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On giants and grasshoppers

January 13, 2012

In the account of the Israelites in the wilderness, ten of the twelve spies who surveyed the land for 40 days brought back an evil report, which prevailed over the report of Joshua and Caleb, who encouraged the people to trust God. The ten Israelite spies discounted the power of God to overcome the enemies. They were unwilling to trust something they could not see. They saw themselves as grasshoppers, in comparison to the people who occupied the land.

When we consider the 40 days that the spies surveyed the land, what kind of survey would that have been? It can only be called a rather superficial one. It did not span any more than one season, probably Fall, as they brought back some fruit; but it was just a fleeting glimpse, and it would hardly be possible for the twelve spies to travel to all parts of the country. Their 40 day tour corresponds to the superficial view that many have towards the Bible.

The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, the better part of a lifetime, in consequence of their belief in a report based on a survey that took 40 days.

Paul said all the things that happened to the Israelites in the wilderness occurred for our examples.

1 Corinthians 10:11-12
Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

The wilderness of Revelation 12:6, and 14 where the woman has a place prepared by God, and where she is fed, seems to represent the church in a state of not yet dwelling in the land of promise, but as en route to the land, the promised inheritance.

In the history of the church, many individuals have commented upon and tried to interpret the prophecies of the Scriptures. They were often men who had a partial understanding of the scriptures.

Like the giants dwelling in Canaan, who possessed small parts of the land, many of them understood some parts of the Gospel, and the Scriptures, but erred in others. Marcion is an example; he excluded all but the teachings of Paul.

We can think of other church fathers, and men like Augustine, Jerome, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and other Reformers, critical scholars, famous preachers and evangelists, founders of denominations and sects, authors of commentaries, etc. Each of them influenced others who came after, some to a greater, and some to a lesser extent. They were men of normal stature, but they are “giants” in a spiritual sense, by their influence, or their gifts, insights, or by the magnitude of their errors. Lactantius, who promoted Millennialism, also denied the existence of the antipodes, where men walked “with their feet higher than their heads.”

They were spiritual “giants” in respect to their theories, and interpretations, that influence our thinking about the Bible, sometimes in ways that hinder us from understanding it properly, and believing its message. The “isms” that relate to prophecy include futurism, preterism, idealism, premillennialism, postmillennialism, amillennialism, dispensationalism, Zionism, etc. Prophetic revelations impart morsels of the truth, and in general, they are only partly understood.

Entering the “rest” that the saints are promised requires labor. [Hebrews 4:9] According to the promise of Jesus, God will lead the saints into the truth, just as the Israelites of old had the promise of the land. Jesus promised his disciples: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The promise of possessing the land of Canaan in the Old Testament is reinterpreted in the New. “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly…” [Hebrews 11:16] It corresponds to understanding the truth of the gospel, and receiving the promised inheritance of the saints, which is spiritual in nature.

An idea that prevails today is that no one can really be sure that any particular interpretation or understanding of Scripture is true. Since the expert scholars, authors of commentaries, authorities, all differ in their views, how can any one of us know for sure? Such a view discounts the holy Spirit that is given to the saints. It is not based upon faith, but upon unbelief. This approach compares to the Israelites who wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, because of their gut reaction to a report based on a survey lasting for 40 days. They considered themselves locusts in comparison to the “giants” in the land, and those “giants” remained unchallenged for all of the 40 years. The same applies to generations of Christians in denominations and sects, who follow the teachings of men. People tend to accept the beliefs of the families in which they are born. They are unwilling to question, or challenge the “giants” who originated the teachings they inherit. The prophet Joel describes a great army in the day of the Lord under the figure of a locust plague. [Joel 2:1-11]

In Hebrews, the saints are encouraged to labor to enter into “rest,” which does not refer to getting to heaven, but believing and understanding the word of God. “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” [Hebrews 4:11-12]