I did what innumerable upper grad students have done. I collected my class syllabi, went to the bookstore bought my books and laid out my schedule for the semester. I was hit by a serious case of syllabus shock. The books were huge monstrosities and I was supposed to read all these books I could barely carry. In addition there was going to be 25 tests 12 research papers and sixty weekly quizzes all in the next sixteen weeks. This is too much. I can’t do it!
I went to a Sunday school class and the teacher was enrolled in the same program. He obviously was experiencing the same overwhelmed feeling as I was. In his lesson he likened those enormous textbooks to the giants the spies encountered when they launched out from Kedesh-barnea. These textbooks seem like giants and I am a grasshopper in comparison.
Numbers 13-14, Deuteronomy 1:19-32
But the first week of those studies I was reminded of the words of Caleb, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it for we shall surely overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30) God led me to this point and it would be foolish to harden my heart now and miss out on God’s best.
Whatever are the giants in the land for you do not leave God out of the equation. With God all things are possible. We need to hear His voice and obey Him in all things. In our passage the Israelites heard God’s voice but hardened their hearts and did not go forward in faith.
This whole story comes in the context of Israel after the Exodus, their deliverance from Egypt. They are in their Exodus journey. They have been to Mt. Sinai where the law was given and the covenant made between God and His people. The Tabernacle was completed and the priesthood established. The people of God are following the pillar of fire. When the pillar of fire moved Israel moved.
When we come to this account recorded in Numbers 13-14 they are still less than two years from the Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea. Now they are positioned just south of the Promise Land at a place called Kedesh-barnea.
The long awaited fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham lay just ahead. All the children of Israel need to do now is seize the day. It is their moment of destiny.
The Lord told Moses to send some men to explore the land. (Numbers 13:1-2) This was supposed to be about route Deuteronomy 1:22. We get the overview of what was supposed to happen. It was not about should we or should we not go but how they should go up and claim God’s promise.
God was going to give them the land based on His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A representative leader from each tribe was chosen to go and spy out the land. Twelve spies went to spy out the land and bring back their report.
They were to report on several aspects of the Promised Land. What about the people? Are they strong or weak? Is the land good or bad? Are the towns un-walled or fortified? Is the soil fertile or poor? They were to bring back some fruit.
They gathered some fruit and made the report, “the land flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:26) They brought evidence that the land was fertile and good. They also reported that the cities were fortified and the people strong. All twelve of the spies agreed on all of this. But there were two responses of what to make of this report.
One response is the majority. Ten of the twelve said this all is to be interpreted as bad. We will be overpowered by these people.
Then there was the minority report. It was of the two whose names we know Joshua and Caleb. This is a good. We can certainly do this. (Numbers 13:30) Joshua and Caleb were making their report based on their faith in God.
People tend to listen to the discouraging report. Discouragement breeds a lack of faith and makes the problems seem bigger. They see themselves like grasshoppers before giants. Negativism choked out the faith of the Israelites and they spent the whole night weeping when God was going to give them the land.
We must thank God for leaders like Joshua and Caleb who believe the power of God is beyond all that we could do. Great leaders are rare who hold on to their faith in the midst of negative people.
If we compare our difficulties to our human strength of course they will overwhelm us. But when we compare our difficulties to the power of God then those difficulties are the ones that are like grasshoppers before giants.
There will always be negative people who do not see God in the equation and spread discouragement. Having faith makes the difference. Not because we can overcome but because God can.
The children of Israel were crying all night grumbled and wished they were dead. Opportunity lost God’s best was missed. They would be wandering in the wilderness for forty years for another generation to experience God’s best by faith.
They were right there and they missed it. They lacked faith. Fear and lack of faith will keep us from God’s best. You can wander aimlessly or move victoriously depending on your faith or lack of faith.
If God is speaking to you and you refuse to obey His voice it could result in missed opportunity and years of frustration.
If you have heard God’s voice don’t harden your heart. Believe God wholeheartedly. Two men did and were blessed by it.