Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 15 2019 - Numbers 13:1-2, 17-33 – The spies and their report

God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. Famine had driven Jacob, his twelve sons and their families to Egypt where God had looked after them. But later they were enslaved by the Egyptians. So, after 400 years in Egypt, God had rescued his people from slavery and led them through the wilderness. Now, it seems, they are about to enter the land that God had promised to give them as an inheritance.

But before they enter the land, God tells Moses to send men from each of the tribes of Israel to go and explore Canaan and to bring back a report of what they find. They were to look at the land and assess how fertile it might be – was it capable of supporting the lives of this multitude of people. They were to look at the people who lived in the land and assess whether they would offer serious resistance to the Israelites coming in to possess the land.

What did they discover?

Maybe you have asked a family what their recent holiday was like and been confused by their responses. Perhaps the children tell you that they had a wonderful time; there were so many things to do and so many new friends to do it them with. Meanwhile the parents are telling you it was a nightmare; the hotel lacked the advertised facilities, the flights were delayed and the weather was just too hot and they got little sleep! How can people who have experienced the same holiday come back with such varied reports? Perhaps the truth was that they were looking for different things; they viewed their holiday from very different perspectives.

The same was true of the men who came back with their reports of the Promised Land. It was indeed a land "flowing with milk and honey", a fertile land which readily supported those who lived in it. Look at the size of the grapes it produces; it takes two men to carry a full bunch! But it was also a land inhabited by people who had lived there for many years and had built themselves fortified cities. Some of them seemed like giants and we were like grasshoppers in comparison.

The majority of the explorers had eyes only for the problems and told Moses that, despite its attractions, they could not possibly enter such a land and possess it. Then, one of the explorers named Caleb manages to get a word in; "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

What had Caleb seen that the other explorers (with the exception of Joshua) had not? Despite his words, Caleb clearly had his eyes fixed not on the capability of the Israelites but on the promise of God. God who had promised them this land and who had rescued them from Egypt to bring them into this land would not fail them now. It is not because of their own abilities but because of the promise and presence of their God that they can "certainly do it."

The Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Corinth, "We live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). Paul was not a physically strong man nor was he impressive in appearance. But because he always had in view the promises of God and was constantly aware of the presence of Christ, he managed to extend the kingdom of God around the Mediterranean world.

Father God, we pray that your promises and power may always loom large in our thoughts so that we are not quickly discouraged by the difficulties that we may face in following Christ. May your Spirit give us that same conviction that we have seen in the apostle Paul, "I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power" (Philippians 4:13, Living Bible).

Peter Misselbrook