Faithfulness, Faithlessness, and Faith-Based Folly

In Numbers 13, God communicated to Moses and the Israelites. They were to send spies into Canaan to survey the land and ascertain the best means by which they could conquer and lay hold of their divine inheritance. Moses obeyed, and off the spies went. Upon their return, all agreed the Promised Land flowed with milk and honey. Additionally, they all noted the fortified cities and strong people. However, not all were agreed upon what to do next. Some responded with faith, some responded with faithlessness, and some responded with foolishness.


Caleb, Joshua, Moses, and Aaron represented those with faith. Their counsel to God’s people was the following:

“Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” (13:30)

With bold confidence they testified:

“The land, which we passed through ,.. is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us … the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (14:7-9)

They received God’s command, received God’s promise, recognized God’s heart, and regarded God’s power. They trusted God. They believed. They did not doubt. They proved to have faith.


The other spies represented those who were faithless. Their report was:

“We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are … the land … devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height … and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers ….” (13:31-33)

Consequently, the majority report of the faithless spies became the majority opinion of the Israelites. Almost all the congregation …

  • Cried throughout the night (14:1)
  • Grumbled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron (14:2)
  • Discounted the wisdom of God (14:3)
  • Slandered the Lord (14:3)
  • Plotted to select new leaders and return to Egypt (14:4)
  • Considered stoning Moses and Aaron (14:10)

In response to their faithlessness, the Lord appeared in his glory at the Tent of Meeting. There he protected Moses and Aaron from execution, and there he announced the destruction Israel deserved.

However, God decided to allow Moses to play a mediatorial role. Though Israel deserved immediate destruction, they would receive mercy and grace. His faithless congregation would receive divine pardon.

That being said, he would not entirely erase the consequences of their sin. For the next forty years, the wilderness would be their home. Four decades would pass before God would again lead his people into the Promised Land.

Faith-Based Folly

It was then that many in Israel responded with “name it and claim it” foolishness. After hearing the clear decree of the Lord, many Israelites had a change of mind. They doubted God’s decision. They plotted, schemed, and declared their next steps:

“Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned.” (14:40)

These Israelites determined to go forth and prove their faith. They were absolutely sure God would see their positive attitude, recognize their good intentions, be impressed with their faith, and reward them. They proved to have faith in their leaders, themselves, their ethnic identity. They had faith in faith. However, they had ludicrous, misguided, errant, or foolish faith. Claiming faith, they imagined things. Claiming faith, they disregarded God’s clear revelation. Claiming faith, they made a disastrous choice. Ultimately, they:

“Presumed to go upon to the height of the hill country, although neither the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed out of the camp.” (14:44)

Ultimately, they were faith-based fools, and they were wiped out.

Therefore friends …

How can we note the distinction between faithfulness, faithlessness, and faith-based folly, and be theologically improved? How can we learn from this story, rest in God’s grace, and worship well?

First, let us freshly meditate upon the affection of God. The Lord has seen us in Egypt. He has seen us at our worst. Ethically, there is nothing that separates us from the Egyptians and any other set of pagans. Sure, our external morality might be superior, and our idols might not be so apparent, but inwardly we are all godless rebels. God knows this well. God knows us well. He sees all our sins with greater clarity than we do. He sees our faithlessness. He sees our faith-based folly, and yet he has set his affection upon us.

Second, let us freshly meditate upon the mediation of God. In love, he sent Moses to imperfectly mediate on behalf of Israel. In love, he sent his Son to perfectly mediate on behalf of the New Israel — the Church. And what did the Father and Son accomplish? Through Jesus, we were saved from God’s wrath and condemnation. Through Jesus we were declared to be men and women of perfect faith. And following Jesus, we are being perfectly guided through the wilderness and into the paradisal land of promise. Great is the affection of the Father and Son. Fantastic is the work of our Great High Priest.

Third, let us freshly meditate upon the mysterious sovereignty of God. Because of our faithlessness and foolishness, we have all found ourselves in a world of hurt; the scars and consequences of sin are no laughing matter. But let us rejoice in the fact that our Sovereign God is powerful enough to mysteriously use our sins in his sovereign purpose. Yes, where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. So let us not for a moment believe the lie of Satan and other graceless legalists. We have not taken some spiritual “fork in the road” which has resulted in life-long, irreversible, plan-B, step-child status. Our sin was not OK. However, because God is sovereign and gracious, all is OK. Today, we are his adopted children. Today, we are seeing all things working together for his glory, his church’s progress, and our improvement. All things, work for good, even faithless and foolhardy things!

Fourth, let us freshly meditate upon the wisdom of God. Yesterday, we discounted his revelation. Today, let us make much of his words. Today, let us seek his face, trust his heart, and listen to his voice. The Omniscient One, who knows all things, he has much truth to reveal to us. Therefore …

  • Knowing he communicates inerrantly and transculturally in his Word, let us go there every day and all day.
  • Let us engage in private prayer. God promises divine assistance in making wise application of his Word.
  • Let us recall that in the multitude of counselors, God promises godly wisdom. Utilize your elders.
  • Let us not forsake the assembling of saints and the preached Word.

Friends, the God is the fountainhead of wisdom. He is the Logos, the Truth, and the Wonderful Counselor, Today, pursue knowledge and wisdom. Enjoy being a people consumed with word, prayer, fellowship, and and biblical counsel. The following is a fantastic prayer, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Ask the Spirit for greater teaching, greater counseling, sharper minds, softer hearts, and more knowledge, wisdom, affection, faith, and faithfulness.

Fifth and finally, let us turn away from all sources of fake media — even those utilizing God’s name. Vast are the Christians who make foolish, faith-based decisions due to:

  • Imagined dreams
  • Mysterious voices
  • Prophetic utterances
  • Overwhelming sensations
  • A odd series of coincidences
  • Religious ceremonialism
  • Majority opinion
  • Charismatic leadership
  • Power of Positive Thinking lectures
  • Health, Wealth, and Prosperity sermons
  • Misused individual Bible verses

Too often, we ignore biblical revelation, godly counsel, and common sense as we claim to follow the “moving of the Spirit.” Then, tragically and irresponsibly, we go forth on a fool’s errand, against all odds, attempting to accomplish the unreasonable. Then we wonder, “Where was God?” In many of these instances, the Lord has not truly commanded us to go down the crazy path. And in many of these instances, we are really not exercising faith in God and his clear revelation. Instead, we are faith-based fools substituting God’s truth with vain imaginations.

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