Here’s a fun little exercise; maybe you’ll want to get with some friends and try it together: Go through your whole vocabulary and identify the one word that has got you into more trouble than any other. Do certain candidates leap to mind?
No, not those words!
Here – I’ll suggest a Bible word. Very troublesome indeed. The word is “however.” There are plenty of good and un-troublesome ways to use the word, but if you’ve just spied out the Promised Land and returned to camp with a report, you’d better be careful with “however”…
At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit” (Numbers 13:25-27).
So far, so good. But watch what happens next…
“However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan” (verses 28-29).
Twelve spies went into Canaan. They came back bearing a single cluster of grapes so big it had to be suspended on a pole and carried by two men. The land, they said, flowed with milk and honey. Then came the However, followed by the rest of the story, followed by loud complaining and weeping throughout the congregation.
In the interest of full disclosure, give the spies credit for making a thorough report. On the one hand, nobody wants to run into a descendant of Anak in a dark alley somewhere – a little heads-up, at least, could be helpful. On the other hand, maybe the most helpful thing overall would have been to pull up just short of However. Fear in the camp touched off rebellion, rebellion spawned disobedience, disobedience brought on defeat. And most troublesome of all was what God himself said: “You shall know my displeasure” (14:34).
Forty years. Of every living soul who came out of Egypt, only two – Joshua and Caleb – would enter the land of promise. An entire generation lost; their bodies fell in the very desert they preferred over a land flowing with milk and honey. Cause of death: Wrong belief.
Whose report will you believe? Remember: Where we are is not where we’re headed, and we must be people of God’s presence or we need not be his people at all. As cushy as this Good Ol’ U.S. of A. is, it’s still not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). This is a wilderness experience we’re living, and between where we are and where we’re going stand the Amalekites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites – called by other names. When the report pivots on However, which way will you tip?
For at least seventy years, the Christian church in America has looked helplessly onto the greatest cultural disasters of our time – the divorce boom of the 1950’s, the sexual revolution of the ‘60’s, the drug culture of the 70’s, the selfishness explosion of the ‘80’s, the self-help debacle of the ‘90’s, the gender misinformation of the present century, and the epidemic of fatherlessness (a byproduct of all of the above maladies) that plagues us to this day. And it’s not like the trouble is just “out there” somewhere; it’s in our own churches, homes, and families. The descendants of Anak, so to speak, have been keeping us out of the fight for even longer than the Israelites wandered in the desert. Why? Because we keep forgetting: The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:7).
Advance, Church, go kick some “Amalekite” tail. Let the Almighty handle However, however he chooses. It’s not like he hasn’t handled However before. Twelve spies reported, and the report was thorough. But for all its thoroughness, the report of ten of them was still classified as a bad report (Numbers 14:37). Don’t fall for it, even though the bad reporters outnumber the good reporters ten-to-two. Believe the good report…
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob (Psalm 24:6).
Grace and Peace (and a good ear for a good report),