I am sobered by the biblical assertion that "the demons also believe, and shudder" (James 2:19). This is one of those truths that separates the men from the boys. Yes, we do well to believe in the one true God. Yes, we do well to tremble and shudder and rightly fear His awesomeness. But we must also recognize, foolish fellows that we are, that we are still in the same camp with the demons if we stop there (James 2:20). Faith without works has passed away (James 2:17). God does all the heavy lifting, but the work that we do is to carry the torch. We keep the fire burning. When we can't see Him or how He could possibly be in this, we still believe in who He is and what He has promised. We take that first step into the Red Sea. We take that first assault into the Promised Land. In that manner, our work IS our faith--they are of a living whole. Our works are our faith in living color, in motion. We work out and workout our belief, not just that He exists, but that "He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). We act as if those things He has promised are true, because they are.
God made it crystal clear that He would be giving His people the Promised Land as a gift. Promised was the imperative word. This was something they could take to the bank. When God says, "I am going to give," then that is the end of the story (Numbers 13:2). That is going to be the last page, no matter how the chapters wend and wind. So the Israelites go on this truly unbelievable adventure that puts their toes right on the border of their land. By God's permission, they send spies for reconnaissance, one man per tribe. Eleven return with a bad report. Yeah, sure, the land is swell, but it is currently under the possession of giants, therefore it is a no-go. "'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us...we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight'" (Numbers 13:31, 33). So, by their own admission, they bring back a bad report based entirely on sight. Then the lone remaining spy clears his throat. Caleb knows that this has nothing at all to do with what can be seen any more than it has to do with what "we" are able to do. He delivers the good report, the report of faith. "'We should by all means go up and take possession of it,'" says Caleb, ''for we will surely overcome it'" (Numbers 13:30). God has been speaking the good report to us since Father Abraham. See with your faith the opportunity YHWH has set up for His glory to reign here. Remember the darkness before Passover. Remember the desperation before the Red Sea. Replenish your oil. Let Him find us ready and waiting with our lamps still lit.
But the other eleven spies' bad reports have already seeped in through the Israelites ears and begun the work of melting their hearts (Deuteronomy 1:28). In the place where their faith was lying dead, fear immediately took up residence, and fear was not resting in peace or ineffectual, but brimming with fruit and works. Immediately, the whole nation began to grumble, weep and throw themselves unabashedly into full-fledged self-pity (Deuteronomy 1:26-30). Fear had them going so far as contradicting the very nature of God--declaring that the hatred of the Lord had brought them there (Deuteronomy 1:27). Fear had them organizing leaders to take them back to the slavery of Egypt (Numbers 14:4).
Moses and Aaron knew this fear of man was sin (Numbers 14:5). From the floor, in prostrate fear of God, they join Caleb in begging the people, "'Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf'" (Deuteronomy 1:29-30). "'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. 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'" (Numbers 14:8-9). Please, shore up your hearts, people! This fear is arrogance--assuming you will do or not do based entirely on your own strength and ability, wiping God out of the equation. This fear is stubbornness--a flat-out refusal to listen and obey regardless of feelings or forecast. This fear is forgetfulness of the nature of God and of His impeccable track record (Nehemiah 9:17, Exodus 34:6). This fear is rebellion--putting the strength of man as supreme over the omnipotent God in your hearts and minds. This fear is divination--a fortune telling of the future in direct contradiction to God's omniscient word.
"'But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way'" (Deuteronomy 1:32). So the Lord gave them over to the fear they had chosen. "'As I live,' says the LORD, 'just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you'" (Numbers 14:28). They became the grasshoppers they imagined themselves to be and hopped around the desert for forty years until every single one who had grumbled against the Lord had dropped dead (Numbers 14:29, 32). God told them that their grumbling, their fear, and their refusal to believe that He would do what He said He would do equaled rejection of His gift, so He tucked it away for their kids and let them have what they had determined for themselves (Numbers 14:31). What they prophesied for themselves in fear, what they muttered and grumbled under their breaths, they received in full.
"'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?'" (Numbers 14:11). Fear is a refusal to believe in Him. It is a spurning of the Almighty. It is a choice to believe the world's eleven bad reports over His one good report.