OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


          About two years after leaving Egypt, the children of Israel neared the Promised Land.  Before starting their military campaign in the land, Moses, by the commandment of God, sent twelve men to spy out the land.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel:  of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.  And Moses by the commandment of the Lord sent them from the wilderness of Paran:  all those men were heads of the children of Israel” (Num. 13:1-3).

          These twelve men were gone for forty days (Num. 13:25).  When they came back, they gave a report to Moses, Aaron, and the children of Israel about all they saw in the land.  What was really given was two reports.  One group gave this summary:  “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30).  The second group gave this report:  “We be not able to go up against the people” (Num. 13:31).  The two reports are completely opposite of one another.  This is extremely interesting in light of the fact that they all saw exactly the same things in the land of Canaan.  The reports are not the only thing that can be contrasted in this account.  There are numerous other contrasts that can be made.

          First, notice that one group is extremely positive and the other group is extremely negative.  The positive group said:  “We can.”  The negative group said:  “We cannot.”  It seems that there is always a group of people who take a negative approach when it comes to the Lord’s word.  Rather than believing something can be done, they find reasons why it cannot be done.

          Second, one group was very large and the other group was very small.  Those who thought the land of Canaan could not be taken consisted of ten men.  Only two, Joshua and Caleb believed that Israel could be victorious (Num. 14:6).  Again, this is what often happens among God’s people.  A handful is committed to seeing a work to fruition.  The majority, however, is negative.  They constantly seek to prove to the minority that their efforts are useless.

          Third, Joshua and Caleb manifested great faith in God.  Listen to their words:  “If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into the land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey” (Num. 14:8).  These men knew that with God all things are possible.  It had not been that long since Israel had left Egypt.  They had seen the great wonders that God had performed there.  Surely, God could over throw the Canaanites.  On the other hand, the ten spies, whose names are not remembered, exhibited a lack of faith.  It was fear that quenched any faith they had.  Rather than focusing upon God, they focus upon the giants of the land.  “Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great:  and moreover we saw the children of Anak there…And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants:  and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in theirs” (Num. 13:28, 33).  The writer of Hebrews calls their words “unbelief.”  “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:18-19).

          Fourth, one group of spies desired to obey God.  The Lord wanted Israel to possess the land.  He had brought them up out of Egypt for this very purpose.  When the spies went to see the land, the mission was only designed so Israel could develop a strategy for taking the land and to confirm that it was indeed a good land.  It was never intended for the spies to return home and discourage Israel from their conquering the enemy nations.  Sadly, the ten spies were not eager to obey the Lord.  In fact, they believed that God’s people were incapable of doing what God desired for them to do.  Again, this is not uncommon today.  Instead of doing God’s will because of the challenges that it presents, many just sit and do nothing.  They are paralyzed by their fears, doubts, and lack of faith.

          Fifth, Joshua and Caleb were well-pleasing to God.  The ten spies were displeasing to God.  Their unbelief brought the punishment of God upon the nation.  “Because all these men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto the fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it” (Nu. 14:22-23).  For Joshua and Caleb, another end came to them from the Lord.  “But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his see shall possess it” (Num. 14:24).  So often we fail to consider the Lord’s reaction to the positions we take toward His work.  When individuals refuse to do the Lord’s work because of a few challenges, when they let fear and other excuses paralyze them, God is not well-pleased.  God does not want excuses that lead to disobedience.  He wants faith exhibited in obedience.  When He sees the latter, He will work for the success of His people.

          The account of the twelve spies is very familiar to most Christians.  We know that the actions of the ten spies delayed entrance into the Promised Land for another thirty-eight years. (They had been in the wilderness for two years at this time.  Another thirty-eight years would make a total off forty).  The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness until an entire generation died, that is, an entire generation save two.  “Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun” (Num. 14:30.  Dear reader, if you had been alive back then, to which group would you have belonged?  How you view things and react to things today is a good indicator of how you would have reacted back then.  Would you have been a Joshua and Caleb who encouraged the people?  Or, would you have been one of the ten spies who discouraged the people?