The Hebrew Nation had arrived. They were camped outside the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses and Aaron had brought them out of Egypt and they were preparing to enter the land God had promised them.
God instructed Moses to send spies into the land, and check it out. 12 men were selected, one from each tribe, and they went in to explore the new land, and bring back a report.
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, 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 (which means cluster) because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
The scouts were excited about what they saw. They said the land “does indeed flow with milk and honey!” (v.27) Imagine—a cluster of grapes so large it took two men to carry it!
But somewhere along the way they lost their perspective, and resigned themselves to the belief there was no way they could defeat and conquer this new land. Not only did they report it to Moses, but they spread that fear throughout all the people.
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.”
But two of the scouts – Caleb and Joshua (whom Moses called Hoshea) – immediately said “ we can do this!” (Numbers 14) Even the giants (Nephilim) did not scare them.
6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
But the people were afraid. The entire nation became fearful and believed what 10 men were saying, completely forgetting everything that had happened up to that time. They decided they needed a new leader to take them back to Egypt! All they could focus on was their fear. They became so distraught they were going to stone Caleb and Joshua!
But the Lord intervened and appeared before the children of Israel. (14:10) The Glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites.
11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”
Moses begged and reasoned with the Lord to forgive the people “just as You have done in the wilderness up to now.” And the Lord answered that prayer. But sin is not without consequences.
20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors.
And so began the Exodus of the Hebrew Children. Anyone 20 or older would wander – and die – in the wilderness for the next 40 years. Of the 12 scouts, Caleb and Joshua were spared because they believed God and knew He would make them successful.
28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
But human beings are a proud lot; they often think they know the best way to proceed. And after all this, the Israelites decided to attack the country from which the Lord had just banned them. They wrongly thought that since the Lord had forgiven them He would bless them whatever they decided to do on their own.
They still didn’t have the right perspective. And as Moses told them they would, they failed.
41 But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! 42 Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, 43 for the Amalekites and the Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.”
44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.
Ten scouts made a wrong comparison: “we are as grasshoppers.” Had they believed as Caleb and Joshua did that GOD would give them whatever they needed to conquer the land, the comparison would have been in the right perspective: God is able to do what He has promised.
The writer of Hebrews relates to this account in chapter 3:
1Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.
3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
5 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: 8 “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did.
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Today our “wilderness” is not a barren landscape, but it is a season of testing, a time of trouble, an onslaught of a disease that knows no boundaries, no race, no limits of who it infects. Yet even in this we are able to find peace and comfort by depending on God and his Son Jesus Christ.
1We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (Hebrews 1)