Grasshoppers in the Church
by John Owens
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“And there we saw the giants…we were in our own sight as grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:33)
Do we dare look at the church today in the light of Israel’s history? Is there a promised land waiting to be entered?
Most church folks are familiar with the story in Exodus – the deliverance of the Israelites – and in Numbers, how the spies returned from Canaan with a frightening report of towering giants that sent the multitudes scampering instead of entering. It’s considered an interesting story but not relevant to us who live in a giant-free scientific society. As for a promised land, such a place is reckoned to Israel’s past history or Revelation’s future heaven.
As a church member I understand that viewpoint, yet, I must confess, from time to time there have been stirrings deep within my spirit…unsettling and strangely beckoning. It happens usually after meditation on incredible promises such as, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give you” (John 16:23), “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these…” (John 14:12), and “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:20)
There has always been something more – something beyond what is seen going on in the traditional church. The promises in the Bible are too great to be ignored but church practices (in general) are geared to the comfort zone, not wanting to risk offense. So, few find it. Missionaries occasionally visit, show their slides (now power-point), and leave without eliciting much more than an offering. Thankfully, there are exceptions. And it was through such exceptional believers that my own heart was so moved. God’s promises are often contingent on our move – “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
The great adventure started with a one-year journey through Design for Discipleship, a series of Bible study booklets by The Navigators that had been suggested by a teacher. An inner fire was kindled. Opportunities followed to exercise faith and discover spiritual gifts. And eventually, seminary. Along the way I met others also gripped by that Holy Hand, whose lives were refreshingly out of sync with the world system. I did not know where it all was going but I knew that it had to be good - like finding the fountain of youth, but even better. For life in Christ is abundant and eternal.
Then one day it happened. God stepped out of His Bible and spoke – not audibly, but with compelling impression that perfectly agreed with the written Word. His calling was clear and confirmed in other unmistakable ways – our family was to go to the former USSR, as it turned out, to teach in the first above-ground Bible & pastoral training school, helping to equip nationals to start new churches. So, for 2-1/2 years in Latvia and in Moscow, we experienced a new, exciting, gloriously fruitful walk with God. Of course there were challenges and temporary set-backs along the way, but the LORD was with us fulfilling His promises, and our lives were forever changed. We would never return to “normal”. For us, the Red Sea had parted and we had crossed over. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). What He has done for others, He will do for you. I am convinced that all it takes is a seeking, sold-out heart – a desire to press into the Kingdom. There is great treasure waiting for the person willing to pay the price. Now we are thankful to be part of a church fellowship that is filled with God-hungry hearts, among many yearning to know and serve Him better. But unfortunately, such assemblies are like sparsely scattered diamonds.
For those with eyes to see, the church is now in the place that Israel once was – wandering in the wilderness. The things that happened to that ancient Jewish nation were recorded as an example for us today. This is made clear in 1 Corinthians 10:11 – “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Multitudes of church goers are perishing along the way, paying greater heed to worldly counsel than to Jesus. Some pastors tragically play the part of the spies that quenched the walk of faith and the discovery of promised blessings. The allurement of worldly things has brought such bondage to the church that it is practically powerless to respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Will the church wake up to what is happening, or will it be but a remnant that inherits the place of promise? It was a remnant of Israel that arrived to cross the Jordan and a remnant that God uses in the last days (Micah 4:7).
Consider the cry of the faithful few, those who held fast to the guarantee of God:
“And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephuneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.” (Numbers 14:6-9)
Do you want the victory and blessings of God more than the approval of the world? Have you tasted of the Kingdom – the righteousness, peace, and joy found in the Holy Spirit – through your faith declaration in the crucified and risen Son of God. If so, then the LORD is with you. It was Caleb who stilled the murmuring Jews and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)
Yes, there is more! And it is time to awaken and press in!
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This is a most interesting examination of the Church and where it is leading its followers, almost like the Israelites of old. You have given the reader encouragement to follow the path of God's promises and not that of the world.