by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Numbers 13:32-14:4
I. People are known for their selective memories
A. Some wrap themselves up in the horrors of their youth, blaming every misfortune on what had happened to them in the past.
B. More common though are the people who remember the good things that happen and suppress the bad that came along with it.
1. “A German man has canned the noxious-smelling exhaust fumes of East Germany’s cult Trabant car and is doing a brisk trade selling the scent to those nostalgic for the former Communist state. “The smell is something very special and scarce nowadays,” said Thorsten Jahn, whose cans of “Trabi” exhaust sell online for 3.98 euros (2.74 pounds). “I wanted to preserve the past in an original way.” Fifteen years since reunification, nostalgia for East Germany has been running strong as rosy memories of the communist state’s social safety nets, holiday camps and quaint consumer products like the tiny, box-like Trabants increasingly eclipse its negative aspects.”[Yahoo News, July 17, 2005]
2. Some in Iraq are longing for the days when they lived under a dictator. It is not that they desire the repression, but they remember and want some of its better features.
C. Warning about longing for the past - Ecclesiastes 7:10
II. The deliverance of Israel
A. Israel’s family moved to Egypt to escape a famine, but they stayed for years afterwards - Exodus 1:8-14
B. Eventually it became so severe that Israel cried to God for deliverance - Exodus 2:23-25
C. God sent a deliverer, Moses, to bring ten plagues upon Egypt, which eventually forced Pharaoh to release the Israelites - Exodus 12:29-33
D. Pharaoh changed his mind and came after Israel with a large army, which God spectacularly destroyed in the Red Sea - Exodus 14:23-30
E. God provided for the people during their journey
1. He guided them by day with a pillar of cloud and by night with a pillar of fire.
2. He gave them water when none could be found
3. He gave them food each day
4. When they were attacked, God gave them victory
III. Israel’s response
A. Just 45 days after leaving slavery behind - Exodus 16:1-3
1. They wanted to return for the food they remembered
2. Momentary hunger made even life-long slavery look good to them!
B. When water ran low - Exodus 17:1-3
1. Even though God gave them water not long before (Exodus 15:22-25), the people complained when they again ran out of water.
2. They complained that they were brought out of Egypt to face hardships.
C. Though God had been feeding them miraculously for almost two years, it wasn’t enough - Numbers 11:4-6
1. First it was food, then it was water, and now a varied diet
2. People are willing to suffer one set of hardships if it removes the current set.
D. After hearing the unfavorable report of the spies concerning their new home land - Numbers 13:32-14:4
1. Despite God’s demonstrated power, the people considered the current situation futile.
2. Not only did they want to go back, they were looking for a leader to take them back!
E. It was too much, even for God - Numbers 14:20-23
1. Because they keep pining for the past, because they kept looking back over their shoulders, every set back was an excuse to turn around and leave.
2. Because they did not look forward, they died in the wilderness
IV. The Evil of Looking Back
A. We live in a world of lusts - a world of pleasures to fill our appetites - I John 2:15-17
1. We are wandering through the wilderness of life - I Peter 1:1-2
2. We are headed toward the promise land, heaven - I Peter 1:3-5
B. Becoming children of God, we left the world of sin behind - Colossians 1:13
1. We are seeking the land of eternal rest - Hebrews 4:1-11
C. The question then is are we placing full trust in God, or are we looking over our shoulders as Israel did?
D. Are we allowing ourselves to be deceived into thinking that what we left is better than where we are going?
1. Sin is deceitful - Hebrews 3:13
2. Pleasures are temporary - Hebrews 11:25
3. Our life as a Christian, in seeking righteousness, is not always pleasant - Matthew 7:14; 5:10-12
4. It is so easy to think that what we left behind was easier - I Peter 4:1-3
E. It is so easy to forget the truth about the world
1. In our sins, we were separated from God - Isaiah 59:1-2
2. We were slaves to sin - Romans 6:16
3. We were under a death sentence - Romans 6:23
4. Will we let current hardships make us forget the miseries we suffered in the past?
F. We cannot look back - Luke 9:62
V. Pressing Forward - Philippians 3:1-14
A. Are you pining for Egypt?
B. Or, are you longing for home?
C. Be faithful unto death - Revelation 2:10