A Tale of Twelve Spies (Numbers 13)
Twelve men set out on a mission: scope out the land God had promised to their wandering nation.
“Go up this way to the Negev, then go up into the hill country,” Moses commanded. “See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak.”
What they saw seemed almost too good to be true— clusters of grapes too big for one man to carry alone, ripe red pomegranates, and fresh figs. Their mouths watered, after eating only bread and bird for months on end.
The land was everything Yaweh had made it out to be, and then some. After forty days, they return to their people to give a report.
The people of Israel gather around, nervously awaiting the news. Was the new land obtainable? How hard would they have to fight? Was it worth pursuing? How much loss would they have to endure?
One of the twelve spies steps forward, and a hush falls over the crowd.
“We went into the land where you sent us,” he begins. “Indeed it is flowering with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit.”
Two more spies enter, stage-right, a pole balanced between them. On it hangs a vibrant cluster of deep purple grapes, cascading to the ground.
A collective gasp, then, excited whispers fill the camp.
“HOWEVER…” another spy interrupts, appearing from out of nowhere.
The whispers fade, all eyes are on him…
“The people living in the land are strong,” he attests. “And the cities are large and fortified,” he explains.
The gathered crowd now begins murmuring.
Caleb steps forward and quiets them. With confidence, he proclaims, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!”
Now the two opposing spies stand face-to-face. “They are stronger than we are!” the other argues, “We will die by the sword, and our wives and children will become plunder!”
“The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land,” Joshua chimes in. “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land. Don’t be afraid, for we will devour them— the Lord is with us!”
Suddenly a cry rises from the crowd…
“I Want All That God Has for Me”
Ask any follower of Christ and they’ll tell you they want “all that God has” for them. Yet how many of us really experience the fullness of that intention?
Not enough, would my answer… and I don’t mean that as a criticism.
In the corner of my own life, there’s a sizeable graveyard of well-intended, but unfulfilled God-dreams. Uninhabited territory, if you will, that was intended just for me.
Did I fail God?
Did God fail me?
No, neither idea is true.
I think the story of our Israelite friends in Numbers 14 can help identify what separates the dreams unreached from dreams fulfilled.
God delivered Israel out of their slavery in Egypt and was leading them into a land He had prepared for them— a land where they could worship and enjoy God, and glorify Him.
A year after their exodus, they were on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. I imagine God’s command to Moses to send scouts to check out the land was because He wanted to get the Israelites excited. The land was good, fruitful, and spacious— and as they relied on Him, God was going to make sure of their success.
But instead of excitement, we see the total opposite: fear cripples them.
At the doorstop to their dream, they fail to enter in. An entire generation would have to die off before they would be given the opportunity to try again. God had so much planned He wanted them to experience, but instead they would spend the next forty years wandering in the sand.
When I read that I think, What a tragedy, but the truth is, I’m not much different. And my guess is if you’ve got a heart pumping in your chest and air in your lungs, then you probably can relate. You’ve made vision boards, set goals, bought programs, taken classes, but always seem to stop just shy of reaching your dreams.
As we look forward into 2020, there are two questions we should ask--
The first is simple: What “land” is God leading you into?
Is it a move you need to make?
A book you need to write?
A career move you need to pursue?
A ministry you need to start?
A debt you need to pay off?
Whatever it is, know this: God gives us dreams. They are always for our good and for His glory. He longs for us to go after them.
Now that we've identified our "land," here is the second question: What spirit will you choose?
A Different Spirit
Where was the line drawn between those who entered into the Promised Land and those who didn't?
In Numbers 14:24 and 30, God says, “But since my servant Caleb has a different spirit and has remained loyal to me, I will bring him into the land where he has gone and his descendants will inherit it. I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb… and Joshua.”
Out of the entire nation of Israel during this time, only two would experience and enjoy the land: Joshua and Caleb.
Not because they did everything right.
Not because they had supernatural abilities.
Not because they were born into the right tribe.
But because they had a “different spirit.”
What was that spirit?
You see, every Israelite heard the same report: the land was good, but the people living in it were many, and fearsome.
But every Israelite had also witnessed the plagues God sent to facilitate their freedom from Egypt, the sea He parted, the water He brought out of a rock, the manna He sent from heaven, the visible cloud that led them by day, and the fire that went before them by night.
What is Your Focus?
Joshua and Caleb considered the challenges ahead, but chose to focus on the faithfulness and the might of their God. They knew that taking the land would be hard work, but they also knew that if God would help them every step of the way.
The rest of the Israelites considered the challenges ahead and chose to focus solely on their own ability. The result? They were overcome by fear and anxiety, so much so that the Bible tells us they wept. (Num. 14:1)
One of my favorite verses is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy where he encourages his mentee, “Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7
As you move forward, fear will try to push you back. You'll have thoughts like,
What if I fail?
What if I go broke?
What if others talk behind my back?
How much will I have to sacrifice?
Satan will bring these “giants” out one by one and cause you to see yourself as a “grasshopper” compared in size to them (Num. 13:33). When he does this, we have a choice to make.
As we look to 2020, carrying our dreams closely, wondering will this finally be the year, we can either:
a.) Envision ourselves going at it alone, dwell on the sacrifices it will take, and imagine worst-case scenario, or
b.) Count the cost, remind ourselves of who God is—loving, faithful, and able— and envision Him going before us, leading us, granting us wisdom, and driving out our enemies every step of the way.
You’re so close to the Promised Land, my friend. Don’t let fear stop you now.
Let this be the year you embrace a “different spirit,” and “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [you].” (Philippians 3:12)
Take hold of the land!
A little about me...
Hi, I'm Katie!
Wife to Craig, mom of three, author, writer, Jesus-follower, Bible teacher, and coffee enthusiast.
Follow me as I follow Christ and share my heart throughout the journey.
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