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  1. Americans try to be self-reliant. Reliance is seen as a weakness. We teach children to be self-reliant - get along in our world.
    Bible doesn't teach us to be self-reliant - but "God-reliant."
    1. Israelites in wilderness never quite learned that lesson.
      1. Relied on God for physical things - food, water, civil laws, etc.
      2. Never allowed their hearts to rely on God. Came time to enter the Promised Land, still couldn't believe God would help them take the land and overcome the inhabitants.
        1. Knew they themselves were no match for the inhabitants.
        2. 10 of 12 spies said, "We look like grasshoppers next to them."
        3. All but Joshua and Caleb forgot to RELY on God.
        4. Hebrews 3:10 "They always go astray in their hearts; they have not known my ways."
    2. The heart is hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13.
      Israelites thought they'd be happier, safer going back to Egypt rather than attempting to take the promised land and failing. "The heart is deceitful above all things," Jeremiah 17:9. The deceit of sin and the deceit of the heart combine to visit ruin in one's life. To sinner:
      1. Sin promises Happiness - but plunges one into sorrow.
      2. Sin promises Joy - but delivers wretchedness, shame, misery.
      3. Sin promises Liberty - but binds sinner with chains of slavery.
      4. Sin promises Enlightenment - but submerges soul in utter darkness.
      5. Sin promises Knowledge - but comes with devastating shame, guilt.
      6. Sin promises it won't be serious - but separates man from God.
    3. God tells us the Israelites "put Him to the test" in the wilderness.
      1. Tried His patience at Rephidim over lack of water.
      2. Tried His patience at Mt. Sinai by building Golden Calf.
      3. Tried His patience at Kadesh - balked at taking Promised Land.
      4. And other times.

  2. Another group in that wilderness who were being tested and tried by God. The Children. When Israelites balked at entering Canaan because of lack of faith, unbelief, refusing to rely on God, God said everyone over the age of 20 would die in the wilderness, where you will be for next 40 years. Your children shall take the land after the 40 years are up. The children suffered because of their parents' faithlessness. During that suffering the children were undergoing a change - a painful change that would prove to be worth the pain.
    1. Once man on vacation went into shop - asked to see the beautiful cup up on top shelf. He exclaims, "This is the most beautiful cup I've ever seen!" The cup says, "I wasn't always this pretty. Once I was just a lump of red clay. Then the Master took me and
      1. ROLLED, MASHED me - hurt- asked to stop - smiled, said, "Not yet." Finally stopped, put me down. I hurt all over. Glad it was over.
      2. Then SPINNING began - "OH, my head!" - Master still pushing and pulling on me - "STOP" - said "Not yet." Motion stopped, head didn't.
      3. Put me in OVEN - HOT - I didn't like it - through window I could see Master. I yelled "LET ME OUT" - See He mouthed "Not yet."
      4. Finally over and I cooled off. Master picked me up. Felt good to be in His hands. Then started PAINTING on me. First tickled, but then fumes of the paint became overwhelming. Nauseating. "STOP! Please STOP!" He lovingly smiled, said, "Not Yet."
      5. Then back into OVEN. Hotter than before. I cried out,"Master, please let me out! Stop the heat! I can't take anymore!" Saw Him say, "Not yet." Eventually - taken out of oven. Slowly cooled off.
      6. Master came, smiling. I said, "Master, I've been through lot of pain." Master replied, "I know you have, but it was necessary." Held up a mirror for me to see. I said, "What a beautiful cup!" The Master said, "It is you." I said, "That's me? But, I'm just a lump of red clay." Master said, "Yes, but, you yielded to me and allowed me to lovingly change you. Was it worth it?" "Yes", I replied. "Before I was ugly, useless and worthless. In your hands I became beautiful, useful and of high price."
    2. After lot of pain in Wilderness, the children of Israel were now beautiful and useful in God's sight, as their parents had never been. They themselves were not able to take the Promised Land, but they were now valuable because they were able to RELY on God. And with God, they COULD take the Promised Land of Canaan.
      1. God didn't love them because they were priceless, but they were PRICELESS because God loved them and molded them.
        1. During 40 years in wilderness, God changed the Israelites' children's hearts, that lead one to fall away from the living God - Hebrews 3:12 - into GOD-RELIANT hearts, so they could enter the land of Rest that had been promised to this nation for generations.

  3. Apply. We are told in Hebrews 3 and 4 that if we have a faith that can persevere through this world's hardships and pain, our rest will be superior to the Israelites' rest in Canaan. Will the rest be worth the pain? YES!
    1. In order to enter, we're told to beware the evil, unbelieving heart (Hebrew 3:12), that will lead us to fall away from living God.
    2. We're told to hold fast our confidence firm to the end, verse 14.
    3. Verse 13, EXHORT one another daily - TODAY - sense of urgency - that none will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
        We need encouragement to get through the pains, ordeals of this life.
    4. Do you get daily exhortation? Do you give it daily? Do we exhort each other today? applies to family, business, recreation.
      Is there daily exhortation in your house to faithfulness in Christ?
      Do workers/neighbors hear you mention God favorably, regularly?
      Reasons we don't give and receive exhortations regularly:
      1. Natural timidity - work of devil- weakness that should not be allowed to stand.
      2. Ashamed of Christ - week-long silence about God at your house? Could be why children grow up asking "Do my parents really believe?"
      3. Broken/mixed marriage - religious sense. When unbelieving partners are linked with Christians - daily exhortations are more difficult. No mutual spiritual benefit, family suffers.
      4. Accepted notion that it is impolite to speak of Christ, our faith, or religion with others. We've allowed others to convince us we are rude or intruding to be concerned with their souls.
    5. For these 4 reasons we fail to receive and give the exhortations that we daily need.
      1. Daily exhortations help us to remember that the Bible doesn't try to make us self-reliant, but GOD-RELIANT.
      2. Helps us remember God doesn't love us because we are priceless, but we are PRICELESS because God loves us.

    Obvious source of exhortation is the Word of God.
    End with several exhorting scripture readings:

    • I Corinthians 6:20 - You were bought with a price
    • Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord, not on yourself
    • I John 4:7-12 - ...love one another...God abides in us
    • Matthew 7:7-8 - Ask, knock
    • Romans 12:9-13 - love, hate evil, serve, rejoice, pray, practice hospitality
    • I John 5:1-5 - Believe, love, obey commands. Faith - victory overcomes world
    • Philippians 4:4-9 - Rejoice, peace of God... think on these things

Jeannie Cole

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Spring 1990

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