The people of Israel who had been slaves in Egypt have come to the decision point. The Lord, who had done mighty works for them, has just directed their leader, His prophet Moses, to select one leader from each of the twelve tribes, to spy out the promised land and bring back a report. The same Lord had visited miraculous plagues against Egypt, including the death of all the firstborn while sparing all the Israelites, and then parted the Red Sea so they could safely escape from the Egyptian army pursuing them. When the Egyptians tried to follow on the dry seabed, with walls of ocean piled up on each side, the Lord caused the waters to close over them.
This same Lord formed a pillar of cloud to lead them through the wilderness to the promised land of Canaan, and provided food for them, manna bread formed from the dew each morning. So many signs of God’s power should have been enough to convince them to obey His commands on faith, and now He was testing their faith. Who were the spies? The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” Numbers 13:1-2. So they were chiefs among their tribe. Were they faithful and courageous?
And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. Numbers 14.
Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, were faithful and courageous, the others not. Each got an appropriate reward. Joshua and Caleb would live to see their children conquer and occupy the promised land, the other ten died in a “plague from the Lord”. The fate of the rest of the people, who wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb for having confidence in the Lord’s power to deliver His people, was to wander in the desert for 40 years, a year for each day the spies were measuring the promised land. This is not a mere history lesson. The worldwide Body of Christ, those who worship Jesus Christ, are the Israelites, now wandering in a cultural desert of their own making, admittedly mostly in “westernized” countries.
Twenty years ago, almost everything espoused by the Perfectionist Progressives in our country, Canada, Western Europe and Australia would have been grounds for commitment to a mental hospital. Many chiefs of the tribes–pastors and church leaders–wilted before the onslaught of this idiocy. Instead of saying, “the Bible says the ‘gates of hell’ will not stand against the church of Christ”, the unfaithful and cowardly of the chiefs began to syncretize the insanity of the world with the truth of the Bible, and the Joshuas and Calebs among the pastors were verbally stoned. So we all are wandering in the cultural desert. But God is sovereign. He can and will bring us to the promised land, despite our complaints and infirmities.
And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them. Keep your courage up, the “people of the land” may appear to be giants living in fortified cities, but that is a temporary illusion. The Lord will prevail, so go on up for the land is before you!