The Peril of Unbelief
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Mark 6:5-6; Number 13:18-25; 31-33
Volcán de Fuego
“Critics and detractors may try to thwart your growth and diminish your influence; they will eventually fail. What is more they will lose out on the blessings you would offer them. Be like Jesus and focus on the mission.”
Volcán de Fuego
Guatemala and it’s population of 16.5 million people is located in Central America. Mexico is to its north and west. Belize is to the northeast and to the east are both Honduras and El Salvador. Guatemala has two coasts; in the northeast is the Caribbean, and to the south the Pacific Ocean.
Volcanoes and earthquakes have been a part of the fabric of life in Guatemala for as long as anyone can remember. The capital of Guatemala has been moved twice-once because of volcanic mudflow, and once because of an earthquake. In fact, in 1976, an earthquake in Guatemala claimed 25,000 lives. Guatemala is home to 37 volcanoes, four of which are still active. Pacaya, Santiaguito, Tacana and Volcan de Fuego, which in English means, “Volcano of Fire.”
It was about the middle of the day on the 3rd of June 2018, that Fuego erupted violently, and continued to do so for about the next week or so. A column of ash rose up above the mountain, stretching nine (9) miles (14 kilometers) high into the sky and many enormous rocks rained down over a wide area. Volcanic ash closed Guatemala City’s main airport. However, it was the pyroclastic flows that did much damage. That’s hot poisonous volcanic gas mixed with volcanic matter. They can move quickly, easily 50 miles (80 kilometers) an hour, sometimes much faster. It was the deadliest eruption in Guatemala in almost 100 years.
As rescue workers tried to reach people the next day, they were interrupted by fresh flows of mud, gas, and ash. And because the pyroclastic flows are really hot, most of the bodies recovered were unrecognizable. Ash that fell to the ground was said to be between 400 and 700 degrees celsius.
The destruction engulfed community after community. It was like a nightmare. People lost theirhomes, their crops, their possessions and many people lost their entire family. The result-thousands of people were left to mourn those losses, and had to adjust to a new way of life, without the past, without their possessions, without their homes, without their families.
On the morning of Fuego’s eruption the government emergency alert services sent volunteers to the area (ground zero) to warn residents to evacuate. While many heed the warnings and fled there were others who refused to leave. Some said they would leave, but didn’t while others felt the best thing to do was to gather their families in their homes and lock themselves in.
Others were fascinated with the spectacle and were busy capturing the event on their cameras and cellphones. It was the first time they were seeing an event of this magnitude. The government volunteers kept appealing to persons to leave, but had to flee themselves as a result of the impending danger.
Why would these people refuse to heed the warnings and flee the area you may ask? There are four possibilities: economics(home; work), logistics(where to go), predictability (science and technology allows us to make predictions. We become reliant), and familiarity (they became numb to the possibility of danger).
The Twelve Spies (Numbers 13:17-20; 25-33)
After the children of Israel were freed from Egyptian bondage and delivered from Pharaoh’s army, they began their journey toward Mt. Sinai. In the wilderness God provided food, water and protection. When they arrived at Sinai, they received the law that would govern them as a nation and the pattern for the tabernacle regulating their worship. After being numbered and organized, they were now ready to enter the land of promise.
It seems that the people originated the idea to search the land (Deuteronomy. 1:20-23). God agreed to it and told them to “spy out the land” and see how the people lived, how strong they were, and what the land looked like. Moses asked for an assessment of the geographic features of the land, the strength and numbers of the population. He also asked them to be positive in their outlook and to return with samples of local produce.
The word translated as "spies" comes from the Hebrew word מרגלים†("meraglim"). This is also the word usually translated as "men" or "princes". The twelve were clearly not trained as spies, nor did they conduct any covert activity, nor did they enlist any indigenous people for later help. Thus, the phrase "Twelve Scouts" or "Twelve Observers" might be an alternative way of describing the group.
The names of the twelve spies were:
1. Shammua, son of Zaccur, from the tribe of Reuben
2. Shaphat, son of Hori, from the tribe of Simeon
3. Caleb, son of Jephunneh, from the tribe of Judah
4. Igal, son of Joseph, from the tribe of Issachar
5. Hoshea (Joshua), son of Nun, from the tribe of Ephraim
6. Palti, son of Raphu, from the tribe of Benjamin
7. Gaddiel, son of Sodi, from the tribe of Zebulun
8. Gaddi, son of Susi, from the tribe of Manasseh
9. Ammiel, son of Gemalli, from the tribe of Dan
10. Sethur, son of Michael, from the tribe of Asher
11. Nahbi, son of Vophsi, from the tribe of Naphtali
12. Geuel, son of Maki, from the tribe of Gad
However, during their tour, the spies saw fortified cities and resident giants, which frightened them and led them to believe that the Israelites would not be able to conquer the land as God had promised. Ten of the spies decided to bring back an unbalanced report, emphasizing the difficulty of the task before them.
They gave Moses this account, "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are very powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there."- Numbers, 13:27-28
Although the spies brought back a cluster of grapes so large that it took two men to carry it (Numbers 13:23), only two of the twelve brought back a good report of the land.
Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, did not go along with the majority and tried to convince the Israelites that they could conquer the land: Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." -Numbers, 13:30 However, the Israelite community believed the evil report of the ten. All of the spies, except Joshua and Caleb, were struck down with a plague and died.
This was considered a grave sin by God. Comparable to the 40 days that the spies toured the land, God decreed that the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for 40 years as a result of their unwillingness to take the land. Furthermore, the entire generation of men who left Egypt during the Exodus would die in the desert, save for Joshua and Caleb who did not slander the land.
The scriptural account of Numbers 13 and 14 might be very familiar to most of us. Notwithstanding, the question is: What can we learn? In reference to the problems of Israel the apostle Paul wrote: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” -1 Corinthians 10:11
Regarding our approach to studying the Old Testament Paul also penned: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” -Rom. 15:4 What example is set for us in this account? What admonitions do we receive? What lessons do we learn from the twelve spies?
The outlook of the ten spies was not very bright. Their report was one of gloom. They could only see the problems instead of the possibilities, the giants instead of God, and defeat instead of victory. The pen of inspiration called it “an evil report” (13:32). Their attitude was negative.
In contrast, Caleb and Joshua, were very optimistic. Their report was one of hope. They saw the possibilities instead of the problems, God instead of giants, and victory instead of defeat. God said of Caleb that he “had a different spirit” (14:24). Yes, it was different from the ten spies because it was positive instead of negative.
Today, in the world and in the church, we still have these two groups of people. Some can see the good in people, opportunities to spread the gospel and the disposition that says “we are able.” While there are others who can only see the bad in people, the flaw in any idea and say “we are not able.”
Traits of the Ten Spies
Let us look a little closer into this negative attitude of the ten spies and see what traits composed
Doubt. They said, “We are not able” (13:31). Doubt caused them to question their resources to take the land, as well as their God who was leading them.
Self-depreciation. “We are in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight”(13:33). They saw themselves as teeny, tiny, little grasshoppers about to be squashed by the big, bad giants.
Fear. Joshua indicates in 14:9 that they were afraid. Fear naturally follows doubt and self-depreciation. Fear then will paralyze one and keep him from acting.
Critical spirit. When people become negative and inactive, they turn to criticizing others who want to move forward. The whole congregation was influenced by these terrible ten to murmur and complain against God’s leaders, Moses and Aaron (14:1-2).
Rebellion. The preceding attitudes contributed to the spirit of rebellion against God. They said, “Let us make a captain and return to Egypt” (14:4). Can you imagine being on the brink of the promised land, and then wanting to return to the land of slavery?
Ingratitude. Implied is also a spirit that was not thankful for their blessings. They failed to appreciate all that God had done for them in the two years after leaving Egypt.
Unbelief. All of these negative traits can be summed up in one word – unbelief. The writer of Hebrews 3:18-19 says that unbelief kept them from entering Canaan.
Brethren, doesn’t it scare you to death to look at this list and see so many of these negatives in the church today, attitudes that hold us back, that divide our ranks, that cause us to wander in the wilderness of sin and keep us from entering the land of promise?
Several years ago James P. Needham wrote a very fine article that described negativism this way: “There is no place in the Christian’s life for negativism, yet this is the persistent attitude of many. It constantly talks down the great work of God. It is a prophet of doom, gloom and boom! It says nothing is useful or beneficial, no, not gospel meetings, Bible classes, etc., etc. Everything proposed is a waste of time, effort, and especially money! That’s the most important. Negativism is not realistic, but materialistic. Negativism is an elephant on the road to progress; a millstone around the neck of usefulness; a cancer of the mind of its advocate; and ice pack on the fervor of the faithful. It sees thorns on the rose bush, never the roses on the thorn bush. Its parent is little faith, its child is discouragement, its grandchild is cantankerousness and its first cousin is stubbornness!”
Caleb and Joshua
These two men were “different.” They had a different disposition, a different focus on life, and a different attitude toward God and his work. What were some of the attributes of their attitudes?
Faith. They said, “We are well able to overcome” (13:30). They believed in themselves, in their fellow Israelites and most importantly in their God.
Confidence. Concerning the Canaanites Joshua said, “The people are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us” (14:9). They had the confidence in the outcome of this undertaking, because they knew they were doing the will of God.
Courage. Joshua said, “fear them not” (14:9). He was not afraid of the giants, the walled cities or the strength of the people.
Action. Caleb said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it” (13:30). Positive people say, “Let’s go and do it now!”
Thankfulness. They understood the land was a gift from God, a blessing due to his delight in them (14:7-8). True appreciation for one’s blessings will lead to action and obedience.
Let us make a comparison to this account in Numbers 13 and 14 to Mark chapters 5 and 6. In reading Mark 5 and 6 I stumbled on something unique. In chapter 5 we have three (3) recorded incidences of the power and might of Jesus.
He healed the demon possessed.
He healed the woman who was bleeding for 12 years.
He raised Jairus' daughter from the dead.
Then, as we enter chapter 6 we are told that Jesus went to Nazareth, his hometown. At first things sounded promising. We are told many who heard him were amazed at his teachings. However, that was as far as things went. Without a doubt many were amazed. Nonetheless, they started to question his teachings (the source). In their eyes Jesus was no more than a builder, a commoner. After all they knew his parents and his siblings.
“He couldn’t perform a miracle there except to lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.
He was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went around to the village offered continued teaching.”
- Mark 6:5-6 ISV
There are many today who are like these Nazarenes. They can neither see nor appreciate your worth. Notwithstanding, that should by no means stop you. Their lack of appreciation should not and cannot depreciate your worth. Trust God and allow Him to fulfill his purposes in you. Jesus marveled at their unbelief. However, that didn't detract his efforts. The following verses told us that he sent out the twelve disciples.
Critics and detractors may try to thwart your growth and diminish your influence; they will eventually fail. What is more they will lose out on the blessings you would offer them. Be like Jesus and focus on the mission.
The part that got me was when the Bible said he could hardly perform a miracle. Imagine that. Why?
It was because of their unbelief. How many miracles have we missed out on because of our own unbelief?
How often has Jesus turned up to work miracles in our lives and we reject Him? What is more sometimes we hear members say they don't even know if God answers their prayers when they aren't even interested in what he has to offer.
Today, as we face the giant problems of sin, suffering or sickness in our personal lives or the apathy,
indifference and cowardice in the lives of our brethren, we need the positive traits of faith, confidence, and courage, coupled with action and an appreciation of God’s blessings to lead us on to victory.
Numbers 3:32 tells us there were 603,550 men of war. Of that number only two, Caleb and Joshua, entered into Canaan. 603,548 fell in the wilderness. Jesus said only a “few” will enter and walk the strait and narrow way leading to life, while many will walk the broad way leading to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). Will you and I decide to develop the disposition like God’s two heroes of old? Or will we be like those shameful spies who brought back the negative report? Don’t be a whiner! Be a winner for God!