyond your power to do it. But God said I have already gone ahead and softened them up. They are ready – all you have to do is go in and mop up the situation. “Moses sent them to spy out the land, to see what it is”. What do you mean what it is? You have already been told what it is. It’s a good land, God said, flowing with milk and honey. Do you mean you don’t believe God’s Word? Why do you have to go in and look at what God has pronounced good? “And the people that dwell there, whether they be strong or weak, few or many”. So what? What’s that got to do with it? Weak or strong, tall, skinny, short, fat, bald-headed – what does it matter? God said go in and take the land! What are you going in to check it out for? Because Moses you have dropped down to the voice of the people and you have dropped down to their level of rationalisation. Now you are going to consider whether you have the means to take the land. You are going to go in and check it out and see if you have the capacity to handle it.
I don’t look at you tonight and say you look like people who can take over the world. That’s not where my faith lies. My faith lies in the decrees of God. Paul understood it when he said, “I bear in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Jesus may be made manifest”. I don’t believe we are going to do what God wants us to do because we are clever, brilliant, cultured or wealthy. I don’t think any of those things count! It’s because we believe God and take the divine equipment and go in and believe that He will confirm His decree if we will obey Him! Moses said, “Check out the land and see whether it be good or bad”. Good or bad? God has said it is a good land! Who are you to go in and see whether it is good or bad, whether you like it or not?
It’s not easy to be a leader. Now I am not critical of Moses because I don’t know what I would have done if I had been waited on by a congregation of 3 million people who had pressed me not to be so foolhardy as to go in without checking on the situation. He was caught between God’s Word and people pressure. I don’t want to be easy on us leaders yet I don’t want to be unduly hard. I just want to say this – that I understand your pressure. Precious men of God here tonight – I know you are here and some of you are caught in a vice. I know what it’s like! I didn’t pastor a church for 25 years having annual business meetings all those years without knowing the pressures that leadership can bring. I’m not being critical. But I am saying this – that if we are going to be leaders worthy of God then there are times when we must stand alone and obey God letting Him confirm His decrees. Moses, on the other hand, yielded to people pressure.
Now because there are going to be questions asked – I should take care of this situation right now. It says God told Moses to send in the spies. (Numbers 13:2). And it looks like the whole idea was God’s but you have got to understand something. God will offer you His highest best but when He finds that you will not accommodate His highest and you drop down to the level that you choose then God will go with that level even though He knows that He is going to have to impose sanctions upon you. Let me give you another illustration altogether. Later on in the days of Samuel, Israel came to Samuel and demanded a king. Samuel went to God and said, “God they want a king”. God said, “Samuel don’t be upset. They haven’t rejected you – they have rejected Me”. Then God turned around and commanded them to get a king. What did He do? He came down to their level. We’ll see more of that in a moment but I want you to understand that principle. God’s highest best was not the spy operation. God’s highest best was not for them to send in spies. But God already knew that this was an obstinate people who in spite of all that He had done were not going to go in and He came down to the level of their operation and said, “Alright go ahead. But you will suffer the consequences”. So He sent them in.
Now if I can move with deliberation at the end of this message you will see the difference between covenant purpose and covenant mercy. Many of us tonight are where we are because of covenant mercy. But if we had walked in covenant purpose heaven alone knows how far ahead of where we are, we might have been. The unbelief and disobedience had to manifest itself somewhere and this was the beginning of the end. The spy plan was not God’s. God could only deal with them according to their faith – or rather their unbelief. Now who were the spies? Let’s look at (v3) of chapter 13:
“So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran at the command of the Lord”. Now watch this. “All of them were men who were heads of the sons of Israel”. They were tribal leaders. They were responsible men.
They didn’t send up a bunch of boy scouts or church janitors. They sent up the leaders of the tribes. These were responsible men – hear me now, because I feel a solemnity in what I am saying tonight. The men that were chosen to spy out the land were men who had proven their worth to be leaders in their tribes. They were men who were Moses counterparts on the lower echelon of tribal life. These were not novices. It is invariably the decisions of leaders that influence the people. I would probably be indulging only a calculated guess if I were to say that if Moses had withstood the spy plan then the tribal leaders would have stood with him and they would have gone into the land. But Moses vacillated and once you start to vacillate at the top then it seeps down through the whole structure. Now from (v4) on he lists the leaders. We come to (v16) and God the eternal optimist shows His hand.
“These are the names of the men who Moses sent to spy out the land but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua”.
Why did he do that? God knew what was going to happen and God looked down at the list of those men to find out who it was that He could rest His confidence on. Was there anybody in that bunch of leaders that He could trust? And He saw one young man and He looked deep into that young man’s heart and He saw an integrity and a loyalty and He said, “Moses, that young man Hoshea. I want you to change his name. He is from the tribe of Ephraim but I want you to change his name to Joshua because I see him as the beginning of a whole new order that will be ultimately successful!”. The meaning of Joshua is Jesus - for Jesus in the New Testament is Joshua in the Old which means Jehovah – the Saviour. God knew that this obstinate bunch were going to blow it but in His infinite optimism which is still alive and well tonight and will never give way to the obstinacy and the failure of His people – He will one day succeed if He has to bury ten thousand generations in the wilderness. He said, “I’ve got a man”. Before the spy operation ever got under way, before the spies ever brought back a report, before the spies knew which side they would be on in the final report, God had already fingered Joshua for the future.
In this conference I have been aware all week that the hot finger of God is being pressed on the hearts of some young men and women in this audience and God has marked you out and God has got His hand on you. I declare to you in God’s Name, walk in your integrity. Don’t sell your tomorrows for a bit of sexual pleasure! Don’t sell your tomorrows for a bit of deviation! Don’t sell the high calling of God for a mess of pottage! Some of you know who I’m talking about. You walk in your integrity and when this generation goes into the land you will be up front because God is honouring the purity of your intention. Before the spies went into the land and the people refused to obey, God had marked a man and renamed him in view of something that will happen forty years later. I could digress now to tell you a lot of things right out of life that fit that.
I imagine that Saul of Tarsus as he left Jerusalem walked in excitement. Ananias told him that he was going to be a great man. The Lord spoke to him and showed him what things he was going to suffer and told him that he must be a servant to the Gentiles. He preached in Damascus and he was a firebrand. He tore up every synagogue that he preached in. He went to Jerusalem and tore Jerusalem up. The apostles got him one day and said, “Look Brother Saul you are too hot to handle. Why don’t you go home and cool off a bit?”. And I can see that little bow-legged, hooked nose Jewish rabbi as he walks up the shores up around the end of the sea to his home in Tarsus and he is saying, “I was sure God said I was going to be the apostle to the Gentiles”. For 12 long years he waited but he walked in his integrity and at the end of 12 years revival broke out in Antioch and Barnabus went down to Antioch and he knew that if ever reported what was happening in Antioch they would squash that revival, but he remembered what Paul had shared with him. He made his way to Tarsus and he didn’t even have Paul’s phone number or his address but the Bible says that he went hunting for Paul. He walked down the streets through the bazaars and he knew he would probably find him in a tent makers shop. He enquired, he stopped people saying, “Do you know where I can find a little man bow-legged, long nosed, heavy browed?”. No? “Little man? Down that street? Thank you”. Turned down the street and there he was in front of his bazaar sewing the goat skin talking in tongues. He did it all the time! That will hold you when the years start to get long. Oh I wish I could be autobiographical right now but I won’t yield. (*laughter*). While he is sewing away a shadow catches his eye. “Barnabus!”. “Brother Paul”. They are in one another’s arms. “Why are you here Barnabus?”. “It’s happened Paul!”. “It’s happened? Really?”. “Remember what you shared – the Gentile thing? It’s happened. It’s broken out down in Antioch. People are getting converted and filled with the Holy Ghost and they are still eating pork chops on Friday!”. (*laughter*). Paul said, “Just give me a few minutes and I will pack my toothbrush and I will be with you”. (*laughter*). That was the beginning of it but 12 long years!
For forty years Joshua trudged through the wilderness with the hot hand of God heavy on his passionate young heart until the day that God said to him, “Rise up and go over this Jordan”. I have infinite confidence in the decrees of my God. You can call me what you like – you can lampoon my theology and my eschatology – I don’t care a hoot – all I say tonight is that my God will do that which He hath declared and He hath said that as truly as I live the whole earth will be filled with the glory of God. (*applause*). So they sent the spies. (v25) says;
“And when they returned from spying out the land at the end of forty days they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus they told him and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey and this is it’s fruit”.
It’s a tremendous revival – there is no question about it. God is moving up there. We saw things that has got the wilderness beat! But … “The people who live in the land are strong and the cities are fortified and very large and moreover the descendents of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of Jordan”. That is the majority report. No doubt God’s blessing is there. That is the place – oh it would be great. But … but.
Now for the minority report. (v30); “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it for we will surely overcome it”. Caleb said, “We can do it! It can be done! Don’t debate! Let’s go immediately! That’s what God wants”. Do you know what doubt is? The meaning of doubt is inner debate. I mentioned to you already this week that every man of God in the Old Testament when God gave him something to do, he rose up early in the morning and did it because if he didn’t do it early in the morning then by high noon he would be debating it. I could tell you stories of men I know today whom God spoke to in years gone by and had they acted immediately they would be in different places today. But they tarried and they debated and they backed up. When God speaks to you buddy you go! Don’t you debate! Caleb said lets not debate with God. He said we can take it. Let’s go up and take the land – let’s go on in! Somebody said, “But Baxter – I have heard you this week and my faith has risen so high and I believe we are able to go in. But you know I was listening to the news tonight”. That is something I have had to learn. I don’t take my theology from the news. I don’t take my theology from the magazines or the newspapers. God is not dependent on the fulfilment of His decree on whether the economic situation is good or bad. So the minority report was we are well able to overcome. Now the majority comes down hard (v31); “But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able”.
Now I hesitate to say this but I feel free to say it – that if what I said last year (at the Lakes Bible Week 1975 – “The King and His Army”) caused a stir to the people in this country, then I am sure that what I have said this year will cause a stir. You are going to hear all kinds of gloomy Christians saying “It can’t be done. Come quickly Jesus and get us out of this mess. Come blessed heart attack and bring me into victory”. (*laughter*). You mark my words. It is going to be said that Baxter has said that the church of God can do this and that and doesn’t he know that the world is going to get worse and everything will get terrible and poor God won’t be able to handle it. Doesn’t he know that? No I hadn’t heard. (*laughter and applause*). The men who had gone up with him said ‘We are not able to go up against the people for they are too strong for us”. Of course they are too strong for us. But whoever suggested that we are going to pit our strength against theirs? That was never in the decree or part of the deal! That was never discussed! I am no match in the realm of academics, in the realm of economics; I am no match in the realm of theology for many a brilliant brain – that’s got nothing to do with what I am saying. I am just a bleeding dumb-dumb and when God says do it, I say hallelujah I will do it! (*laughter*).
I remember when I first started out in the ministry and I thought a minister had to be a walking encyclopaedia and I had to have all the answers. One of Satan’s best devices is derision and it usually comes on like this. “Now Baxter you are an intelligent fellow”. (*laughter*). He is setting me up. I used to smile and accept the compliment and then he would ask me about where Cain got his wife and how the whale swallowed Jonah and did I really believe in that manna story? Now here I am trying to keep an image of intelligence and I believe that a fish swallowed a man and an angel sent bread every morning to 3 million people in the desert and I believe all of that. And I’m intelligent and I am trying to remain intelligent without looking stupid. (*laughter*). Usually in the end I either finished up compromising my faith or looking stupid. So I decided right from the beginning that when someone said, “Now Baxter you are an intelligent fellow” I will get rid of that idea that straight away! Now lest there be any question about my actual intelligence, I am very brilliant! (*laughter*). It is the other fellow that is dumb! The problem is that my brilliance is not communicable to him in his condition. “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned”. When the natural man comes against me with that intelligence bit and he wants me to discuss the miraculous in the realm of unregenerate academics, forget it. I have one word to him and one word only and that is where does he stand as a morally responsible human being in the Presence of God? Has he honoured the historical Christ that God sent – and if he rejects that then I have no more to say to him. I can’t argue him into the Kingdom of God, I can only dynamite him in with the Gospel – all I owe him is the Gospel, if he thinks I am the biggest nincompoop in the world that’s no my problem that is his!
“They are too strong for us”. Sure they are too strong for us but one with God is a majority. If God has already gone in and caused confusion and softened them up then He is getting them ready for us to take over. Somebody says, “But just a minute Baxter I have got a moral problem here. I don’t understand why Israel had the right to go in and kick those people out of their own country”. God answers that. God’s timing is immaculately and infinitely perfect. God had watched the Canaanites, the Hivvites, the Jebusites and all the other parasites with all their rotten filth and their adultery and their ungodly garbage and the Bible says that when their cup was full – absolutely full – and God couldn’t contain His infinite morality and allow them to go on any longer He said, “You have gone round this mountain long enough. I am going to kill two birds with one stone and judge those ungodly Canaanites and I am going to bring you in to a place of My purpose”. Right on time. I know all kinds of Christians who are upset with world conditions, the economy – everything. I am not a bit upset. God is right on time. As the world fills its cup of iniquity God is keeping step and He is going to move right in at the psychological moment and I am going in with Him. (*laughter*).
Now look at (v32). “So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land”. I think the King James says, “An evil report” doesn’t it? An evil report. Did you ever hear of anyone giving an evil report of the things of God? Brothers and sisters we must be careful that we don’t allow our unbelief to put us in category of slandering God’s decrees. God said it is a good land and it flows with milk and honey. They said it is a bad land and God has lied to us. Oh no they wouldn’t go that far. They did it religiously. Unbelief with religious coating is still the same stinking product inside. I have more respect for the blatant agnosticism of an unregenerate man than the sugar coated unbelief of a professing Christian.
“So they gave out a bad report of the land which they had spied out saying, ‘The land through which we have gone spying it out is a land which devours its inhabitants”. Man they eat one another in there! If we go in they will have us for breakfast! Lord the minute we step over that border those guys eat one another and they are giants! You should see them! There is a whole bunch of Goliaths in there and they chew up one another! There’s poor little us going in and we will just be an aperitif! “A land that devours its inhabitants and all the people we saw in it are giants of great size. There also we saw …”. We saw … we saw … we saw! Well why did you look stupid? (*laughter*). That is our problem – we saw! Oh look at the world! I don’t want to look at the world! I would rather look unto Jesus crowned with glory and honour reigning in the heavenlies. That’s what John saw! He saw a throne set in heaven – that is the centre of the universe – not Number 10 Downing Street not Moscow. The centre of the universe is a throne set in God and as sure as God lives that throne will ultimately conquer and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! God has set His King on His holy hill of Zion! (*applause*). (v33); “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim) and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight”. It serves you right. (*laughter*). You are an unlikely looking bunch to take over the world. If you think you are going to do it through human means, then lets have the benediction now. (*laughter*). But will you believe with me that God takes the things that are not to bring the things that are?
He took a fellow by the name of Shamgar back in the days of the Judges. Shamgar’s very name means “Coward”. He was just a farmer and every time he was just about to harvest the crop the Philistines would come down from the hills and take his harvest away. His kids were skinny and scrawny – his wife was half dead with malnutrition and he was mad but cowardly. There came a moment when he said, “I have had enough”. He heard the Philistines coming and he was out in the barn and he had never had a spear in his hand. He wouldn’t have known what to do with a sword if he had one. But he had an ox-goad hanging up there. An ox-goad? It’s like a broom handle with a metal point on the end of it. You poke the ox in the rump to make it go. Hardly a likely weapon for a war-hero. But something stirred in Shamgar and he said, “I have had it up to here with those Philistines. I would rather die fighting than starve. I cannot live another season with my kids and my wife starving. I am going to do something about it”. Man those 600 Philistines came riding down into his farm and this little old cowardly farmer came out swinging his ox-goad. (*laughter*). Whatever got a hold of him when he was all through there were 600 dead Philistines and he had a bloody ox-goad in his hand. Go to Gideon! Go to Samson! That’s the way God does it.
So what I see out there tonight are not a bunch of ordinary people. I see spiritual princes, kings. I see swords of the Spirit shining at your side. I see the metal of your armour glistening in the light. I see the sparkle in your eye – the determination in your chin. You are not ordinary people – you are God’s army! You have got heavenly equipment! Let the Philistines come – glory to God! But listen – when leaders won’t take you in, look what it does to the congregation. (Numbers 14:1).
“Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried and the people wept that night, and all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!’. Well that’s one prayer that got answered. (*laughter*). “And why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and children will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”. So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt”.
Dear friend it’s not that easy. Once you have come out of Egypt you don’t have the option to go back. God didn’t take them back and drown them in the Nile. You don’t have the option of going back to Egypt. The best you can do is stay in the wilderness. You are spoiled brother. You will either go on in to glorious victory or you will weep yourself to sleep night after night at the thought of what you have missed. The wilderness – yes. Continuing immaturity with dust in your eyes. No vine, no fig tree, no pomegranates, no raisins, no dates. No flowing rivers, no milk and honey. Just an everlasting tent – a nomadic wandering in the wilderness with the dust storms clogging your nostrils and blinding your eyes and the goodness of God bearing with you until the day that God with hot scalding tears with His own finger digs you a grave and buries you. That’s why it’s so serious tonight. Your option is not to go on in what God is saying or go all the way back. Your option is to either go on or wander aimlessly until you die. And I am sorry to have to say this but I believe that there are already thousands of Christians across the world that has made their decision and they will die in the wilderness.
Now look at the leadership. (v5);
“Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel and Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore all their clothes and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us then He will bring us into this land and give it to us – a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord and do not fear the people of the land for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them and the Lord is with us; do not fear them”. But all the congregation said to stone them with stones”.
Stone the leaders! Do you know that there are Christians who want me stoned for simply saying that I believe in the victory of the Gospel? They say “Stone him! Put him out of business!”. If you stand for what God is doing then you have got to be ready for bricks. Let me tell you something – if they stone you then you will get up and walk back into Lystra. “Then the glory of the Lord appeared”.
God said, “I’ve had it”.
“The glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will all these people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe Me despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they”. Then this magnificent man Moses rises to the occasion. Oh what a beautiful man. “But Moses said unto the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You O Lord are in the midst of this people for You O Lord are seen eye to eye while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night”.
Ah hah – so the cloud was still there. So they had violated God’s guidance in sending in the spies. “Now if Thou dost slay this people as one man then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say, “Because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness”.
I say the same thing tonight! If God cannot bring the people by the power of the Gospel then the nations and the unbelievers have a right to say that this Gospel is not what God claims it to be. The power of God unto salvation but I assert and affirm that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the dynamite of God to perform the purposes of the Almighty and it will succeed!
“But now I pray let the power of the Lord be great just as You have declared. The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. Pardon I pray the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your loving-kindness just as You have also forgiven this people from Egypt even until now”. So the Lord said, “I have pardoned them according to Your word”.
Don’t miss that last phrase because if you can jump ahead a few thousand years you will see God looking at one rebellious generation of Christians after another and Jesus Christ says, “Father please pardon them”. And the Father looks at Jesus says, “I will pardon them according to Your intercession”. But His optimism comes through. He said;
“Moses I will pardon them. They have failed Me. They won’t go in after all I have done. But Moses I want to go on record and want you to know that as I live all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord”. They will fail but there will come a time when there will be a people that won’t. “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice shall by no means see the land which I swore to their forefathers nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. But My servant Caleb because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me followed, I will bring into the land which he entered and his descendents shall take possession of it. Now the Amalakites and the Canaanites live in the valleys; turn tomorrow and set to the wilderness by way of the Red Sea”. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel which they are making against Me.
Say to them, ‘As I live’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing so I will surely do to you; your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward who have grumbled against Me. Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children however who you said would become a prey – I will bring them in and they will know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses shall fall in this wilderness. Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness until your corpses lie in the wilderness. According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days for every day you shall bear your guilt a year even forty years and you will know My opposition. I, the Lord have spoken surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed and there they will die”.
They provoked God but He pardoned them but He punished them. But He loved them and He stayed with them. The general punishment was that the whole generation would die in the wilderness with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. The specific judgement is terrifying. Look at (v36);
“As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land, even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the Lord”.
I’m not sure all that means in type and God forgive me if I say anything wrong but the ten leaders, tribal princes who brought back an evil report of the land that God decreed that they should enter – those men died on the spot by the hand of God. “Be not many teachers brethren for theirs is the greater judgement”. If you aspire to leadership tonight remember what you are aspiring to. For God holds you responsible for those whom you lead and the ten spies that brought back an evil report and kept those people from going in – God killed them on the spot. Now I speak with deliberate care. I don’t know what that means in typical fulfilment. But may I carefully make this suggestion. I am not saying that men who discourage God’s people from going in to what God is doing in this hour will physically die. But it is my deep conviction that men who are withstanding what God is doing in this hour will have their ministry dried up and they will die to all intents and purposes in the service of God. This is a hard thing to say and I say it pleading the grace of God and blessing Him for it in my own life.
I was talking to a man very close to me who is close to Billy Graham one night as we were sharing our hearts under an Arizona moon and talking about other days. He was telling me about Billy. He said, “Ern, Billy runs scared. God met him in the desert as he knelt beside his old car on the way to Los Angeles when the first break came in his ministry and he said from that day to this he runs scared”. I run scared tonight. You say you shouldn’t. Ah but I should. Paul said, I keep under my body lest after having preached to others I myself be disapproved. I am what I am by the grace of God. If I have gifts God gave them to me. If I have influence God granted it to me. If I have blessed you I am only a pipe through which it is channelled. I run scared. The hand that rests heavy upon me now in anointing could be lifted and leave me standing cold and barren. I don’t know what it means but I suggest that for every servant of God that hears my voice here or by tape – dear brother. As my fellow in the service of God don’t bring up an evil report about what God is doing lest you spend the rest of your days in barrenness or probably worst still be called home prematurely like a Samson who died in his prime.
Some of us are very harsh. We would say well I guess those people all went to hell didn’t they? No. For forty years that cloud guided them through the wilderness. For forty years the manna fell. For forty years God worked the miracle of keeping their clothes from wearing out. For forty years that I dare say there were gallons of tears shed in those years - not only by them but by God. Every day the wilderness was marked by graves and if you walked through the tents of Israel’s tribes at night you would hear a thousand weeping souls. You would probably hear a conversation that went like this. “Oh God, why didn’t we go in? Oh God why didn’t we go in?”. Deuteronomy 2:7 says; “These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing”. That disobedient people were cared for by God in covenant for forty years. Now don’t get hostile. If this upsets your theology take a good look into your own heart. This supernatural Presence and provision did not indicate that they were where they should be. It was the action of covenant mercy not covenant purpose. Somebody said, “Baxter I have heard what you have said this week. Very interesting. But God is blessing me where I am. I don’t want to get mixed up in any of that sort of thing. I don’t want to press into what you’re talking about. God’s blessing me”. The blessing of God is no sign that you are right. The only sign that you are right is that you are obeying the Word of God.
You say if I don’t do what you are saying this week are you threatening me? No. No I am not threatening you. I feel sorry for you because when this thing breaks and you want to go in, you won’t be able to. Israel said, “We’ll go up”. God said, “Moses tell them not to go up because I am not with them”. They tried to go up you remember the next day and many of them were slain. You don’t pick your times with God. God picks His times with you. Sam Jones the great Southern evangelist in the United States years ago used to tell a story of a little boy who lived on the Atlantic sea shore. Right near his house there was the hulk of a big old ship stranded up on the beach and the little boy took a personal interest in that ship until that ship became to him a friend. He would go out when the tide was in and the tide would surround that ship until that old hulk would creak and groan and the little boy would shout and say, “Go out old ship! Go out! Now’s your chance – go out!”. The tide would recede and the old ship would settle back on the sand. Many times the little boy would go home crying. That ship was almost human to him. He did it day after day until one day the tide seemed higher and the ship lurched promisingly. It looked like it might go out! The little boy pulled off his cap and flung it in the air and said, “Go out old ship! Go out! This is your chance, go out!”. The tide began to recede and the little boy watched and then suddenly he heard what he had never before. The tide had been too much and the old ship began to make strange noises and suddenly it collapsed on the beach like a pile of matchsticks. The little boy flung himself on the sand and mingled his tears with the salt surf as he said; “Now you will never go out old ship. Now you’ll never go out”. Folks the tide is in. Let’s go out because I don’t want to be to be there when the ship crumbles and it is going to crumble. The religious Babylon is going to fall. And I don’t want to be there. I want to be in the Jerusalem church! I want to be on Mount Zion! I want to be where I should be when the tide goes out! The tide is in people! Are you ready to go out? Are you ready to go out? Hallelujah! The Kadesh Crisis – we are facing it.
I am not going to ask you to do anything dramatic like bow your heads and close your eyes. I just want you to sit there quietly. Think this through young people, mum, dad. I don’t know what the challenge is going to be but I know this that with what God is going to be doing in the next few months there is going to be challenges made on you that will precipitate crises. There is going to be pain involved. There will be joy. You are going to have to make painful decisions and oh how painful they can be when you must turn and walk away from things that you have sentimentally been attached to. I am going to ask you very deliberately and very thoughtfully if you are prepared to go with God tonight without going in to measure the giants or evaluate the width of the walls but just because God says go. If you can make that decision and say by the grace of God I make that affirmation – then I want you to start to stand. I didn’t do that to embarrass anyone so everyone stand now. I am going to pray with you and that will be the end of my ministry with you. But I am going to ask the brothers if they will sing Number 1 in the song sheet. Will you bow your hearts with me now?
Father I think you know how grateful I am for the privilege of being here this week. And I think that you know that I am suspicious that You are doing something very wonderful. And I think that You know that I am very excited. Father as I leave this people, I pray for their shepherds. I pray for the apostolic leadership among these flocks. I pray for the men who move from flock to flock to counsel. I pray oh God that we may be seeing now before our eyes the birth of Your ultimate purpose for the Gospel. And I commend to You and the word of Your grace this entire people. Bless every man and woman who responded to the challenge and God when the hour of confrontation comes and they bleed, may they stand remembering this night, knowing that on the other side of every Calvary there is an open tomb. Knowing that over every hill of difficulty there is a lush valley of accomplishment. Take them from glory to glory – from grace to grace and from strength to strength until we all stand on Zion’s hill and look down from its lofty heights and look down on our victory over the Jebusites and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God! Hallelujah!