(Number 13:1 – 14:45 NIV – all bold emphasis is mine)
These two chapters in the Bible tell us the story of how the Israelites are finally near the end of their very long journey in the desert – they are on the brink of success. The land promised to them by God was before them.
As God instructed him to do, Moses selected twelve men – one leader from each of the twelve tribes. In 13:17-20, Moses gave them very specific instructions of what to look for as they were going to spy out the land.
The twelve men left and went throughout the land for 40 days. They returned with some of the luscious fruit of the land they had explored. Ten of the twelve men reported that it was indeed a land of milk and honey – but they then focused on every negative thing they had seen. They spread their negativity throughout the entire camp, even while Caleb and Joshua tried to dispute their negative claims by speaking faith – speaking of their God’s protection and strength to propel them to victory.
Then, in 14:2 it says “All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert.’” (I think we have heard this expressed before!) Caleb and Joshua in 14:7b-9 said to the whole assembly “’…The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.’” But, the entire assembly grumbled against them and they even spoke of stoning them for their words of faith and strength.
Once again the Lord became angry enough that He talked of destroying them all except for Moses. And once again Moses pled their case to the Lord asking for Him to forgive them. But, He instructed Moses to turn around and head back to the desert the very next day. Then in verses 28-32 Moses and Aaron are instructed to tell the assembly “’As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall – every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you – your bodies will fall in this desert.’”
Why is it so much easier for human beings to fall for the negative things we see and hear? Those people had repeatedly seen the mighty hand of God perform miraculous acts on their behalf, yet they wavered in fear when faced with some potential resistance.
But, are we really that different today than those Israelites? No matter how good our lives have been, when anything goes wrong, we tend to go to the dark side. Instead of looking for the positives (as Caleb and Joshua did) we allow fear and doubt to creep into our hearts and minds – then faith wavers and falls away. That leaves us wandering in our own desert of life, when we could instead be enjoying the good of life with God’s help.
If we allow the negativity to come to rest in our minds (the playground of Satan) and begin to believe and speak of it, we very well may just get what we ask for – just as the Israelites did.
We must learn to live our faith as Caleb and Joshua did, believing God’s Word and staying faithful. If we can but learn to do that, then the goodness of life can be ours for the taking. As Caleb said in 13:30b “’…We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’”
Written by Karran Martin – March 2019