Numbers 13-14 tells the story of the Israelite spies reporting on the Promised Land. It also shows us some all-too-familiar thought processes we can have when walking in the promise of God, and reminds us that God’s promises never fail. He means what He promises and He is our help!
As I was reading through this story, I saw these things:
(You can also read/listen to the story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk713cYUCV8)
- The land was promised to Israel, but they were still sent to see it, and they had to take action in order to possess it.
- The men sent to spy out the land were all leaders in their tribes.
- There was a stark difference between the mindset of Caleb when he gave his report, and that of the other spies that went with him. Caleb’s focus was on God. The other men focused on the physical.
- Israel despaired and turned to themselves for help.
- God showed up.
- God gave Moses an offer that would see him blessed and Israel destroyed.
- Moses pleaded with God for Israel, even though they had just tried to kill him.
- God relented but still gave consequence of Israel’s rejection of Him.
- God recognised Caleb’s faith and rewarded it.
- Israel realised their sin, and tried to fix it themselves.
- God allowed Israel to bear the consequences of their self-reliance.
Despite and in spite of us, God remains faithful, just and true. [2 Timothy 2:13] says,
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”
This characteristic of God is demonstrated multiple times in Numbers 13-14. His promise could not fail, even when Israel lost faith. His promise could not be brought about by Israel’s own strength. He was merciful, but still allowed for consequence where it was due. He showed Himself true, faithful, just and omnipotent. God showed up, even when Israel had forgotten about Him. Their rejection of Him did not cause Him to cease His own existence, nor did it cause Him to forget about them or reject them. When they recognised their sin, they went up on their own strength to fight the people of the Promised Land, thinking that this would perhaps negate the consequence of their unbelief that God had already spoken to them. However, God’s word remained true and they were defeated on the occasion. When Israel finally did take possession of Canaan, their victory was very different. It was won on the strength of God, and not on their own strength.
What is our mindset towards God? Do we see Him as our strength and our vision? Or do we trust in our own understanding. [Proverbs 3:5-6] says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”
The story told in Numbers 13-14 describes the consequence of leaning on our own understanding. We miss out on God’s blessing, we miss out on His miracles, and we reject Him through our unbelief. In contrast, a spirit that fears God acknowledges Him in all things. Moses spoke to God with reverence, and according to His nature. As a result, he witnessed God’s grace and mercy towards the nation of Israel. Caleb acknowledged God, and God acknowledged him.
It is also interesting to look at the numerous people interacting with God, and with each other in this story. It reveals a few ways in which we can respond to God’s promises.
- The spies saw a good promise, but one that was impossible to obtain.
- Caleb embraced God’s good promise, and declared Him who would make the impossible possible.
- Israel saw a promise beyond their perceived limitations and responded first with anger, then when rebuked, with impulsiveness.
- Moses saw a good promise and wept for a people who had rejected it.
- God saw His promise, and the measure of faith in the hearts of man.
The promises of God never fail. His word is true, and His nature is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. Let us listen to God’s word, and place our faith in Him who leads us in!