“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly,
I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” – Numbers 14:24 (NIV)
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m generally not a glass-half-full type of person. However, for some reason, I can’t shake this deep-seated conviction that we’re on the brink of experiencing something miraculous.
Over the last few months, my emotional pendulum has swung between two extremes. There have been days of deep anguish and grief over the escalating division and evilness of our world. And there have been days of excitement and anticipation over the hand of God that is clearly at work. There have also been days where both emotional extremes have experienced a head-on collision! But more than anything, excitement and anticipation continue to rise to the top.
And I wonder if that’s how God’s people, the Israelites, felt as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land. Not long before, the Israelites experienced a dramatic deliverance from oppression under the cruel hand of the Egyptians. The Lord saw their suffering. He promised to deliver them from bondage and to give them a land like none they had ever inhabited, a land flowing with milk and honey—the land of Canaan (Exodus 6:6-8).
God was faithful to His promise. Using a series of unrelenting plagues, He freed the Israelites from captivity. And now they were about to experience the fulfillment of the second half of God’s promise, possession of Canaan. But before they entered, the Lord instructed them to send twelve spies to scope out the land (Numbers 13:1-2).
Let’s stop here. I have to say that my fixation with planning and preparation totally appreciates this! In Luke 14:28 Jesus said, “don’t follow me without considering what it will cost you. For who would construct a house before first sitting down to estimate the cost to complete it” (TPT)? We must count the cost of our devotion to Christ to avoid abandoning our faith down the road.
So the Israelites paused to count the cost. They sent out twelve spies who were gone for 40 days investigating what it would take to enter the Promised Land. The twelve spies returned reporting that the land did flow with milk and honey. They even came back with a cluster of grapes so big that it couldn’t be carried by one person alone! They also reported that the cities of Canaan were large and guarded by powerful people (Numbers 13:27-28).
Here’s where it gets interesting. Ten of the spies were threatened by what they observed. They concluded:
“We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are…The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge…Next to them we felt like grasshoppers…”– Numbers 13:31b-33, NLT
But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, advised the Israelites to waste no time in taking possession of the land:
“And [they] said to the entire Israelite assembly, ‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 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. 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…’”– Numbers 14:7-9, NIV
The majority were convinced they’d be consumed by the inhabitants of Canaan, but the minority believed they’d consume the inhabitants of Canaan. How is it that twelve people witnessed the same thing, yet ten perceived it one way and two perceived it another?
I believe faith has everything to do with it. Hebrews 11:1 explains that faith “is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” In other words, faith is having confidence in the face of uncertainty because we’re tethered to the Author of the Story. But that’s not all, the Author of the Story has graciously given us a sneak peek at how the story ends so what seems uncertain really isn’t uncertain at all.
Our Uncharted Territory
Like the Israelites, we face uncharted territory. What’s on the other side of this pandemic? Will there ever be healing in our land? How will the pending presidential election play out? Will our economy make a rebound? What does the upcoming school year hold?
Bible teacher and pastor, Warren Wiersbe once said, “We must learn from the past if we are to be obedient in the present and prepared for the future.” Here we are, standing on the cusp of eternity. And as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises, we have a choice to make. We can either be counted among the two faithful spies or we can join the ranks of the ten faithless spies.
The ten faithless spies allowed the cost to paralyze them. In essence, they rebelled against the Lord, forsaking the fulfillment of abundant life in a land God deemed was theirs. Even worse, their unbelief caused two million people to wander in the desert for 40 years! Consider what the Bible says will happen to those who follow in their steps:
“To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”– Revelation 21:6b-8
Allow your eyes to linger on the words “cowardly” and “unbelieving.” Then ask yourself, “What kind of spy am I?”
Dear friends, if we’re going to be counted among the faithful, it will mean having a different spirit than the majority and following God wholeheartedly (Numbers 14:24; see also Joshua 14:7-9, 14). It will mean taking action and not allowing the cost to hinder us. Our consolation is the fulfillment of God’s promises. Promises to overcome the very things that threaten to overcome us (Lamentations 3:22) and to make all things new.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”– Revelation 21:3-5a