Fear distorts reality.
Fear produces irrational responses.
Fear instigates mutiny.
These are the three effects of fear we've noticed so far from the teaching of Numbers 13-14. A posture of fear distorts reality by exaggerating the challenges. Because we no longer see reality as it is, our decision-making becomes questionable. If forced to press into the things that cause our fear, we often will go kicking and screaming - or not at all. Leaders who press into the things that cause fear may find their followers jumping ship. This is why making decisions that confront our fears is both courageous and costly.
There's one more effect of fear we see in this text: fear is a statement about God. God interprets our fear as a statement about him.
And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? – Numbers 14:11
God interprets our fear as a statement about him. You can say it’s the situation. You can say it’s the people you’re with. We can say all sorts of things to try to justify our fear, but God won’t let us isolate our fear. God interprets our fear as a statement of contempt against him. The taproot that feeds and nourishes fear is distrust of the Lord.
Do you see why this story is a treatise on the destructive nature of fear? It’s no wonder why the most frequent command in Scripture is: do not be afraid.
So what do we do about it? Stay tuned...
Numbers 13-14 is a treatise on fear. We’ve started considering the four effects of fear the text teaches. Last time we looked at the first effect: fear distorts reality. We’ll look at the next two in fear’s progression.
1) Fear produces irrational responses
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night.And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” – Numbers 14:1-3
Fear distorts our ability to see reality. It causes us to exaggerate the negative which leads next to addressing this distorted view of reality with a solution that is irrational. “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness!” Really? “Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” Now the plan of action, triggered by fear is nonsense. Remember what their experience was like in Egypt? Have they forgotten so quickly? They were brutalized in Egypt.
Do you see the impact fear has on making a good decision? It’s very difficult, if not impossible to make a good decision from a posture of fear.
2) Fear instigates mutiny
And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua want to press on in spite of the fear the Israelites are experiencing. But notice what reaction that creates in the Israelites: they wanted to stone their leaders for this.
This is a good lesson on leadership. If you are a leader and your followers are operating from a posture of fear, if you press forward, they will mutiny in some way or another.
In daily life we may not attempt to murder someone in our anger, but our fear, which graduates to anger can cause us to mutiny. We go looking for another leader just like Israel did. Or the people you’re leading may leave you and go somewhere else. Or they may try to rally the troops to oust you.
This is why making decisions that force us to press into the things that cause our fear is both courageous and costly.
Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. - Deuteronomy 7:21