The story of the twelve spies in Numbers 13-14 is one of the more popular stories from the Old Testament we may usually hear in church. In Numbers 13:30-32 (NASB), we read: Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it. 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us. So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land.
As we look over some details on this story of doubt and faith, we can draw lessons to apply in life.
From verses 1-17 of chapter 13, we see God commanding Moses to send out twelve spies (one chosen from each tribe) to spy out the promised land. As Moses sent them, he instructs them in verses 18-20 to:
- check out what kind of people there were and how many they were (v.18),
- check out what visible prospects there were in the land (v.19-20),
- check out what provisions were readily available (v.20), and
- check out what possible problems they might face when they tried to conquer (v.19).
All of these concerns were valid. To know what kind of oppositions to face and address and what opportunities are foreseeable and available are legitimate concerns for anyone making a plan of action for whatever endeavor.
As the mission of the twelve spies ended and they have gone back to report, the Israelites then faced two conflicting conclusions. All twelve spies agreed that the land was rich and full of opportunities but ten spies believed it was impossible for them to conquer, overwhelmed by the size, strength, and number of the opposition along with the difficulty of the fortifications they will need to deal with (13:28-29, 31-33). Only two of the spies (Caleb and Joshua) were confident that God will deliver on His promise to them (13:30; 14:6-9).
Ten spies strongly doubted their chances because they focused on their own natural abilities. Joshua and Caleb knew they could’ve conquered right then because they believed in Gods supernatural assistance.
Consequences of Doubt
When you doubt you miss out! But in this story, we might as well say, when you chicken out you miss out!’
The Israelites rejection of God (another way to understand the word Å“spurn in 14:11) resulted in everyone from that generation (except Caleb and Joshua) not being able to claim for themselves what God had promised them as a nation (14:22-23, 29-30). Entering the promised land was a privilege they could’ve experienced right then if they had only believed God.
After the ten spies were judged (14:36-37), the Israelites then decide to supposedly follow Gods first command by disregarding the judgment God had placed upon them. Their sudden effort to conquer the land against Gods will resulted in their utter defeat (14:39-45).
This part of the story is a reminder for Christians who try to follow God by their own terms. No amount of sacrifice that does not follow Gods designed path or process can ever make up for continued disobedience. God desires simple, plain obedience to what He commands us to do (1 Samuel 15:22).
The ten believe they couldn’t because they didn’t have the ability. Joshua and Caleb knew also they couldn’t that’s why they believed in God who had all the ability (14:8-9). Joshua and Caleb believed in God and trusted His promise and they were rewarded graciously (14:24, 30, 38).
Our fears of taking steps of faith (like the ten spies) is a reflection of how much we do not know God and how we’ve neglected the kind of relationship He desires of us.
Remember, God’s guidance and His call for obedience will always lead us to where His grace abounds.Ã‚ Obedience is a step of faith that looks to God for confidence and banks on Who He is. Don’t miss out on what God has planned for you and what