After the Exodus when God releases the Israelites from their 400-year bondage of slavery in Egypt, they walk for eleven days toward the land that God has promised to give them. This promised land is not only a geographic area, but a symbol of God’s protection and blessing over the Israelites, a land of milk and honey – full of life, animals, water, crops, and everything they will need. God has promised the Israelites that if they follow and obey Him, He will bless them and make them a blessing to the whole world. So under God’s direction, when the Israelites arrive at the borders of the promised land, they send twelve spies to gather evidence that the land is as God said it would be.
The spies return with evidence that the land is full of fruits, a land that “truly flows with milk and honey.” (Numbers 13:27) But, as with other Biblical stories, a struggle soon arises between good and evil – God’s friends and God’s enemies. When the issue arises about taking possession of the land, two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, encourage the Israelites to take the land as God has directed:
“Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (v. 30)
But the other ten spies have doubts and discourage the people:
“We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (v. 31-33)
For us today, our promised land is walking in a right relationship with God.
For us today, our promised land is walking in a right relationship with God. In that right relationship, we can have the provisions we need and peace in the midst of trial and suffering, because no matter what befalls us, God is with us and we have the promise of heaven waiting for us even after death. Just as the Israelite spies return with the fruits as evidence of God’s promises, we too have fruitful evidence all around us that God is good and faithful. There are people among us who should be dead, in jail, addicted, or divorced, and yet God has intervened in their lives. We also have evidence that denying God and turning away from Him doesn’t work; it leaves us empty and alone.
However, even with the evidence of fruits before them, many of the spies do not trust in the Lord, and their words spread infectious doubt among God’s people:
And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” Numbers 14:2-3
Only Joshua and Caleb have faith in God’s plan:
But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Numbers 14:6-10
We all need to decide who we are in today’s story; are we God’s friends or God’s enemies? Are we the ones who trust His faithful Word and follow where He leads or the ones who whine, complain, and turn away from what He asks of us?
It is often our nature to oppose God, to stay put until we see everything in place in a way that makes us feel comfortable, rather than trusting in His promises and taking a step of faith. But what happens to God’s enemies in a Biblical context? They always lose in the end.
“‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’” Numbers 14:28-35
God blesses Joshua and Caleb for their faith and promises them that they will one day inherit the promised land, but none others is granted this same promise.
The devil doesn’t want you to trust God. He wants to keep you seeking second best. But we need to trust that God is the giver of all good gifts. If you have a house, a family, friends, a job, clothes on your back, or food to eat, God gave those things to you. He is not calling you to follow Him so He that can destroy you; He’s calling you to follow him so he can bless you! Don’t be so accustomed to being a victim that you can’t be a victor.
What promised land is before you today? Whom are you allowing to counsel you – God’s friends or God’s enemies? Are you thinking of turning back to Egypt to a life of slavery rather than taking the risk of trusting in God’s faithfulness? Embrace the “different spirit” (v. 24) of Joshua and Caleb. Believe in God’s promises as evidenced by the fruit around you, and enter the land!