FACING THE GIANTS
Lord, no obstacle is insurmountable for You.
Read DEUTERONOMY 1:19–40
Spies Sent Out
19 Then, as the Lord our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful wilderness that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea. 20 Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. 21 See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
22 Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”
23 The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. 24 They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshkol and explored it. 25 Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, “It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.”
Rebellion Against the Lord
26 But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’”
29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”
32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.
34 When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35 “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.”
37 Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. 40 But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.[a]”
a Deuteronomy 1:40 Or the Sea of Reeds
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Take some time to evaluate your faith journey. Have you made a wrong turn? Why? How did you get back on track? Where do you stand today?
A good start is important, but it cannot guarantee a successful ending. Today’s passage recalls the Israelites’ journey from Horeb. Although God has seen them safely through “all that vast and dreadful wilderness” (19), the journey ends in disaster with God’s people forced to turn back into the wilderness (40). What has gone wrong?
They have set out in obedience (19), hearts fixed firmly on their objective—the land God had given them—and prepared to “take possession” of it (21). A secret scouting mission isn’t unusual (cf. Josh. 2:1; 7:2) and need not be interpreted as a lack of faith. The policy decision to take possession has already been made; this is merely about strategizing how best to do it. Moses has commanded, “Be bold, and bring some of the fruit of the land” (Num. 13:20, NRSV). Not only do the spies bring it, but in addition they gladly affirm, “It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us” (25). So how does the story turn sour, featuring people who become disobedient (26)?
Numbers 13 and 14 detail how what begins as a fact-finding mission turns into a fear-inducing, faith-eroding misadventure. The spies—apart from Caleb and Joshua—make two mistakes. First, they become fixated on the enormity of the obstacles: fearsome giants and fortified cities (28). Second, they fail to trust the Lord, whose power they know firsthand (30), whose love has carried them (31) and whose presence has guided them (33) all throughout those wilderness years. Fear is contagious. The rest of the people become infected rather swiftly by these fears (28). Although God has said through Moses, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (21), the people of God simply fail to view facts through the lens of faith.
Faith and fear are both contagious. In what ways are you a fear-carrier? In what ways will you inspire faith in those around you?
Lord, keep my eyes fixed on the greatness of our God rather than on the complexity of our problems.