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Stop the Rot!

Numbers 14:36-37
And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land—the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the LORD.

My wife and I recently put up a nice 10x16 shed on our rural mountain property that we’ve been slowly renovating into a tiny retreat cabin, and we were up there last week with the kids doing fun projects in the woods. Micah hacked away at trees with my hatchet, Skye helped remove dead twigs from fallen limbs, and my wife kept a fire going in the firepit, while I guided the tree removal experts I’d hired to fell a large, old oak tree that stood uncomfortably close to our shed and leaned over it. Cutting it down was difficult and costly, but we needed the sunlight on our wooded lot, and we needed to alleviate the fears of it eventually crashing down on our heads, so it had to go. Thankfully, as soon as the tree fell, our lingering doubts were immediately assuaged. The signs of rot hadn’t yet manifested on the outside, but once the tree was down, the inner trunk revealed a 9-inch-thick rot at the very center going all the way up to the top. Crisis averted!

These ten chieftains are like towering oaks in their respective tribes. Where they’ve led, others have followed. But there’s a rot in their hearts you can’t see with the naked eye. Signs of it have occasionally slipped through: curses muttered under bated breath, rolled eyes at the reading of the Law, a scowl at the sacrificial feast; but God’s decision to cut them down has exposed the depth of the demise. Tragic as their loss is—for death is always tragic—with them gone, more sunlight will reach the commonwealth. Young, vibrant saplings like Caleb and Joshua will have room to thrive. And a more crushing, inevitable fall in the future is avoided.

Friend, we have the power to beautify and bless the landscape of God’s church today! But if we allow a rot of bitterness to spread, if we let ingratitude suck the sap out of our faith, we’ll only be a detriment. And the church will be better off without us.