It isn’t that I wouldn’t like to know how, it is just a fact. I cannot dance. I really can’t. I tried to learn, but I just don’t seem to have what it takes. Perhaps it is a rhythm issue, or maybe just a mental block. In any case, I can’t seem to get the hang of it. Every time I am on board a cruise ship, I wish I knew how. My wife can dance, but she hasn’t had any practice since we started dating nearly three decades ago. What I DO know about dancing is that there is a leader, and there is a follower. As long as each knows their role and functions in their role, the dance will look coordinated. In some ways, our walk with God in life is like that…
God’s desire for us is to experience what it feels like to be in His arms, and allow Him to lead us across the dance floor of life with confidence. He doesn’t want your life to be full of stumbling and humbling awkwardness – that occurs mostly because of our resistance to His leading. Many of you know what I mean:
Suzie has always wanted to be a bride. She has been in five weddings for her former college roommates – always a bridesmaid and never a bride. Each time she is asked to be a part it is a bittersweet feeling of wanting to be a part, but wanting to play a different part in the guest list. She wants to be the one sending the invitations. She has dated, but nothing seems to come of it. She has dreams, and she gets worried that God may not have the same ones for her as SHE has for her.
Chuck went to a good school, and got a fine education. He works hard, and he feels like he is competent in his work. His boss seems to see others around him as more valuable every time promotion time comes due. He feels stuck, but he can’t seem to figure out what to do about it. He is coming in the church door today, hoping that God’s plan for him isn’t the dead end he feels it may be.
Most of us have been there. We are anxious because we have a longing or a desire and God doesn’t seem to be as energized about leading us toward it as we are to get it. Maybe we are misreading what He is doing, or maybe He has opened a different door and we have been dull of mind and slow of heart. What we can say for sure is that there is a principle God’s Word teaches that we must recall if we are going to navigate the wilderness of life well…
Key Principle: God only truly dances with us when HE leads. God is FOR your plans when you are FOLLOWING Him, not leading Him.
Let me show you a passage that makes the point ever so clearly. It is found tucked into the middle of the Book of Numbers, recording the perils of the journey half way to the Promised Land for God’s people.
Numbers 14:1 Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 “Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.” 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. 6 Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 “If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us– a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 “Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” 10 But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. 11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? 12 “I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.” 13 But Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst, 14 and they will tell [it] to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O LORD, are in the midst of this people, for You, O LORD, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 “Now if You slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say, 16 Because the LORD could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 “But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, 18 The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear [the guilty], visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth [generations].’ 19 “Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” 20 So the LORD said, “I have pardoned [them] according to your word; 21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. 22 “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, 23 shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. 24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it. 25 “Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys; turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.” 26 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long [shall I bear] with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me. 28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; 29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. 30 Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey– I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer [for] your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, [even] forty years, and you will know My opposition. 35 I, the LORD, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.'” 36 As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land, 37 even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the LORD. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land. 39 When Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly. 40 In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised.” 41 But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the LORD, when it will not succeed? 42 “Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. 43 “For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the LORD. And the LORD will not be with you.” 44 But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses left the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah.
First, let’s recall the SETTING of the story, since the whole issue is set in a specific context:
Numbers 14:1 reminds that the crying voices of Israel were lifted up “THEN”…Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.
• Remember that Numbers 1-10 reported the preparations for the journey away from the Mountain of the Law.
• Numbers 11 began the “Wagon’s Ho!” segment. Within a few weeks, reported within a few verses was the rising tide of mutual complaints between Moses and God, and the people and God.
• The people complained of God’s provided menu in Numbers 11, and even Moses family criticized his leadership in Numbers 12.
• By Numbers 13, the people were stunned by the apparent reversal of fortune when they heard the words of the challenge of taking the land by all but two of the spies sent into the land.
As we open our look at Numbers 14, we find the people weeping, and the leaders breaking under the weight of constant complaint and criticism.
Second, look at the next few verses, for they define two groups – each took a leg of the fork in the road that many of us are familiar with.
First, there were those who chose the road to the village called “MY PLAN”:
Numbers 14:2-4 describes those who took the left leg of the fork – the road that leads to the village of MY PLAN. Let me see if it makes sense to you:
14:2 All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 “Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”
MY PLAN is the village where what I want, how I feel, and what I believe I need are more important than anything God’s Word says, or God’s messengers shout. It is a village where I make up my mind about my future, and ask God to bless what I want. It is, in short, a village where I lead the dance, but speak of God as if He is my God. Look at those who have taken the road to get there, they may seem eerily familiar:
• They are prone to complaint, and will wail through the night when they don’t think God is ready to give them whatever they feel they need (14:1).
• They will conclude that God’s plan for them has not been good, because it has not been EASY. They don’t subscribe to God’s view of freedom – a release to serve Him with all our hearts – for that is NOT the freedom they truly want. They would prefer to die enslaved to the world than take the steps against their nature and submit willingly to God’s direction (14:2).
• They assume that God has no GOOD plan for them, but has drawn them into relationship to PLAY with their lives – and not to love them (14:3). They BELIEVE God has a plan for them – they just don’t trust that He is truly good!
• They conclude that a new leader would solve their issues – instead of a new heart. Submission is for the passive – they are ready to ACT! (14:4). Seizing control of their destiny seems to be a great option – forget that God got them out of Egypt by Moses and Aaron’s hand… oh and there was the plague thing that got them freed from Egypt… and the parting of the sea thing that tossed mighty chariots and taskmasters into the brink….and then there was that pillar of fire and cloud GPS system that got them safely to the wilderness….and there was that fast food pickup service provided day by day from God for thousands upon thousands…
Here’s the point: No amount of God’s blessing, God’s provision, God’s patience in the past is good enough for them. They need to grab control of their lives before God wrecks them with His crazy notion of submission to Him.
Surrender is NOT a ready option when God doesn’t appear trustworthy. After all, what if He wants me to be a missionary and give up my progressive job? What if He wants me to set aside my dream of marriage and family to serve Him alone for decades? What if He asks me to do the HARD THING, and be honest in an office of thieves? Only one who believes that God is both GOOD and QUALIFIED will surrender their future to Him. The foundation of our resistance to surrender to God is essentially a poor theology. We woke up one day and thought that although He saved us, He lacks what it takes to really run our lives in a way that pleases us. What is even more offensive is to study His Word and recognize that pleasing us is not His highest priority- when clearly in our minds it SHOULD BE His greatest priority.
That is the group that forged the trail to MY PLAN – the village of leading God to a land where He lets me be in control, but still saves me from bondage. You may have met them before. They wore the same togas, sat in the same Sabbath school and sang in the same choir as you did… but they don’t have the same life plan. They want SALVATION without SURRENDER, a self-designed life for a semi-servant of God.
Next, on the other leg of the fork, were those on the road to the village called “SERVANT”.
Numbers 14:5-9 focused on the small group that took the other path… 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. 6 Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 “If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us– a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 “Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.”
The path to SERVANT is aptly described in about the same number of verses as the other path – but the two lanes end in very different places.
• The road to SERVANT is taken by those who HUMBLE themselves. Everyone in SERVANT knows how to bow, and does it willingly. Moses and Aaron bowed before the people, falling on their faces. They didn’t push harder for “more respect” nor complain because they didn’t get the “perks” of leadership (14:5).
• Joshua and Caleb tore their clothing, because a journey on the road to SERVANT is one that recognizes the heinousness of rebellion and resistance against God’s direction (14:6).
• The honorable spies cried out to get the people to see the problems as smaller than God’s power, and part of His providence (14:7-8). The road to SERVANT is made by those who understand that God has all circumstances in HIS HANDS. Limitless power is not a theory to them – it is a fact of God’s person.
• If you peer into the words of Joshua and Caleb you will hear a gentle recognition that God is not obliged to do anything. Verse 8 clearly opens with a caveat: “IF” the Lord… He can do as He pleases, because the road to SERVANT is a road that recognizes that God is God and we are NOT.
• The spies didn’t speak without confidence, they spoke without presumption. Their conclusion is that GOD WOULD be with them, and their enemies would be reduced to ashes. They saw fear as the seed that sprung up in rebellion; and rebellion the tree that produced the fruit of destruction (14:9).
The path to SERVANT is a yielded path, a journey toward a GOOD GOD, and a walk of confidence in God’s character. Submission is easier when confidence is greater. It was not because of the FUTURE that these four men took a different path than those around them – it was because of their view of God. They saw Him as GOOD. They recognized Him as QUALIFIED to run all things. They, in a word, TRUSTED Him.
Finally, (with the setting and two groups clearly in view) we should observe how those on each path walked along the journey, and where their respective journeys ended.
The people on the path to the village called MY PLAN forged ahead to their fate:
They met God on the path, but He was NOT willing to be led by them. In fact, Numbers 14 reminds: 10 “But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.”
When God appeared, those on the road to MY PLAN were probably not nearly as enthusiastic about His GLORY. They were about to have their life interrupted by the God that WILL NOT BE LED by men. He was also NOT going to let them choose to harm His servants.
Here is the truth: For a while people are willing to follow those on the road to SERVANT – but eventually the distance between the two paths will show itself. Those on the road to SERVANT will seem less prepared to DEFEND THEMSELVES – because they aren’t trusting in horses and chariots. They know that God will show up when the time comes.
This is the reason so many people walk on believers today – because we don’t seem ready to fight. They attack us, and we pray for them. They hurt us, and we seek God for their souls. There are those believers who fight back. Activist Christians are often believers who find more solace in protest than prayer, more power in raising defenses then bowing their knees. They misunderstand the nature of the battle. Christianity has NEVER won by legislation and maneuvering – it is a battle fought for the souls of men on worn knees in quiet rooms. I do not ask you to withdraw from the vote, nor to withdraw from making our voices heard. I simply argue that if our voices aren’t first heard by God, they will sound hollow before men.
God spoke to Moses, and he reported God’s Word to them. He did the job of one on the road to SERVANT. The problem was, some of the people weren’t on the same path, and they saw their destiny as something in their OWN HANDS. Listen to how the story ended for them:
Numbers 14:39 When Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly. 40 In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised.” 41 But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the LORD, when it will not succeed? 42 “Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. 43 “For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the LORD. And the LORD will not be with you.” 44 But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses left the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah.
Look at the reaction closely, and see if any of the faces are familiar to you:
First there was a public time of mourning. The emotions poured as people recognized they were stubborn and rebellious (14:39). If you have been in church circles, you have seen these tears many times – people caught by God in the midst of their sin.
Next, the morning sun arose. The rebels would not leave rebellion, because the path to MY PLAN isn’t so easy to reverse (14:40). Moses tried to reason with them. He asked them WHY they felt it necessary to go on a path that went the WRONG WAY. He implored them to STOP and TURN BACK – for the direction they were headed on was leading to DESTRUCTION. He couldn’t have been clearer. “It won’t work!” (14:41). Do NOT go up! (14:42). “The armies of the enemy will destroy you.” (14:43).
As Moses continued his stern words, he offered the central truth that should ring in the ears of all who would walk on the path to MY PLAN…”… the LORD will not be with you.”
There it is! There is the powerful message that we need to meditate upon. God WON’T WALK ON THE PATH WITH THOSE WHO WANT TO WALK TO MY PLAN.
Why? Because of this truth: God only truly dances with us when HE leads. God is FOR your plans when you are FOLLOWING Him, not leading Him.
Can we not grasp this truth? How long will we move along in our Christian life asking God to bless our plans and not submitting to the path He has laid out for us? Will we stay in a sexually compromised relationship because we fear loneliness? Will we live together in a home without marriage because we fear losing dual pension benefits? What are we saying? The voice of our lives is being heard in our streets. Christians believe in the “theory of following God”, they believe in purity when it will not leave them lonely, they believe in a God who sees and provides when it comes to other people’s choices regarding integrity.
It is time for believers to see the two paths and choose the one that leads to SERVANT. The path to MY PLAN is a disaster. I will warn you with the voice of Moses.
God has heard enough of our sobbing, it is time for our changing. It is time for our choice to let Him lead the dance. He knows what He wants to do with your life. Don’t bargain or haggle with an omnipotent God. Trust Him. He is worthy of your trust. Change the path you are on – and do it today. At least, take a minute and listen to another fellow traveler and consider their words…
At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized his picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him. But later on, when I met Christ, It seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know when it was that he suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. . . It was the shortest distance between two points.
But when he took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, It was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand. He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light. I did not trust Him, at first, In control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but he knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion Jesus Christ. And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says . . . “Pedal.” – (Taken from sermon central illustrations, author posted as “unknown”).