Then Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.” Numbers 13:17-20
The 12 spies went north from Kadesh-Barnea to Hebron (where they saw the descendants of Anak – men of great height) and to the Valley of Eschol. After exploring for 40 days they returned to the camp of Israel at Kadesh.
The spies gave a report to Moses, Aaron and the Israelite community (vs. 26).
Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.” … “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giant (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” Numbers 13:27-28, 31-33
But as you know Caleb assured the people they could take possession of the land (13:30). He and Joshua called the Israelite people to faith in God and to believe His promises.
But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.” Numbers 14:6-9
But where was Moses? He led the people through amazing trials and victories. The people followed him – sometimes haltingly and sometimes with grumbling and complaining but they followed him. His leadership, his vision, his faith mattered NOW! Israel needed Moses to lead in faith and courage. Instead, they wanted to “choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”(vs. 4) Talk about a vote of no-confidence. Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Numbers 14:5
Reading through Moses’ history with Israel He had a difficult job, often leading unwilling, belligerent followers. Yet, by God’s grace he did it. Several conversations between him and God are recorded in Scripture. Yet, at least in the biblical account of the time between the spies returning and giving their report and the appearance of the glory of the LORD in the Tent of Meeting (14:10) – Moses is silent.
I find that curious. I’m going to Monday morning quarterback and ask, “How might things have been different if Moses demonstrated his faith believing God would keep His promise and deliver the land into their hands?” What if he had admonished the people not to fear and exhorted them to believe God was a promise-keeping God. Encouraging them to believe that He would do what He said He would do. Just curious. One day when I get to Heaven, I just might ask Moses myself what it was like that day.
Diane Hunt – After serving 16 years full time on the staff of America’s Keswick, Diane and her husband moved to North Carolina where she continues to serve part time as a contributing writer and Partner Care Consultant. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.