Christ Assembly Archive

April 11, 2011

Numbers 13:2

The Spies and Unbelief Today

“Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.”

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       Recently in our study, we read about the foolishness of Aaron and Miriam in questioning God’s choice of Moses to lead the people.  God reaffirmed His choice of Moses, and said He spoke with Moses mouth to mouth, and not in visions, dreams and dark sayings.  Today, we will see God send messengers into the promised land and the unbelief of Israel.

        In Numbers 13:2, God commanded Moses to send forth spies into the promised land.  Remember, all the people of Israel did not move for seven days while Miriam recovered from her leprosy, which came upon her from challenging Moses as leader (Numbers 12:15-16; apparently everyone knew about Miriam’s leprosy and challenge to Moses (Deuteronomy 24:9). Now the camp has moved to the wilderness of Paran.  We should also keep in mind that God had previously said that God did not lead them “by way of the land of Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, ‘The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt'” (Exodus 13:17).  So God led them through the wilderness.

       The Twelve Spies.  In Numbers 13:2 God speaks directly to Moses: Send out spies to report back on the promised land.  Notice the words from God about the land: “I am going to give [it] to the sons of Israel.”  God has promised He would give this land to the people of Israel.  After selecting twelve spies, one representative from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve spies went into the land, and came back and reported. They told that the land flowed with milk and honey, and showed some of the fruit of land (Numbers 13:26).  They also said the people of the land were strong, the cities fortified, and they saw the descendants of Anak there (Numbers 13:27-30). Regarding the people of the land, the spies reported that the Amalekites, the Hittites, and the Canaanites lived in the land.  Caleb, whose name means dog (and Hebrews generally considered dogs very lowly; see 2 Kings 8:13), told Moses and all the people before him that Israel could take possession of the land, and surely overcome it (Numbers 13:30). Ten of the spies testified that the “land devours its inhabitants and the men were giants, so that we were grasshoppers in their sight” (Numbers 13:33).

      The Unbelief of Israel.  Sometimes, a few men lacking faith can cause an entire congregation to reject the plan of the God for them.  In this case, ten spies completely turned the people of Israel away from the promised land and from following the plan of Yahweh.  In Numbers 14:1, page 240, the people of Israel wept that night after they heard the report of the ten spies, and accepted their unbelief in Yahweh’s promise to give them the land.  Now, the congregation moves to appoint a new leader, saying: “Let us appoint a new leader and return to Egypt” Numbers 14:4).  Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. 

       The Faith of Joshua and Caleb.  Only Joshua and Caleb, the only two good spies out of the twelve spies, tore their clothes over Israel’s unbelief and rebellion against Moses (remember Aaron and Miriam in the previous chapter learning the same lesson about Moses (Numbers 12:1-16).  Only Joshua and Caleb spoke up for God’s plan. They said: “If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us–a land which flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 14:8). 

       Faith Counts upon God Keeping His Promises.  Caleb and Joshua reminded the people that Yahweh promised them this land. He will give it to them.  When anyone relies upon their own strength to fulfill God’s plans, they will not prosper.  The people of Israel knew they were not strong enough to take on the giants, but they completely ignored and disbelieved that God could do it through them or without them.   The unbelieving congregation ignored God’s promises, focused upon their adversaries’ strength and size, and failed to rely upon God’s promises to them. God had promised a land flowing with milk and honey and had shown the people that it was so, just as the spies reported (Exodus 3:8; Numbers 13:27).  In fact, Moses knew from the beginning that the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites dwelt in the land (Exodus 3:8).  Remember, people in rebellion often have convinced themselves, by focusing upon the wrong things, and ignoring God’s promises, that they lack the ability and power to overcome the obstacles before them.  In their minds, they have very good reasons to shrink back from doing what God has commanded them.

       Faithful Men Warn Rebels in Unbelief.  Caleb and Joshua believed the promises of God and acted upon them.  While everyone else wept in unbelief and counseled rebellion, Joshua and Caleb warned against spiritual rebellion (Numbers 14:9-10).  The congregation then sought to stone them.  You cannot count upon people always listening to God’s voice of leadership, so never expect that people will listen to you after they have rejected the Lord Jesus. 

       The Lord Pronounces Judgment upon Unbelief. The LORD appeared to all Israel after they wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb and replace Moses.  The LORD asked Moses, “How long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?” (Numbers 14:11).  Moses answered the LORD and pleaded for Him to spare Israel for His own Name’s sake (Numbers 14:13-19).  The LORD agreed to pardon them from their sin, but all the men who saw His glory and His signs in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet put Him to the test these ten times and have not listened to His voice, shall not by any means enter the promised land (Numbers 14:20-23). Only Caleb (and Joshua), because he had a different spirit, and followed Yahweh fully, would enter the promised land, and take possession of it (Numbers 14:24).  All the numbered men, twenty years old and upward, who grumbled against Yahweh, fell as corpses in the wilderness (Numbers 14:16-29).  Only Joshua and Caleb, along with the children, shall enter the promised land (Numbers 14:30).  The rest shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, one year for every day the spies were in the land (Numbers 14:31-37).  The ten spies who brought the bad report died by a plague before the LORD (Numbers 14:37).  Only Joshua and Caleb remained alive and would later enter the promised land (Numbers 14:38).  But Israel had to learn yet another lesson about rebellion, because they insisted upon compounding their sin.

      Even More Rebellion.  God had judged Israel, but Israel remained in unbelief and determined now to invade the promised land without God’s leading.  They rose up early in the morning, acknowledged they had sinned, and decided to take the promised land without the LORD’s power going before them. We should each be sure to avoid this mistake in our lives.  When we acknowledge our sin, we do well.  But when we acknowledge our sin, and then immediately return to our previous mistake of not following the leading of the Lord Jesus, then we will have even greater problems (compare Proverbs 26:11).  God had told the people of Israel they had lost their opportunity to enter the land for forty years.  They again rejected God’s word and said we can do it ourselves.  Whenever we feel confident in our own abilities, and fail to trust God, then calamity often follows.  In this case, the Amalekites and the Canaanites struck them down and defeat swept over the people of Israel, even though Moses had warned them not to attack, and did not go with them.  Neither did Yahweh go before them (Numbers 14:41-45).

     So we learn that more about faith and rebellion today.

       ●  When we receive the promises of God, we cannot let the strength of our enemies displace our trust in the Almighty God.   The Lord Jesus will always fulfill His promises and we more than conquer in Him.

       ●  Even when everyone opposes you, speak up for believing in God and His promises, even to people in rebellion against God.

     ●  Avoid always compounding the sin of unbelief and rebellion, by trying to obtain God’s promises without counting upon God’s direct power and leading.  If He is not leading you there now, do not go there now.  Stay under the leadership of Jesus today and always. 

Application for Today

        I know that rebellion always leads to defeat and destruction in my life.  Yet, I battle it daily.  I want to do things my way, on my timetable, and use my own power.  The Lord Jesus reminds me to trust Him all day, every day.  I need to go only where He is going, and I will follow only Him.  I will not set the path, or determine the goal, or rely upon my own strength.  Only Jesus and His power will I seek today.  Where are you going today?  Who will you follow today?