It struck me recently how one of the most widespread emotions at the moment is fear. It shows itself in different ways (anxiety, stress, busyness, laziness, depression, finding distractions, turning to alcohol and other substances, tears, etc. etc.!) and it is caused by all sorts of factors (fear of death, fear of illness, fear of economic difficulty, fear of failure, fear of others, fear of ourselves, fear of loneliness, fear of relationship breakdown, fear of letting people down…etc. etc.)…
For me a lot of my fears revolve around my kids, or letting people down at work or in our community. But the other morning I read a story which helped me bring things into perspective – or actually more than the story it was my reflection on a kid’s song based on this story – but before we get to that, I need to explain the story.
The story is in the book of Numbers chapter 13 in the Bible. The Israelites have been set free from slavery in Egypt and had come to the borders of the land that God had promised them. God asks Moses to send some men to explore the land – so he sends a leader from each of the 12 tribes – they thoroughly explore the land and come back with their report.
The land is incredibly good, with giant grapes and lots of honey and milk… BUT the people living there are HUGE, terrifying and live in fortified cities.
At this point they are interrupted by Caleb – one of the 12 spies, he tells them they should go conquer the land. A disagreement ensues – between 10 of the spies and the other two – Joshua and Caleb. The 10 think the people are far too strong and they could never conquer the land, Joshua and Caleb though insist that:
‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.’
Ultimately, the Israelites side with the 10 and let their fear of the people in the land make their decision for them. Because of this incident none of the people that left Egypt ever set foot in the promised land except for Joshua and Caleb.
This was when the children’s song came to mind:
“Twelve men went to spy out Cana, 10 were bad, 2 were good!”
And it made me think: why were those 10 considered bad? After all, they had legitimate fears.
But it seems to me that it came down to how they reacted to fear.
Whilst they all acknowledged the good and the scary in the land, the ten allowed their fear to control them and the advice they gave the people. Meanwhile, the 2 were led by their trust in God. They were controlled, not by their fear of the people in the land and what they were capable of, but by what God was capable of. One way the Bible describes this attitude of putting our trust in God above anything else is when it describes people as fearing God.
Proverbs 1:7 says:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
So, as we live through a time when there are so many legitimate fears we may have, lets acknowledge that fear, but not be controlled by it. Let’s make time daily to focus on what God is capable of so that we don’t get overwhelmed by what a pandemic and all its repercussions are capable of.
Let’s be like the 2 not the 10, and lead people towards goodness and the fear of God, and not towards the fear of things far inferior to God and his everlasting kingdom…