In Numbers 13:25-33 we have the twelve spies giving their scouting report to Moses and the people after spending forty days in the land of Canaan (v.25). These spies were not just ordinary men, but leaders in their father’s tribes (v. 2) and their names were Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Joshua, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel (v. 4-16). Leadership carries with it responsibilities and the report given would affect a generation of people. Before we get to the report, let’s give this story some context.
The children of Israel were in transition from slavery and governmental change. Moses had felt the burden of leadership (Ch.11, v.10-15) and petitioned God for help. God answered Moses and seventy elders were chosen to assist in leading the nation (Ch.11, v.16-17). Transition and change often bring a sense of insecurity and instability. During seasons of transition, people are most vulnerable. Seasons are temporary and circumstances can move a people from a perspective of faith to a perspective from fear.
The children of Israel were in this cycle of faith to fear; grumbling and complaining in the midst of God moving in supernatural ways. This was the tenth time they chose to rebel against God (Ch.14, v.22). God was giving them a land that was “good and spacious” (Ex. 3, v. 7-8). It was a land that was theirs for the taking, but it would require the children of Israel to move forward in faith and take their inheritance.
Chapter 13 begins with God directing Moses to choose leaders to spy the land of Canaan. God told Moses in v.2 “spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel”. The purpose of the mission was to assess the land. The mission was not to determine their ability to possess because that had already been determined by God. However, Moses and the children of Israel needed to know what they were up against and I believe God showed them the land to stir their faith after seeing the land does “flow with milk and honey” (v.27).
Now to the report. Here are 8 things regarding the report:
1. The report was true (v.26-29) but became a false report (v. 31-33) when the 10 spies chose fear over faith (v.30) and spread it among the people.
2. Their view of themselves as less than God’s view of them.
3. Fear exaggerated the situation (v.32-33).
4. Fear creates false assumptions (v. 33) “our own eyes” and “the same to them”.
5. Their measure of strength saw the situation only from a natural perspective (v. 31)
6. When fear is confronted by faith, it gathers support from doubt and insecurity (v.31-33).
7. Comparison (v.33) destroys faith.
8. People will suffer the consequences of the leader’s actions.
After the report was given, the children of Israel chose to go with the bad report due to fear rather than to choose to respond in faith as Caleb who said: “We should, by all means, go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” We know the response was from fear because of Moses said: “only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land…do not fear them.” (Ch.14, v.9). God wants you to believe Him and His word for you in your circumstance. Don’t allow seasons of transition to hinder you receiving all that God has for you. What God has for you is better than what you can see in the natural.
Fear of the unknown will cause people to choose what is known and “comfortable” even if it is oppression over freedom. The children of Israel after hearing the report and seeing all that God had done with signs and miracles were willing to go back to slavery (Ch.14, v.1-4). Learn from their mistakes and begin to respond to God in faith rather than to your circumstance by fear. Be as Caleb who according to God “has had a different spirit and has followed me fully” (Ch.14, v.24).