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Series: Change and Transition
Sermon: Entering the Promised Land
Text: Numbers 14:1-4; Joshua 1:9
Rev. Laura Brewster
Introduction: Twenty years ago, Ken Blanchard once noted that we are “living in a constant white water with changes occurring all the time in life and at work….” Indeed, our lives are awash in change. So, how can we manage change in the healthiest manner possible?
Review: In recent weeks, we have been studying a major change experienced by the early Israelites. They left a life of slavery in Egypt and started a journey to the promised land. It was a difficult journey, but it held unexpected dividends. It taught the Israelites to rely more upon God. The journey also helped the Israelites grow more faithful, courageous and tenacious. Their story reminds us that the path we trod on the way to change can be fraught with challenges, but the path can help us to rely upon God more and help form us into the people God wants us to be. Today we pick up the story of the Israelites when they finally arrive at the border of the promised land. As we look at their story, we’ll look for some final life lessons for ourselves.
At the Edge of the Promised Land
After the Israelites finally arrived at the edge of the promised land, they sent scouts into the land to conduct reconnaissance. The information they brought back should have helped the Israelites develop a strategy to conquer the land. However, many scouts returned with tales of giants that could not be beaten. The Israelites became so frightened, they once again thought about returning to Egypt. Read Numbers 14:1-10. As a result, God temporarily closed the door to the promised land. This story offers us some lessons about change.
First, it’s hard to move forward when we keep looking backward.
The Israelites could have built a new life in a new land. However, instead of focusing on the future, they wasted time and energy dreaming about the old days in Egypt. We too can waste our energy by focusing on the “good old days” instead of working with God to build a new future.
Second, when fear overwhelms us, we need to remind ourselves that God is with us and God is at work.
When the scouts that had gone into the promised land returned from their adventure, they became laser-focused on everything that frightened them, and their fears overwhelmed them. Only two scouts did not give in to fear – Joshua and Caleb. They remained courageous because they remained focused on God’s presence. Recall their words about God? “…he will lead us into that land… he’ll give it to us… God is on our side.” Are you feeling frightened right now because of changes in your life? The antidote is to intentionally focus on how God is still present and still at work. Try creating a written list of what you see God doing and add to it daily.
Finally, even “good people” will face challenges and change
Perhaps some of the Israelites struggled to remain faithful. However, some folks, like Moses, Joshua and Caleb sought to live faithfully. Yet, they still encountered thirst, hunger, and the other challenges of being in the wilderness too. This story reminds us that we will struggle with unwanted changes and challenges regardless of how faithful we are. They are simply a part of life on earth. But as jarring, painful, and life-changing as these events can be, God can redeem them. As Matt Miofsky says: your low point is not your last point.
In short, my friends, the changes we face in life will sometimes be quite challenging, and as a result, like the Israelites, we may sometimes balk and try to bail. But if we keep looking forward, remind ourselves God is at work all around us, and remember that our low point is not the last point, we can complete those journeys. Along the way, we will become the people God wants us to be. So go, and as you go, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your god is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9