GRASSHOPPERS OR MEN
Mighty God, thank you that today is the day that you have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it, giving thanks to you. (Psalm 118:24)
Read NUMBERS 13
13 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4 These are their names:
from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur;
5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;
6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;
7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph;
8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;
9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;
10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi;
11 from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi;
12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli;
13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael;
14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi;
15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki.
16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
Report on the Exploration
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
- Numbers 13:23 Eshkol means cluster; also in verse 24.
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.
Give thanks to God for all his promises.
All the spies saw the same things, but their conclusions differed. They agreed that Canaan was as good as God had promised. The promises were not exaggerated but borne out by reality. They all noticed the strength of the opposition. For Caleb it was a challenge to conquest, but for the majority it was too difficult a task. God did not lead the Israelites initially through territory here they would have to fight,1 because he knew that recently freed slaves would not have the courage for battle. More time away from Egypt had not changed the attitudes of these people. They had settled into desert life but had not become the warriors and pioneers ready for conquest.
Caleb was a man who lived by the promises and power of God. For him, conquest was assured because God had promised it. For the other spies, the reality of fortified cities and fierce people is compounded by fantasies of giants and demigods. They place themselves as grasshoppers in the minds of the inhabitants. Fear leads to exaggeration of dangers. Faith puts them in perspective. Faith does have an element of risk, but fear paralyzes us into inaction. Fear judges by appearances, but faith looks to God. Caleb (later to be joined by Joshua) is not afraid to take a minority position. He does not believe that the majority vote indicates the right response, or God’s will. He does not doubt his convictions because others do not share them. He has the courage to hold fast to his view despite opposition. We live in a world of populist politics, in which unpopular ideas are cancelled. Courage like that of Caleb is a necessary part of being a faithful witness to the gospel. Democratic decisions may be good, but should never replace faith in the Word of God.
Pray for wisdom to know when to dissent from the majority and for the courage to stand faithfully.
Yes Lord, I am one of those who “sees the glass half empty rather than half full.” I ask for a stronger faith, trusting in what you can accomplish in and through me.
1 Exod 13:17
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