God’s Weapon of Choice
There was an avalanche of giants charging head on. Their strides were so quick and furious that the very earth shook under their feet. They were wielding swords with double edges and a license to kill. In front of these giants quaked a pitiful formation of soldiers, what compared to be grasshoppers in the face of wild beasts. In one fell swoop the first approaching giant lowered his blade to the dismemberment of four separate limbs from the counteroffensive. Even amidst the horrific cries, one could not avoid hearing the cracking of bone and the spilling of marrow that accompanied the blow. Only a handful would escape the onslaught and finger their way back to Joshua and Caleb. This was God’s judgment on Israel at Kadesh Barnea.
Twelve spies had just returned from surveying Canaan and entered the Israelite camp two days prior to the event above (Numbers 13). Ten of the spies gave a dim report, “The (inhabitants of the) land devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. We were like grasshoppers in our own sight!” (Numbers 13:32-33). Joshua and Caleb trusted in God’s undefeated right hand to deliver the land of giants to Israel, but they were the minority report. After a tongue lashing from Joshua and Caleb, a terrifying display of God’s glory to Moses threatening to annihilate the entire nation (Numbers 14:11-12), and a plague that did in fact extinguish the 10 Debbie downing spies, the Israelite people got the point. They cried and confessed, cried and confessed (Numbers 14:39). Unfortunately, they presumed that their sins had no hangover consequences, and so they attempted to make restitution for their lack of faith by setting out to conquer those grasshopper devouring giants. The rest is history.
The Kadesh Barnea tragedy is the very subject of consideration upon arriving at Hebrews 3 & 4. The writer spends the entirety of Hebrews 3:7-19 looking back at that sad example, emphasizing the Israelites’ lack of trust and obedience (v. 18-19), otherwise known as saving faith. The blood curdling screams of slaughtered Israelites can still be heard at the end of chapter 4. Failure by Israel to enter God’s promised rest and exactly what that rest typified defines chapter 4:1-10. With screams in earshot, the writer then tells his Christian audience, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience,” (Hebrews 4:11). What kind of fall is he talking about? The fall of hundreds of Israelite bodies, the blood of which oozed from under the blades and boots of the ferocious Amalekites at Kadesh Barnea. This meticulous image is very well in the writer’s mind upon penning the following soul saving exhortation to his Christian friends- “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…” (Hebrews 4:12). You thought the scene at Kadesh Barnea was gory? Child’s play. We are reminded of John’s vision of Christ in judgment, “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp two-edged sword, that with it He should strike the nations,” (Revelation 19:13,15). Kadesh Barnea was fearful enough, so how much more fearful should it be when the people of God hear the Word of God today?
The Hebrew Christians, like the Galatian Christians in Galatians 1:6, were going through a moment of crisis. Many had quit assembling (Heb. 10:25). Others had flooding doubts about their initial confession of faith in Christ. The writer gives a quadruple exhortation in chapters 3 & 4 to hold on to that confession (3:1, 3:6, 3:14, 4:14), because it was slipping, slipping fast. As an antidote to this spiritual plague sweeping the church, the preacher of Hebrews effectually presents Christ as the supremacy of human hope. There is no realistic alternative for a Christian who has tasted the blessings of Christ. But ultimately, every Christian -Hebrew, American, Russian, etc.- must remember that God’s word is alive. His word is terribly powerful. His word separates bone from marrow, ending the lives of those who do not regard Him as faithful to His word and promises. His word is His weapon of choice. May Christians today be just as diligent to avoid falling according to the same example of those at Kadesh Barnea.