The story of the twelve spies from the last two days (Numbers 13 – 14) remind me of a post I wrote last month (Ja, ja, maar… ). The first Ja, Ja, Maar guy was Moses. As God is speaking to him, telling him that Moses is his man to lead the people out of Egypt Moses comes up with excuse after excuse as to why he should not do it. He keeps saying “Yes, yes, but I am a nobody.” Or “Yes, Yes, but I can not speak well.” or “Yes, Yes, but they won’t believe me.”
Today, the shoe is on the other foot. Today we see that Moses gets to see Ja, Ja, Maar men in action. This time he gets to be frustrated. This time he sees how it is when someone does not take God at his word.
It kind of feels like Moses has grown up and this time he is the parent, where as last time he was the obstinate child. You know those moments, when you hear yourself as a parent saying things to your kids that you heard your own parents saying to you. I have heard my kids say things exactly the way I would have. I was wrong then, and my kids are wrong now.
We should all know the story. The Israelites are about to enter the promised land. They have been in the dessert for about a year, they are tired of Manna and quail and they are eager to see this promised land. So then send out 12 spies, one from each tribe of the nation of Israel.
Right away in the very second verse of the story – Numbers 13:2 we see that the decision about the who will get the promised land is already set.
1 The Lord now said to Moses, 2 “Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.”
Right from the beginning, God is reminding the Israelites that He is giving them the land, they are not taking it, He is giving it to them.
Why are spies needed? If God is giving the land to them, then they should just go claim it, right? I believe that God had them send spies so that they could see how His great power was going to be demonstrated. He wanted them to see that it was not going to be a matter of armies and numbers of soldiers that determined if the Israelites were going to conquer the land. It was only possible through a demonstration of God’s great power.
Secondly, I think that God wanted them to see what a blessing he was giving them in the promised land. He wanted them to see the fortified cities, the great lands of milk and honey. See in these verses what a great land it was, Numbers 13:23, 27
23 When they came to the valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole between them! They also brought back samples of the pomegranates and figs.
27 This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces.
But in the very next verse a Ja, Ja, Maar moment occurs…
28 But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!
Caleb jumps in and tries to encourage the people telling them that they can take the land. But the Ja, Ja, Maar guys keep talking…
31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” 32 So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. 33 We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”
The people of Israel begin to wail and complain. They can’t believe what a bad situation God has put them in. This is just one more thing to complain about. The complained about the food, the dessert, the manna, the quail and now the promised land is occupied by giants!
7 They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! 8 And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”
Unfortunately, the people of Israel in their typical short-sighted, earthly bound view of the world don’t see how it is ever going to be possible to claim the land God promised them. Ultimately, they pay for their mistake, they will never enter the promised land and their children will have to wander in the desert for another 40 years.
How many times in our lives does God promise something to us and we still say “Ja, ja, maar… there are giants.” “Ja, ja, maar… I am not strong enough.” or “Ja, ja, maar I can’t do it alone.” When the whole time God is saying that He is the one who will do the work. He is giving it to us, we just have to trust and obey, because there’s no other way.