The Israelites travelled in the wilderness for two years before coming to the border of the Promised Land; they stared God’s promise of a good land in the face after long travels and astounding miracles. How excited they must have been!
Twelve spies were sent into the land to learn more of its pastures, its crops and its peoples; they returned with both good news and bad: the land was indeed beautiful, fertile and vast, but the people were strong and the towns fortified. They even saw Nephilim (descendants of Anak, giants)! Each spy was aware of the difficulty ahead, but the way they dealt with it differed...
Ten of the spies saw things from a human perspective; they realized their weakness and became fearful of the giants and fortified cities.
Two spies, Joshua and Caleb, saw things from God’s perspective; they realized their weakness but trusted in the Lord to deliver them. Surely giants and fortified cities were nothing for the Sovereign Lord of all Creation!
Looking at it deeper, we can identify what really happened to cause this difference...
The ten forgot everything God had done previously for them; how he had provided them with manna, water and bread; how he had protected them and fought for them in the past, freeing them from the hands of the Egyptians through mighty miracles. His very presence was with them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. He had taught them and disciplined them and loved them and provided all their needs.
The two remembered all these things and drew strength from the God they knew. They refused to listen to the lies but instead looked forward to the fulfilment of God’s promise in Exodus 3:17: “I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt...to a land flowing with milk and honey”
The thing is, people often listen to fear more than wisdom; lies more than truth. It’s an unfortunate part of our existence, but the Spirit of God in us encourages and enables us to listen more to Him and His truth rather than our feelings. The Israelites had the very presence of God going ahead of them, but they doubted His promise and His ability to help them. They considered the fight ahead in their own strength, not in God’s.
So what happened? The people rebelled. When Joshua and Caleb tried to reassure the Israelites, they were threatened with stoning. When fear takes hold, it can spiral out of control and even common sense and logic (which, at the time, would have been to trust in God, for He had provided for them so many times before) go out the window. Fear is a plague, highly contagious and destructive.
It would be very easy for us to rebuke the Israelites for their lack of faith but, if we’re honest, we’re sometimes guilty of the exact same; fear can win over faith and we can end up wandering in the wilderness, as the Israelites did for a generation after their rebellion, because of it.
“Yes, but they had the very presence of God among them in the form of a pillar of cloud and fire!” True, the Israelites also saw immense numbers of miracles. But, you know, we have the Spirit of God Himself in us... not just His presence, but His eternal presence. He’s with us and dwells in us and will do forever, it’s up to us to acknowledge that, let it soak in and remember the times He has provided for us previously.
So we all have a Canaan to explore, a Promised Land to reach; whether it’s a hard school project, moving home, illness or job related – whatever it is, it comes with a choice: we can either trust in God to fight for us when the Nephilim and fortified cities of our circumstances come into view, or we can retreat in fear, spilling over onto those around us, which can remove their confidence as well. We’re only human, we’ll have times where we doubt and run in fear; thankfully our heavenly Father loves us and will always welcome us back with open arms. He is always faithful to His promises and, like with the Israelites, we, too, can reach the land the Lord has given to us, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Now you have a choice: go the direct route, trusting in God to fight your battles, or refuse and take the long way around like the Israelites did. God loves you either way, but He made you for much more than fear.