Have you ever come up with a solid excuse to offer God for disobeying Him? The Bible records some crackerjack attempts like Adam’s whimpering, “It’s the woman you gave me,” (Genesis 3:12) or Aaron’s lame, “Out came this calf” (Exodus 32:24). How about Saul looking for the closest exit ramp with his whiney retort to Samuel: “You did not come at the set time” (1 Samuel 13:11). Yes, let’s abandon our faithfulness to God and His commands and then make it all better by pointing fingers 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
There’s another doozy recorded in Numbers 13 as ten of the Promised Land-explorers argued why Joshua and Caleb were crazy. Those two took God at His word and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30). The ten naysayers said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31). The latter response is a head scratcher since it was uttered by leaders who had personally witnessed the waters of the Red Sea cower back and tower up at the breath of God.
Incredibly, they forgot about the power displayed at that event and decided to focus on their own physical size compared to the folks in Canaan, feeling inadequate, small, and powerless like grasshoppers in comparison. Nice hyperbole on their part, and they even took it up a notch when they continued, “and we looked the same to them” (Number 13:33). To me, it seems like the ten explorers were assuming knowledge of the Canaanite mentality. How could they know the people in the land were thinking that? Did the ten explorers commission a pollster to ask, “On a ten-point scale, how likely is it that you consider the Israelites to be grasshopper-like in stature compared to yourself?”
This is what happens in the excuse-making business. We convince ourselves how some “fact” of our own manufacture supersedes God’s commands and promises. Then we get the self-justification ball rolling faster with something about why it’s impracticable to obey God. Love my enemy? That’s too countercultural (and too difficult). Pray for my persecutors? You don’t know what they’ve done to me. I rev up the excuse-making machine to cruising speed by assuming I won’t be able to speak eloquently about Jesus to the guy whom God has brought into my sphere of influence. The Holy Spirit says, “Go and speak to him.” I say, “I’m just a grasshopper in his eyes.”
That’s my problem. I make God’s promises contingent on my self-justifying notions. I make His power subservient to the doubts bouncing around in my head about my skills or what I assume others will think of me. I just don’t care to fail or be rejected today, thank you.
Fear can obscure the facts. All the explorers spent the same 40 days in the land, and they all witnessed it to be just as God promised: a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8); a land producing single grape clusters too big for one guy to carry (Numbers 13:23). But fear, falsehoods, and fallacious assumptions fiddled with their faculty of faith. Only two of the twelve seemed to be thinking back to Moses’ declaration at the Red Sea:
Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. Exodus 14:13
How quickly we, like the ten, can forget the deliverances God has wrought in our own recent days. With astounding alacrity, like a golden calf popping out of the flames, excuses for disobedience leap from my lips to God’s ears. In fact, I can furnish a whole room with excuses built with the hardwood of doubt, the fabric of fear, and carpets woven from stubborn pride.
Disgusted with their cardboard excuses for unbelief, God gave Israel this stinging rebuke: “For 40 years — one year for each of the 40 days you explored the land — you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have Me against you” (Numbers 14:34). They who were supposed to become the owners of the Promised Land were instead to be the recipients of God’s wrath, learning a hard lesson that God is not mocked.
You [God] have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying Your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all Your commands. Psalm 119:4–6
Oh, to be an obedient soul — but alas, steadfastness and full obedience are not default characteristics of human nature. The Apostle Paul acknowledged the battle that believers must fight. Paul said on one hand he desired to please God, but on the other he found sin waging war in him: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24). A very good question indeed.
Who will pay attention to God rather than to naysayers? Who will forego the machinations of their own fertile imaginations about things beyond their control, choosing rather to be on the Lord’s side as they march under His superintendence into the land of promise? “Who will rescue me?” pleaded Paul. Answering his own question, he said: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
This is Jesus’ promise: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16,17). We must choose to obey God, but we won’t be alone in executing that choice because the Holy Spirit will be the source of our steadfastness.
Rather than negotiate with the nattering nabobs in my noggin I must emulate Joshua and Caleb who said, “We can certainly do it.” I have no excuse, even if I really am just a grasshopper, because God can — and often prefers to — accomplish His will with the smallest instruments. Besides, like my dad always said in referring to Luke 19:40: “I don’t want some stone taking my place.”
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Jack Gross is a graduate of Advanced Leadership Training at Grace Polaris Church. He and his wife, Evon, came to Grace in the fall of 2008. Jack enjoys working with his hands and is employed by the facilities department at Worthington Christian Schools. He worked with the warehouse crew at Grace helping to build Living Christmas Tree sets. He has recently joined the nursing home ministry as a speaker at Friendship Village. He also enjoys the wonders of creation by tending his perennial garden. Jack and Evon have two teenage sons and have lived in Columbus all their lives.