Faith Thoughts are sent in by Dr Elisabeth Leembruggen from Holy Trinity Utrecht.
In Numbers 13, Moses sent Caleb & Joshua—and a leader from each ancestral tribe—to spy out the Promised Land. Two of the 12 returned with a glowing report; they came back with evidence that the promised land was indeed filled with milk, honey, and fruits in abundance. And they carried the evidence with them on poles for all to see. How then did only two of their number see the promise? How is it—with evidence in hand—the other ten could not accept that this promised land was theirs to grasp, to have, to hold? There are processes at work that we can see and apply to our own lives.
The Promise & Provision
Moses & the Israelites had God’s promise that He would lead them to a specific place, a promised land. They marched many long years, through scorching heat and desert sands experiencing God’s provision in their daily sojourn. A cloud by day; a pillar of fire by night provided continuous reassurance of His leading. God’s word was not a whim, His promise not some wild speculation. If the plagues and the Red Sea (Reed Sea) dousing weren’t enough to remind them, He had provided quail in the desert! God repeatedly spoke to them along the journey revealing Himself in the Tent of Meeting, guiding them, encouraging them to: Stand firm. Do not be afraid. See the deliverance God will bring you this day. The pattern of God’s power to sustain, the evidence of His love and provision were a constant as Moses led them forward.
The foundation of trust, the promised hope lay before them as they arrived at the Land of Canaan. The land of milk and honey stretched before them. Moses–that humble and wise leader—understands they must plan. He instructs his spies to travel a specific route in Canaan. He directs them to assess: How are the people? Are they strong or weak? How do they live? In walled cities? Are the cities fortified? How is the land: Is it good or bad? How is the soil: Fertile or poor? Are there trees or not? The next bit is most important: Bring back evidence from the fruit of the land if possible.
After 40 days, they return with their report. Twelve went out having experienced the promise and the provision of God in their journey thus far. But only two came back believing. Joshua & Caleb provide a reasonable assessment. Yes, the land does flow with milk, honey, fruits of all kind. Here is the evidence (supported by poles!). But they are realistic. The people who live there are powerful. The cities are large & fortified. But Caleb provides the executive summary: We should go up & take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it! And yet, it took another generation before they entered into the Promised Land. So, what happened and why?
Immediately, the men who went up with Caleb & Joshua, protested “it’s not possible” to take this land. Men who shared the same journey, witnessed the same scenes, obtained the same evidence came to startlingly different conclusions. It would be easy to condemn the naysayers without trying to understand this very human response. Moses instructs them to look, to see and report. This they do. But the conclusion they reach is decidedly different to Joshua & Caleb. Analysing the circumstances, they are overwhelmed with the challenge; they are anxious, dubious and troubled. The deeper question is: How are the naysayers able to swing the whole company of Israelites that taking the land was an impossible task? The strength of their arguments was so strong—we are told in Chapter 14—that the people rebelled and wanted to choose another leader to take them back to Egypt! After all God had done—all the miracles along the way—how is it possible this folk want to return?
At the core, the remaining ten and the company of Israelites did not trust God and His provision, despite what they have seen, experienced and touched. The God of their Fathers & Mothers had proven His love and provision for them. Despite the proofs and evidence, they had a MINDSET of disbelief.
All the spies, as far as we know, had witnessed God’s provision, blessing, and miracles since fleeing Egypt. Caleb & Joshua believed with a steadfast faith—with a rock-solid mindset—in the promises of God. God could be trusted despite the seeming obstacles. Look at the present evidence (the fruits). Look at evidence from the past (walking on dry ground; mana and quail in the wilderness).
The naysayers focussed only on the numerous “impossibilities”. They were overwhelmed with the immensity of the task ahead. The dwellers in the promised land were too big; the cities too heavily fortified. The occupants too powerful. The naysayers silent assessment is that these things are too powerful for God. They forgot—or chose to ignore—the very evidence which made the Land of Promise theirs: God goes before you! He will fight for you. They lost sight of the God who delivers in the face of adversity. Not only did the men lose sight, but they incited the community to ignore the history and presence of God in their midst, the God who had brought them out to bring them into His promise.
This is a very human story and applicable to us today in so many ways. The lessons that we can take are 1) that when God makes a promise, He keeps it! No matter the obstacles placed before us, He will fight for and with us. 2) He provides ample support along the way. He is with us when we begin doubt. 3) We can take stock and assess God’s history with us.
Had the remaining ten spies recounted the promises of God which had accompanied their journey, their anxiety and fears would have been alleviated.
In times of doubt, when anxiety assails—as surely it does and will do—we need to take hold of God’s promises to us. We can take these actions to help us face any situation:
Focus on these promises and develop a positive mindset. The wall of anxiety around us can be as strong as any fortress, but have faith in God.
Recount in our hearts and minds—orally & mentally—what God has done for us.
Declare and assert His claims for our lives & our future.
His promise is as true today for us as it was for the Israelites: *He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. We, too, will see His deliverance despite the seeming odds stacked against us.
*NIV Numbers 13 & 14; Exodus: 14:31