Want to Be a Spy?

Abstract spy in hatBad Spies

This is going to be a short sermon with one basic point…so let’s jump right into Scripture, specifically Numbers 13:1-3:

13 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” 3 So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel.

And Moses did exactly as commanded, sending 12 spies to Canaan. Do you remember how that worked out? Just in case you don’t, let’s go a bit further in Numbers:

25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 13:25-33).

I titled this talk, “Want to Be a Spy?”

After that, how would you answer?

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Well, you definitely shouldn’t want to be one of the 10 spies who gave a bad report (Caleb and Joshua were the two who knew to trust the Lord to have Israel’s back).

But, as clickbait as “Want to Be a Spy?” might be, the real reason for this sermon is to ask, and posit an answer, to a question…

God Does Not Need Man

Before I ask that question, I’d like to throw a couple other ones at you.

Did God talk to Moses? [Yes]

Could the Lord have told Moses everything the Israelites needed to know about Canaan and the people in it? [Yes, the Almighty is omniscient.]

So…

Why did God command Moses to send spies instead of just telling him what the Israelites needed to know?

Of course, this is not the only case in the Bible where that kind of question can be asked. As I noted in an article I wrote back in 2012 called, “Inclusivism (4 Reasons),” God doesn’t need us:

The final reason to give reasonable credence to the chance unreached people can be saved is that God has never been dependent on anyone else to accomplish His will. He says His “word . . . shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose . . .” (Isa. 55:11); that He will fulfill what He has spoken (Num. 23:19); that what He speaks He will “perform (Eze. 12:25); and that He will accomplish all that He “purposed”” (Is. 46:10). There is never any question that God will do what He intends, and we know that He desires all people be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) and that it has always been His intent to provide salvation via the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8, KJV). It is true that our Lord calls on man to help Him accomplish His purposes, but any claim that our help is required would negate the omnipotence of God. Additionally, we have evidence that God does work through non-human methods, whether it is searching and testing hearts (please see above) or general revelation (nature and conscience). The same God who could make a “speechless donkey [speak] with human voice and [restrain] the prophet’s madness” (2 Pet. 2:16, ESV) can speak to our hearts while searching them. God does not need man to save man; man needs God to save man.

Now, the focus of that selection was around whether man was needed for God to save somebody, but its argument covers much more…

Including doing reconnaissance on Canaan.

So, Why?

So, why did God send spies to check out Canaan?

Why did He give you, me, and every Christian the Great Commission documented in Matthew 28?

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

God doesn’t need us! So, why does He ask us to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”?

It was something I heard listening to a DevOps discussion, Beyond the Phoenix Project by Gene Kim and John Willis, that seemed to answer the question best. Please listen closely as I read a transcript of it:

John Shook wrote about his NUMMI experience in the Fremont plant, a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. He wrote, “What my NUMMI experience taught me that was so powerful was that the way to change culture is not to change first how people think, but instead to start by changing how people behave — what they do. Those of us trying to change our organizations’ culture need to define the things we want them to do, the way we want to behave and want others to behave, to provide training and then to do what is necessary to reinforce those behaviors. The culture will change as a result.

This is what I meant by, ‘It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking than to think your way to a new way of acting.'”

Based on that, why do you think that God asks us to do things He doesn’t need our help with?

Because that is how change happens. “It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking than to think your way to a new way of acting.”

Of course, that isn’t limited to just spying on our enemies or bringing the good news to the lost. It’s also true when God gives us moral commands. Yes, the Holy Spirit regenerates, so as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High we have a “culture change” advantage.

But, we still sin.

How do we change our personal culture so that we sin less and less? So that we have a new way of thinking? To die to the old self?

By acting.

By doing the right thing…and not doing the wrong thing…over and over and over.

One Point

I started this sermon by saying I would have a single point. Here it is:

If you want to be more Christlike, act more Christlike. It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking than to think your way to a new way of acting.

Maybe that is why the Bible spends so much time telling us what to do and not to do.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).

If you want to be more Christlike, act more Christlike. It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking than to think your way to a new way of acting.

You know the adage, practice makes perfect? Maybe for a Christian, “Practice helps the Holy Spirit change you.”

Practice. Love Jesus. Keep His commandments. Let the Holy Spirit change your personal culture for the better.


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