Following the crowd

Numbers 13:30-33 “But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.’ Then the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.’ So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’”

When it comes to the Christian faith, it’s always dangerous to follow the crowd.  Jesus talked about the way to life as “a narrow way” that few would find (Matthew 7:13-14).  Like everything else that Jesus said, this is absolutely true.  In the time of Noah, there were only eight people in the entire world, i.e., Noah’s immediate family, that were serving the Lord.  Then there was Lot who lived in Sodom.  It was only he and his two daughters that escaped the destruction that the Lord visited on that city.  His two sons-in-law didn’t escape, nor did his own wife.  In Elijah’s day things were so corrupt in Israel that he was sure that he was the only one left who hadn’t deserted to Lord.  And although in fact there was a remnant of 7,000 people who had remained true, this was a small minority of all who lived at that time. (1 Kings 19).  In his day, Isaiah had this to say about the condition of Israel at that time: “If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:9).”  And then we have the account above of the 12 leaders of Israel’s 12 tribes who Moses sent into Canaan to spy out the land, a land that God had promised that they would occupy.  Of the twelve, only two, Caleb and Joshua, came back with a good report. The other 10 came back quaking in fear at the obstacles they saw to victory, and as a result these 10 were destroyed with a plague by God and all the people over 20 years of age, all of whom exhibited fear rather than faith in the promise of God, never entered the Promised Land but wandered for 40 years and then died in the wilderness.  And to think that these 10 men were leaders in Israel, all of whom had seen God perform one miracle after another in the nation’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. 

But that’s the way it has always been and the way it will always be even to the end of the age. Jesus described it in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8).  In that parable He described seed (i.e., the Word of God) that is sown into four kinds of soil (i.e., the hearts of people).  In three out of four cases, again the vast majority, the “seed” either bounces off with no effect, or if it is embraced for a time, when hardship or various other cares of this world come along, people walk away and no longer display any faith. They, like the spies above, see nothing but hardship that’s not worth the effort, and thus walk away from the wonderful promises of God that He will never leave or forsake those who trust in Him, and, in the end, bless them with eternal life.  It’s a tragedy, but it’s the truth. 

The true faith that leads to eternal life is never acquired by “bandwagon jumpers.”  Throughout history we are given one example after another that it is the minority, the exception, the ones who go against the crowd, that enter life in Jesus’ name.  Sadly, this includes many who call themselves Christians today, for the truth is that many so-called “Christians” are just fooling themselves.  Jesus said that in the end, when all men and women stand before Him at the final judgment, it will be like this: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23).  So, what about you?  Like those who followed the spies in Israel into the tragedy of faithlessness, are you following the crowd, because “surely all those people couldn’t be wrong.”  Or perhaps your excuse for unbelief is the many people you have known who call themselves Christians, including many of the preachers you’ve happened to see on television, have a walk that just doesn’t match their talk.  Whatever it might be, that excuse won’t work before the King of Kings in the end.  He has told us clearly that few would find the way to life, for the way to life is hard.  So, how foolish to follow that crowd, either in their deception or because of it, when what we’ve been clearly told is that the crowd is headed to destruction.

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