In Numbers 13, the Lord commands Moses to send out from each tribe a leader to go and explore the land of Canaan that the Lord was giving to the Israelites.
Num 13:1-2 “The Lord said to Moses, send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
Moses follows the Lord’s commands, verses 4-15 detail out the name of the leaders of each tribe who were chosen to go on this ‘scout the land’ trip.
Before sending the men, Moses gives them specific instructions
- To see what the land is like – good or bad
- Whether the people are few or many, strong or weak
- Are the town fortified or unwalled
- Is the soil fertile or poor
- Are there plenty of trees and to try and bring back some fruit.
A time of testing
The men set off and remained in the land for 40 days, exploring it before returning.
The 40 days piqued my interest. The number 40 shows up in quite a few places in scripture, some of them are:
Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights, being tempted by Satan before he began his ministry (Mathew 4). For forty days, Goliath had taunted Saul and his army, until David came forward in the strength of the Lord and defeated him (1Samuel 17). For 40 days rain poured down during Noah’s time destroying everything else, testing Noah’s faith in God to keep them through it (Genesis 7). Moses was on Mt. Sinai with the Lord for 40 days and nights before coming down and seeing the people worship the golden calf, the people’s faith was tested to remain faithful and obedient in Moses’s absence.
The verses above are not to point out any significance to the number 40, but to see that God has often used a duration of time similar to that for a spiritual time of testing.
The men spent a similar time in the land of Canaan. How would they fare in trusting God to be faithful to His promise in giving the land to them?
When all you see are Giants
Let’s look at what they report back to Moses and the people.
Num 13:27-29 “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
We see that their report begins with the fruitful fertile land but soon the focus shifts to the big powerful people in their fortified cities. The report had truth in it, but it was infused with their fear and uncertainty in how they could take over the land. The goodness of the promised land was offset by their fear and their trust in God’s faithfulness in keeping His promise was also offset by their fear.
Be a Caleb
In verse 30 we read Caleb try to silence the others and speaks up “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, we should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
But the other men say
Num 13:31-33 “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 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. 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.”
Caleb was prepared to walk by faith and not by sight. If we look back at verse 2 when God gives the command to go and explore, we see God use the words ‘they were going to the land that He was giving to the Israelites’. It was a surety that it was theirs, then why did they struggle to believe that it could be theirs.
When all you do is look around and forget to look up, all you end up seeing are the giants? And what happens when all you see are the giants?
Fear creeps in and holds you back from stepping into something God has planned and prepared for you. Fear can be crippling when it comes to exercising your faith.
Fear causes us to doubt, leading us to a place of functioning from unbelief. It leads to a lack of trust in God, it causes us to focus on the problems and the impossibility of the situation and prevents us from taking that step of faith that stands firm on the promise of God.
Is there a challenging situation that you are facing today? Are you seeing only the giants in front of you? Ask God to help you walk by faith and not by sight. This does not mean burying your head in the sand from the reality of the situation around you, but just like God asked the men to explore the land to be best prepared in fighting them. Our preparedness is never meant to factor out our reliance on God who moves on our behalf.
Prayer: Lord, enable us to keep our eyes on you, trusting in your words, your power and your faithfulness. Help us cast away our doubts and fears. Help us to not let what others say in doubt, dictate our trust in you. Help us to be like Caleb and speak truth from a place of trust in your word and strength. May the power of your word/promises help us persevere and walk in faith and not by sight.