THE FAILURE OF THE TEN SPIES
Num. 13:1-3 “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.”
I want us to take a brief look at Israel at Kadesh-barnea. To do this I will use all of chapter 13 but will let you look on in your Bibles. This is the original door of entrance into the promised land. They have come from Egypt to Canaan. They are at what could have been their final stage of the journey. They have the land in view. The LORD tells Moses, “Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel . . .” It was the LORD’S will that they search out the land.
The LORD wanted them to see the land before they entered it. First of all, the land is a type of our victory and possessions in Christ. It is not a type of heaven. God’s people will not have to fight for heaven but there is a fight to possess our possession in this life. This is the way of faith. First God reveals what He gives to us (through His Word), then we believe it, and then we receive it. Let me restate that. God reveals to the eyes of faith what He is willing to give, then faith exercises confidence in the Lord that made the promise, and then the promise is received as a token of God’s faithfulness, unseen presence, and power.
The next truth in this statement is that the LORD says, “Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, WHICH I GIVE UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL . . .” (Caps mine for emphasis). Canaan was a gift. The LORD wanted them to know that. They are not spying out the land to see if they could take it. They could not take it. The power to take the land was to be a gift of God as well as the land. But it was a gift to faith. This is something that Israel was lacking in. Let me state: Israel’s failure at Kadesh-barnea was a faith failure. Hebrews 3:18-19, “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
The twelve spies that Moses sent into the land were of the leaders from the twelve tribes. They are each named and the tribes from which they were selected. They are to represent the tribes from which they came in their observance of the land. They will be held directly responsible for their faithfulness to report their findings and faith with regard to entering the land. When they returned the report went like this: “And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.” (Verses 26-27). They gave testimony to the truth of God that He had promised to His people. They said, “It is just like God promised. It is truly a land that flows with milk and honey. And here is a sample of it, as they showed the grapes and other things that they had brought with them, to Moses and all the congregation of the children of Israel there was some oohs and aah’s on that occasion. God never stretches the truth. They had been thinking of what God had told them of the land, now they are witnesses to the truthfulness of what He had said. It is exactly like He said. It always is. They were ok in their testimony up to this point. But here comes the problem. They said, “Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and the coast of Jordan” (vss 28-29). The spies had spent forty days, and had done an excellent job of covering the entire land, and what they reported was the truth. It was their conclusion that was wrong. The testimony of the richness of the land thrilled the people but the information concerning the size and strength of the enemy sent cold chills in the very souls of the children of Israel. Verse 30 says, “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”
Now why would Caleb make such a claim. Israel was a nation of slaves and had no fighting skills. They were about to go up against an enemy that had spent their entire lives developing the skills of warfare. Their walled cities (their defense against enemy aggression) tell us that they were a warring people. The ten spies were right when you look at it from a human viewpoint. But God was training them to walk by faith and trust Him. This is where Caleb and Joshua excelled. Caleb remembered God’s promise: “And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite” (Exo 33:2). Caleb also had the victory over Amalek to remember. The children of Israel had not learned to remember the promises of God.
So Israel listened to the majority, believed the lie “we can’t,” and continued in their unbelief. Did they become unbelievers here? No. Their unbelief was manifest here. They had enough faith to get them out of Egypt but not enough to get them into Canaan. This describes the life of the saved. Paul said, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Col. 2:6). How did we receive Christ Jesus the Lord? “ . . . Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Walking continually in repentance keeps us humble and faith in Christ keeps us strong in His strength. No weakling can lose a battle who is strong in faith in the Mighty One. When He sends His angel as the advanced guard, all that is left when these weaklings arrive is the cleanup!!! Hallelujah! Unbelief can see the grapes but cannot see the unseen God. Therefore their judgement was based on human reason entirely.
God is constantly allowing our faith to be tried. Peter says of us, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:5-7). First, we are kept. So the trial of our faith has nothing to do with our salvation, i.e., our salvation is not at stake when our faith is tried. Second, we are allowed “seasonably” to be tried. The words “for a season” may refer to short periods of time. Or, it could refer to this day of grace in comparison to our eternal existence with God where there will be no trials. I believe both are true. The Lord’s promise in First Corinthians 10:13 seems to bear this out. He will make a way of escape, which means that the pressure brought on by the trial is either relieved by its removal, or one is given His strength to bear it. I believe that Ephesians 6:13 suggests this. It says, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in THE EVIL DAY, and having done all, to stand.” (Caps mine for emphasis). Psalm 30:5 says, “ . . . weeping may endure for a night by joy cometh in the morning.” Paul is trying to prepare the Christians at Ephesus for an attack which would take place at some point of time in the future called “the evil day.” We go through many times of temptation. But thank the Lord there are some oasis’ in the desert for us. There is the morning after the temptation!
Peter also says about our trials, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth. . . .” God says our trials are precious in His sight when we stand the test. Caleb and Joshua stood the test and had the LORD’s approval in two ways. First, God said spoke His approval. Second, they were allowed to enter the land forty years later. They were the ONLY ONES THAT SURVIVED. More on this tomorrow.
May the Lord bless these words to our hearts.