The Bare Soul
September 25, 2011
The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Godly Perception" delivered to the Teaching God's Infinite Wisdom (TGIW) Men's Bible Study Group in Parkville, MO on September 21, 2011.
Godly Perception - September 21,
Numbers 13:33 - "... and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
As a child, I remember this massive oak tree in the vacant lot where we would often play. Underneath its towering height, we dug a large hole and called it our fort. We stocked it with all the things important to seven and eight year old boys -- comic books, plastic army men, and silver cap pistols. I recall looking up into the large branches thinking it looked at least a mile to the top. None of us dared climb this tree. It was just too intimidating. Many years later, I was visiting this town where I spent my elementary school years and took a drive through the old neighborhood. Where the vacant lot stood, was a house with a tidy yard. There with lush green grass growing under its shade was the old oak. Somehow, when I stopped in front of the house, it looked remarkably smaller than what I remembered. Actually, I couldn't believe how dwarfed it was compared to my memory. It was still large as ever, but not gargantuan like I recollected. Reflecting on this incident, I understand how its often possible to see and yet not see. We can get one idea in our heads and find out later that our perception was way off. Objectivity is often the arbiter between imagination and reality. Only when we can honestly perceive the truth can we objectively understand where we have allowed ourselves to be subjectively influenced.
In many ways, the newly formed nation of Israel operated in a subjective manner regarding their situation in the wilderness of Sinai and Kadesh-barnea. This man Moses had led them out into one of the hottest places on the planet, telling them that God was bringing them into a land "flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:8). However, there was a catch. No longer were they to watch God destroy their enemies as He did at the Red Sea. Now Yahweh wanted them to get actively involved by dispossessing those who lived in their promised land before they could move in! We read in the thirteenth chapter of Numbers that the Lord told Moses to send out spies into the occupied country, to get a lay of the land and the people living there. As many of us know, the spies returned ecstatic about the land but terrified of the people. "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 its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants 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 the Jordan." - Numbers 13:27-29
Caleb's insistence that they could take the land and its inhabitants fell on deaf ears as they declared to Moses and the congregation that they were too small and weak to overcome the pagan nations. In addition, they said that the Nephilim the descendents of Anak, the giant clan, was living there also. What comes out of their mouths next truly revealed their perceived reality. By stating that "... we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight," they were stating three important things regarding their understanding of the situation. First of all, their "sight" or their perception of themselves was a selfish, self-centered, fear-driven understanding with no consideration of who they were in the Lord. Second, by seeing themselves as weak and without a Savior, they increased the size of their enemies in their own imaginations. Lastly, they projected their own perception of how they believed about themselves onto their enemies. Whether or not the Anak even saw the Israelite spies or not is moot. They had become convinced that the enemy saw the Israelites exactly as they perceived themselves. For the timid, this had become their reality. The battle was lost even before it began.
As most of us know, God pronounced a judgment of 40 years exile upon the nation of Israel from their desired destination. They would wander aimlessly through the wilderness until the rebellious generation that refused to go in, perished. Their children would be the ones to enter the Promised Land and take possession by defeating these so-called formidable tribes with their unassailable walls. The difference between their parents and the children who took possession was evident. The children grew up, becoming strong and mature in the Lord, with the ability to hear the voice of the Lord and to obey it. They saw themselves as the chosen of God and understood that nothing could keep them from their destiny as long as the Lord was on their side. Similarly, they operated in three ways that were diametric to that of their parents reaction 40 years earlier. First of all, they knew who they were and where they were going in the Lord. Second, they saw themselves as strong in the power of God's might to defeat any enemy that would defy the chosen people of God. And lastly, they projected this perception upon every foe they encountered, eventually dispossessing all the pagan nations, including the Anak clan.
Paul stated poignantly in his first letter to the Corinthians that ... When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things (I Corinthians 13:11). Just as an entire generation of Israelites had to die off before God could take them into the Promised Land, there needs to be a similar death in us before He can take us into that place of complete rest. We have to die to our preconceptions about what we can or can't handle. If we take the time to think about all the times God has rescued us in the past, it's not hard to believe that He will always be there for us in the future. Our thoughts, words, and actions will reveal who we are, proving to God that we either understand who He is, what He has done for us, and what He will do for us or that we don't we don't have a clue. We must be vigilant to allow God to grow us up and to remove any doubt that He can do far more than we've ever thought or imagined. Will there be seemingly unassailable walls and giants in our future? Without a doubt. It's our choice to either die in the wilderness and to stumble about in an aimless manner the rest of our lives, or to die to self and to grow up in our perceptions regarding who we are in God. If we choose the latter, we have only begun to understand the peace and victory in the days ahead.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You give us everything we need to live godly lives in Your Son. Grant us the ability to seize the day, to die to self and our selfish perceptions and to see as You see us. As we do so, may we enter into Your rest through Your victory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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