Wake-Up Call: The Seductive Hell of a Predictable Situation


Numbers 13:1–3a, 17–20 (NIV)

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. . . .

When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)


Today we come to another text from which we can glean lessons on what it means to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’” (Heb. 3:13).

We come to the famed story of the twelve spies. I call it “The Minority Report.” Encouragement in the biblical sense of the term most often comes in the form of a minority report. The will, calling, and assignments of God are most often unconventional and occasionally downright outlandish. The math rarely adds up. It requires a suspension of rational judgment and an immersion into the imagination of Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. God fights swords with trumpets. Then he takes the swords and beats them into plowshares.

Setting the stage: The Israelites had journeyed out of Egypt, miraculously walked through the Red Sea on dry ground, been led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, fed manna every morning and quail in the evening, drank water from rocks, and the list goes on. As they neared the promised land, God led Moses to develop a reconnaissance mission with twelve spies to scout out the territory.

The wilderness had not been easy. It never is. This story will show us something deeply embedded in the human condition—how people will readily choose a known misery over an unknown possibility. There is something deep and dark about the law of sin and death that will lead even redeemed people to return to darkness and death, even slavery and abuse, rather than risk freedom, flourishing, and joy by choosing an unknown possibility and an uncertain future. This is why encouragement is so critical to both give and receive. My mentor Maxie Dunnam puts it best: “Most people prefer the hell of a predictable situation rather than risk the joy of an unpredictable one.”

Many people we meet, every single day, are fighting a difficult battle, confronting hard circumstances, facing an uncertain future. It is why we must encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “today,” so that we will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.


Father, we get it. There is something about a predictable future, even if it is a hellish one, that can give us comfort. We get used to it. We lose sight of what once was or what could be. It is so darkly seductive to slowly acclimate to the ever-dimming light. And the longer we live in this place, the harder it becomes to even imagine what you can do. Come, Holy Spirit, and bring awakening. Teach us to encourage each other in ways that awaken us to your possibilities and stand on your promises. Turn our eyes upon Jesus. In his name we pray, amen.


Are you living in a predictably less than promising and hopeful situation right now? Know anyone who is? Are you open to deep encouragement in said situation? Are you ready to encourage others in truly empowered ways?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.


  1. In the midst of the current chaos and turmoil in the world today, whether it be religious, political or economic, it’s easy to forget that it’s always darkest before the dawn. I feel deep down inside that what appears to be the approaching Armageddon is most likely the prelude to the next Great Awakening. It’s got to look pretty bad before most folks will let go of the predictable to embrace the possible.

  2. Good word, JD!
    Ministering at a couple of rehab facilities, I’m no longer shocked when I ask how many have been to one or more rehabs multiple times. More arms stretch upward than don’t. They’re trying harder to win the battle inside them instead of giving up. Programs don’t change addicts. Jesus does as He did/doing in me. Most struggle with the name of Jesus, the sinful nature of flesh knows His name and fears His Word as it knows its death is pending when Jesus comes alive in them.
    Jesus is the unknown possibility. Until we learn He isn’t. Then He is the joy in every unpredictable situation.

  3. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus preferred predictable, programmed, and rigid religion, but Jesus told him that God’s Spirit is unpredictable like the wind. Religiously satisfying the flesh (our human desires and our need to look good before God and people) isn’t enough.

    We need to come alive to and to fully enter into a new kind of life, the unpredictable and free flowing life of the Spirit. Paul said: “Those are led by the Spirit by the Spirit are the children of God.”

    Courageously experiencing the unpredictable joy of being led by God’s Spirit throughout the day will awakening you to ongoing, childlike exuberance and faith! It’s not enough to just rock the boat a bit. (That can deceitfully rock you to sleep.) Instead, lay down your pride, daily step out onto the water, and walk in the Spirit.