Is there anything on your horizon that makes you afraid? Ask God to strengthen your faith in his love for you.
22 Then all of you came to me and said, "Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to."
23 The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. 24 They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and explored it. 25 Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, "It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us."
29 Then I said to you, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."
32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.
34 When the LORD heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35 "Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly."
37 Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, "You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. 40 But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea. "
Confidence in God’s love
God is referred to as ‘The Lord our God’ almost 50 times in Deuteronomy, and as ‘The Lord your God’ over 250 times! As Israel began the journey their God had sent them on, they went through a dreadful wilderness. Verses 19 to 21 suggest they needed three things for the task ahead: a hunger for the goodness of the land, a confidence in God’s love for them, and for fear not to control them.
Doubting God’s love
So, they sent spies into the land who reported that indeed, God had brought them to a very good land (vs 22–25). Sadly, the people rebelled. They doubted God’s love, even though he would go before them as a warrior, and even though he had already gone before them and carried them like a father carries his son (v 31). They trusted what the fear-filled folks could ‘see’ in their future, rather than trusting the God who can shape the future.
Enter the land
As a result, only Caleb, who followed the Lord wholeheartedly, as well as Joshua and the younger generation, were allowed to enter the land.
It is natural to fear, but God calls us to trust in him, rather than the bad things we can ‘see’ on the horizon. Pray for a Caleb-like spirit, that you will ‘follow the Lord wholeheartedly’ as you head into the future.
A good start is important, but it cannot guarantee a successful ending. Today’s passage recalls the Israelites’ journey from Horeb. Although God had seen them safely through ‘all that vast and dreadful wilderness’ (v 19), the journey ended in disaster, with the people forced to turn back into the wilderness (v 40). What went wrong?
They had set out in obedience (v 19), hearts fixed firmly on their objective – the land God had given them – and prepared to ‘take possession’ of it (v 21). A scouting mission wasn’t unusual (see Josh 2:1; 7:2) and need not be interpreted as a lack of faith. The policy decision to take possession had already been made; this was merely about strategising how best to do it. Moses had commanded, ‘Be bold, and bring some of the fruit of the land’ (Num 13:20, NRSV); not only did the spies do this, but in addition they gladly affirmed, ‘It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us’ (v 25). So how does the story turn sour, with the people becoming disobedient and rebellious (v 26)?
Numbers 13 and 14 detail how what began as a fact-finding mission turned into a fear-inducing, faith-eroding misadventure. The spies – apart from Caleb and Joshua – made two mistakes. First, they became fixated on the enormity of the obstacles: fearsome giants and fortified cities (v 28). Second, they failed to trust the Lord, whose power had fought for them (v 30), whose love had carried them (v 31) and whose presence had guided them (v 33) all through those wilderness years. Fear is contagious. The rest of the people were swiftly infected by these fears (v 28). Although God had said, through Moses, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’ (v 21), the people of God failed to view facts through the lens of faith.
Faith and fear are both contagious. In what ways are you a fear-carrier? In what ways will you inspire faith in those around you?Tanya Ferdinandusz