Twelve Spies Explore the Land

As we read through the book of Numbers, we’ve come to the point where the Israelites are anxious to enter the Promised Land.  Miraculous and sobering events are behind them and they are at a crossroads so to speak.  Nervous about the future, it appears they wanted to send spies to search out the land (Deut. 1).  It’s highly likely that Moses talked with the Lord about it and the Lord told Moses to go ahead and send one man from each tribe to search the land (Num. 13:1).

This wasn’t really necessary because Ezekiel 20 and Deuteronomy 1 explain that it was the Lord who regularly went ahead and searched out a place for the people, to show them where to go.  I believe the Lord sent the spies into the land to give the people confidence concerning the goodness of the land.  Perhaps at that time, their faith was wavering.  At that point in time, many had no idea what the prophet Jeremiah would say at some point in the future:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)  The people needed confidence that the Lord had wonderful plans for them because they weren’t sure.  In times of our own insecurity, let us cling to this truth.

Now let’s get back to the book of Numbers.  Before the men set out on their journey, Moses renamed Hosea the son of Nun Joshua.  To me, this is significant because Hosea means “deliverer” and is a description of the Lord who brought them out of Egypt.  The new name is descriptive of the past and the future.  Joshua, also spelled Yehoshua means “Jehovah saved,” “YHVH saved,” or “the LORD saved.”  Note the similarity to Yeshua which is the Aramaic form of the same name.  It is important to realize that Joshua is a type of Jesus (Greek for Yeshua) who will save His people from sin, lead the army of heaven against the Beast (Antichrist) and his armies, lead His people into the Promised Land for His millennial reign, and bring His people into the New Jerusalem.  God knew that this spy was special.  Since Joshua trusted the Lord, he could be trusted with much.

As the spies got ready for their assignment, they were commanded to see what the land was like.  They needed to determine if the people are strong or weak, few or many.  Was it a good or bad country to live in?  The Lord had already scouted out the land and knew that it was but He was willing to allow them to see for themselves.  The spies were to note whether the cities there were open or fortified so they would know ahead of time what to expect.  The spies were to report about the fertility or productiveness of land and as proof of its productivity, they were told to bring back some of the fruit of the land.

In a similar way, the Lord sees everything and has always revealed secrets to His prophets so we could know what lies ahead.   This made it possible for Ezekiel to see the future temple, for Isaiah to see the coming of the Lord, and for John to describe the destruction of Israel’s enemies and the coming New Jerusalem.  As prophesy was/is/will be fulfilled, the confidence of God’s people was/is/will be boosted.  As the spies set out for the Promised Land, He was giving them the ability to see what they would possess in the future and to build their confidence.

The men left the multitude and carried out their assignment by searching the land for 40 days.   When they returned, they reported it was a land of milk and honey (productive) and showed everyone pomegranates, figs, and a huge cluster of grapes from the land.  Considering what they had been eating in the wilderness, the people must have been excited to see these fruits and yearned to enter the land but the spies quickly discouraged them by reporting that the people who lived in the land were fierce and that their cities were fortified and very large.

The spies continued their report by telling the people about the descendants of Anak (giants) who were in the land.  Of course, other people lived in the land too.  The Amalekites dwelled in the South.  The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites dwelled in the mountains.  The Canaanites dwelled by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.  God already knew these peoples lived there and He didn’t want His people to be afraid of them.  God wanted His people to be forewarned about the people living in the land.  As it was, He intended to remove these peoples little by little (Deut. 7:22).  If only they had trusted Him. 

Consider this.  When the Lord gave visions to Daniel and John, the beasts they saw looked frightening.  These beasts are much like the various people the spies saw living in the Promised Land.  Based on prophecy, we know the Beast and his False Prophet are coming and we know 10 nations will join them.  We also know that they will be defeated and that we must not be afraid but do what is necessary to remain standing no matter what happens.  That will require us to trust the Lord.  The biggest mistake the Israelites made was to focus on the people in the land instead of relying on the Lord.  Let’s not make the same mistake!

We need to be like Caleb who encouraged the people to take possession of the land because he believed the Lord would help them overcome its inhabitants.  The other 10 spies (not including Joshua) said they were not able to go against the people of the land because they were stronger.  When the Israelites heard this, they wished they had died in Egypt or in the wilderness.  They feared they would die by the sword and their wives and children would be victims.  They desired to select a leader and return to Egypt thinking it would be better there.  I often wonder how they could think this considering it hadn’t been long since they left a time of slavery and harsh treatment in Egypt.

What will we do as the latter days approach?  What will be our responsibility and strategy?  We can definitely be prayer warriors, praise and worship the Lord, and follow the Lord’s leading to protect ourselves and our families.  We must not assimilate back into Babylon the Great.  We must come out of her, stay out, and seek the Lord.  We must not be part of the Great Apostasy. 

Deuteronomy 1:26-27 says the people in the wilderness rebelled against God’s command to go up and take the land.  They complained in their tents and said the Lord hated them and intended for the Amorites to destroy them.  The accusations of these people were similar to those of children whose parents don’t always allow them to have their way and are completely opposite to what Jeremiah 29:11 teaches.  These Israelites couldn’t see beyond the obstacles facing them to know God would take care of these problems the same way He took care of Pharaoh and his army.  We can’t really judge them too harshly because we often respond the same way when faced with trials in our lives.

Moses and Aaron responded by falling on their faces before the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.  Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes.  Joshua said it was a good land and if the Lord delighted in them, He would bring them into the land and give it to them.  He begged them not to rebel against the Lord or fear the people of the land because their protection had departed from them.

The people wouldn’t listen to Joshua or Caleb who testified about the goodness of the land.  They were probably surprised when the people wanted to stone them.  This makes me think of the two witnesses who are mentioned in Revelation 11.  What exactly will these two say to the world?  Will they testify of the New Jerusalem?  Will they warn everyone of the coming destruction? Certainly they will plead with the people to repent and come out of Babylon the Great but the world will only be interested in the deaths of these two witnesses.  These two witnesses will not die until their appointed time as was true with Joshua and Caleb. 

The Lord was very angry with the people because they rejected Him and failed to trust Him even after all the miracles He had performed on their behalf.  He wanted to strike them with pestilence and disinherit them.  He even wanted to make a greater and mightier nation from Moses instead.

Moses rejected that idea and interceded for these undeserving people.  He didn’t want God’s reputation to be ruined in the eyes of the other nations who had heard of His fame.  He actually wanted the Lord to have mercy on these people and to forgive them.  Because of Moses, the Lord decided to deal with the people in a way that preserved His reputation (Ezek 20:44).  He pardoned the people but would not allow them to enter the Promised Land.  They had to endure the consequences of their sin.  Since Caleb had a different spirit, the Lord promised to bring him into the land.  Deuteronomy 1:36 said Caleb would go in to the land too because he wholly followed the Lord. 

On the other hand, the 10 remaining spies died by plague for their bad report.  Let’s not be like these men whose lack of trust in the Lord led the rest of the people into sin, rebellion, and mistrust.  If you read through the Bible, you will see that the wicked often died by plague.  Even in the last days, the final plagues will be poured out only on the unrighteous (Rev. 18:4).  Please come out of Babylon the Great and don’t let these plagues become your judgment.

Now let’s turn our attention to the rest of the people.  All of those who had been previously numbered, those 20 years old and above would die in the wilderness except Caleb and Joshua because they despised the land.  They would be shepherds in the wilderness for 40 years — a year for every day the spies searched out the land.  Notice that the Lord said their children would bear the brunt of their infidelity.  Now isn’t “infidelity” an odd word to use?  It’s essentially adultery.  When we read Numbers 13 and 14, we might wonder why that word was used.  Ezekiel 20 gives us a clue by indicating they didn’t completely abandon the gods of Egypt.  Instead of fully trusting in the God of their ancestors, their hearts were still focused on Egyptian idols.  For their infidelity, they would not go into the Promised Land nor would they make it back to Egypt.  Instead, they would die in the desert over a period of 40 years.  Can you imagine their misery?

Do you literally or figuratively trust in idols instead of the Lord?  Where is your heart focused?  Will this cause you to be separated from the Lord forever?  Is that what you really want for yourself?

Some Israelites wanted to go into the land once they realized their sin but Moses told them not to because the Lord wouldn’t be with them.  They rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went into the mountain anyway but did not succeed.  It seems the crucial timing of taking the land had definitely passed and would not come again for 40 years.

Are you presuming to do the work of the Lord when you confront the people of this world?  Before you get involved in things you shouldn’t, you’d better make sure you are following the leading of the Lord.  Prophecy will be fulfilled and you can’t stop it from happening; however, the Lord can show us how He wants us to respond as it unfolds.

Right now, we, who are believers have been redeemed but are living in the wilderness of life.  We face giants of various forms whether they are related to other people (both children and adults), education, employment, housing, finances, medical problems, spiritual issues, etc.  God can use these trials and tribulations to see if we will be faithful to Him or not.  How will we respond to these seemingly gigantic difficulties in life?  Will we riot in the streets?  Will we trust the Lord to provide for our needs or rebel against Him?  Will we accuse Him of trying to destroy us or of not caring about our problems?  Will we commit apostasy by returning to our former ways of life?

As we face trials in our lives, we need to allow God to use them to mold us into the people God wants us to be.  When the time is right, we will be ready for the eternal rest God has waiting for us.

As we look to the future, there’s one last thing that is important for us to understand about Joshua and Caleb.  It is clear that their faith allowed them to enter the Promised Land many years ago.  Did you happen to notice that Caleb was from the tribe of Judah and Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim?  In a sense, they both represent the two houses of Israel who will be joined together as one and enter the final Promised Land.  The meanings of their names indicate how this will be accomplished.    Caleb’s name means “to attack” and if you recall, Joshua means “the Lord saved.”   So you see, they also represent Jesus who will attack Israel’s enemies in order to save His people at some point in the future. 

Psalm 34:15-16 assures us, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; 16 the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”  NIV 

You can trust that He will do this because He is faithful!

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