Spying, Crying, & Dying
by Sophia Prinsloo with Barbara Wilmerton Haas
Text Version | Afrikaans
"I don't want to go!" Jenny sobbed.
"Oh, my dear child, I would never force you to do something that would be bad for you! This is for your own good," Mom replied.
"But the dentist is going to hurt me!" Jenny protested.
Mom tried to comfort her by saying, "That aching tooth must get fixed. Otherwise, it can poison your whole body. Come on! Be brave! Let me tell you a story that may help you conquer your fears."
When the travel-weary Israelites arrived at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran, they finally reached the border of the Promised Land. The Lord told Moses to let the people set up camp while sending out 12 spies, one man from each tribe, to go, scout out the territory. He wanted the spies to see with their own eyes the abundance and goodness of the land and bring a good report for the people to hear with their own ears. It was meant to greatly encourage them.
Moses was eager to obey the Lord and send out these spies, because he wanted to know everything about the Promised Land as well. And besides, it is always good to know as much as you can about the prospects and challenges that lie ahead in your life and to know that they will be worth your while. The Israelites would need to know how the land looked — rivers, mountains, valleys; how fertile it was — the abundance of crops, trees and livestock; its current inhabitants — strong or weak, many or few, great or small, rich or poor; the cities — fortified with walls or not. It would be a great help to know what they were up against so that they could prepare sufficiently, with the Lord's help and guidance, to conquer the land as their prized possession, their everlasting inheritance.
So Moses appointed Joshua, the son of Nun, from the tribe of Ephraim — his trusted servant and General of Israel's army — to lead 11 other mighty leaders on a 40-day trip to spy out the land. The names of the spies were Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi and Geuel. They looked quite presentable, because the Lord did not let their clothes and shoes wear out one little bit after months traveling through a rocky, dusty wilderness. These undercover spies could easily pose as rich merchants, traveling through the land, without any of its inhabitants getting suspicious.
Full of excitement, the spies began their journey. As they traveled, their eyes beheld beautiful, serene scenes of lush crops and fertile pastures in the valleys displaying God's greatness! Dense forests and olive trees on the mountains rustled God's praises, and hills sang for joy as farm animals grazed peacefully. Wildlife abounded in the countryside, birds chirped and chattered in the trees, and rivers teemed with fish. Walking over a green hill, they suddenly came across a herd of cattle grazing in the lush, green pastures.
"Look at those cows!" Shammua exclaimed.
"Never mind the cows. Look at the size of their udders!" Shaffat gasped. "They are enormous!"
The spies watched as a young girl carrying a bucket came up to a cow, gave her a scratch on the back, bound her hind legs and began milking her. With skillful hands, she squirted the warm milk into the bucket until the froth on top of the rich, creamy milk, almost poured over the brim. Twelve thirsty spies smacked their lips and Igal quickly suggested, "Let's buy some milk from her to taste how good it is!"
They went up to her and asked if she would sell them some milk. She agreed and they paid her with a shimmering, golden bracelet. Joshua poured each man a cupful of the rich and creamy milk and they drank eagerly. "Delicious!" Palti said smiling, a huge white milky moustache covering his upper lip. The others agreed heartily.
With their tummies full of milk, they walked on, but it wasn't long before they came across a bees' nest in a cleft of a rock. "Anybody care for some honey?" Gaddiel asked, while he was preparing a fire. He lit up a smoking torch and drove away the bees so that he could get to the honey. Gaddi and Ammiel helped him and soon each man was munching on sweet, golden honey from a piece of honeycomb.
"This truly is a land overflowing with milk and honey just like the Lord promised. I would fight with all my strength to possess it and I am sure the Lord would help us conquer it," Caleb said, determined in faith. The others agreed.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the bounty of the countryside, the spies moved on and visited the cities of the Amalekites in the south, also the Hittites, the Jebusites and Amorites in the hill country, plus the Canaanites along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and in the Jordan River valley. It was then that 10 of the spies grew very quiet. Why? They got scared, because some of the cities were fortified with strong, thick walls up to 20 feet thick and 25 feet high. In these cities, guards were stationed on top of the walls, patrolling the city day and night, having a commanding view from high above. "How would we ever be able to get through those walls?" the 10 spies wondered in silence.
Besides the impenetrable walls, the spies also noticed that most of inhabitants of the cities were strong, healthy and quite able to fight. Even worse, in Hebron, 10 scared spies were in for another big shock when they saw the Anakim! These people were gigantic, between 6 and 9 feet tall, making 10 of the spies feel like grasshoppers next to them. It was only Joshua and Caleb who did not care about the strong, high walls or the mighty giants, because they knew that, with the Lord on their side, they could leap over any wall and slay any giant. Could there be anything too difficult for the Lord?
On their way back after 40 days, the spies picked some fruit along the way as a sample for the Israelites back in the camp to see. In a valley, they picked the largest cluster of bulging grapes they had ever seen. The cluster was so massive, two spies had to carry it between them on a wooden pole. They were so impressed with the cluster of grapes that they called the valley "Eschol," which means "Cluster." Further along the road, they picked and stuffed their bags with soft, sweet, juicy figs and large, round red pomegranates with shiny, clear red seeds full of healthy vitamins and antioxidants inside.
The exploration mission of the spies was a resounding success, but how would the people react to their report? As they neared the camp, they were met by a buzz of dancing kids and the excited chatter of grown-ups. Everyone gathered around as the spies reported back to Moses, showing off the fruit they had brought with them.
Standing next to Moses, Joshua waved the crowd to silence. "The land you sent us to explore is indeed a magnificent country of abundance, flowing with milk and honey as the Lord promised. Just look at the fruit that we have brought with us — a true reflection of how abundantly God wants to bless us. About the people…."
"Yes, the people," Sethur interrupted fearfully. "The Amalekites live in the south, while the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hills with the Canaanites along the coast and Jordan River valley. These nations are so POWERFUL! They are all muscular, skilled warriors!"
Nahbi could not contain his anxiety and blurted out nervously, "And their cities are fortified with thick, high walls with guards keeping watch day and night! We would not be able to come even close to the cities to try and conquer them, let alone trying to make even a dent in those walls."
"Even worse," Geuel exclaimed, visually upset, "we saw the Anakim giants there! They would crush us like grasshoppers under the soles of their feet!"
"NO! That is NOT true!" Caleb shouted, visibly angry about the cowardice of their words. "We are well able to conquer all these nations, giants or not! Let us go up and possess the land at once! The Lord will help us because He promised to!"
But the ten fearful spies voiced their faithless opinions, exclaiming, "No way! They will slaughter us and make slaves of our women and children!"
When the people of Israel heard the fear in the voices of the 10 craven spies — their talk of defeat, death and slavery — they began to weep. They wailed and cried, lamenting in unbelief and fear the whole night long as if they were mourning the fallen already. "If only we had died in Egypt or in this wilderness, rather than be taken into this country! The Lord HATES us and wants to see us killed in this land. We'll die and our women and children will become slaves again. That is just too hard to bear!"
Another foolish idea took the camp by storm that night and the people shouted, "Let's elect a new leader and return to Egypt!"
When Moses and Aaron heard that, they fell flat on their faces before the people. The only two brave spies who trusted the Lord fully, Joshua and Caleb, tore their clothes in anguish over the people's unbelief and tried to reassure them by saying, "Can't you understand? The Promised Land is a beautiful, fertile country that the Lord wants to give you because He LOVES you and wants to BLESS you. You are his chosen people. Please do not rebel against the Lord and, by all means, do not fear the inhabitants because the Lord is with us, not with them. He has taken away their protection and they can't harm us because they trust in themselves and in their lifeless idols."
Sadly, the crying people kept their focus on the negatives only. They were so upset that they began picking up rocks to stone Joshua and Caleb but the Lord intervened, displaying his glory in the sky. Suddenly, He spoke to Moses and said, "What is wrong with these people? Why do they despise Me so much. Will they never believe Me, even after all the miracles I did for them? Let Me rather kill them all with a plague and make you a great nation, much mightier than they!"
"No! Please, Lord! What will the Egyptians say if they hear that You delivered the Israelites out of Egypt just to kill them short of reaching the goal You have set before us? They will say You were not mighty enough to keep your promise and bring us safely to the Promised Land. And what about the warnings the Egyptians sent to the inhabitants of Canaan that You are a mighty God and speak to us face to face? What about the pillars of cloud and fire they see guiding us? Please, Lord, show your power, your patience, your mercy and steadfast love, and forgive us our sins as You have done so many times before!"
The Lord replied, "Okay, Moses. I'll do as you say and pardon them. But understand this: These people saw my miracles in Egypt and in the wilderness; yet they refused to obey and trust Me ten times in a row. So now, listen up! Not one of them, older than 20 years old, will even see the land that I promised to their ancestors because of their disobedience, unbelief and lack of love for Me. They will all die in this wilderness but their children, whom they thought would become slaves, will be the ones who inherit the Promised Land. Of the people older than 20 years, only Joshua and Caleb, who are of a different spirit, will enter the land, because they trust and obey, and love Me with all their heart and soul, and mind and strength. So, turn around. Go back to the wilderness. For each day the spies were in the Promised Land, the people will spend a year in the wilderness until they have all died. Yes, they will wander around aimlessly in the desert for 40 years."
As the Lord concluded his sentence, the 10 fearful spies, who caused the people to fear and rebel against God, were suddenly struck dead before the Lord. Only Joshua and Caleb remained alive.
When Moses told the people what the Lord had said, they were so sorry and a feeling of deep distress spread throughout the camp. Unanswered questions remained. Were they sorry because they disobeyed the Lord or were they sorry because they would not inherit the Promised Land, but had to remain in the wilderness instead?
Early the next morning, the Israelites got up and got ready to enter into Promised Land. It was as if they were constantly opposing everything the Lord told them to do. For a moment they stopped at Moses' tent and yelled, "Moses, here we are! We have sinned, but now we are ready to enter and inherit the Promised Land."
"NO!" Moses warned. "You are too late! Can't you see you are disobeying the Lord's orders again. The Lord is not with you and if you go ahead, your enemies will defeat you!"
Sadly the hardheaded people would not listen. They had not learned their lesson. Full of bravado they went into the hill country without Moses or the Ark of the Covenant, as if they could possess the Promised Land in their own strength. But soon enough they would learn that disobeying the Lord always leads to disaster. The Amalekites and Canaanites, who lived in the hills, spotted them, came down from the hills and chased the whole disobedient lot of them all the way to Hormah. Defeated, they returned to the camp and Moses led them back into the wilderness.
Know as much as you can about each challenge you face, but never underestimate the power of God to carry you through because He really loves you.
1. How many spies did Moses send into the Promised Land?
2. Who gave a good, faith-filled report?
3. Why did the other spies give a bad report?
4. For how many days did the spies explore the Promised Land?
5. To which spies did the Israelites listen and how did they react?
6. How many years would the Israelites wander in the wilderness?
7. Why do you think the Israelites were sorry? For disobeying God or for getting punished?
8. What can we do, not to be as unbelieving as the Israelites?
VERSE TO LEARN:
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12).
ALTERNATE VERSE TO LEARN:
"For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37).
Heavenly Father, thank You for all the promises in your Word.
Help us not be fearful about our circumstances or challenges
but, instead, help us to believe You to carry us through
and inherit your promises.
In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
CAN YOU FIND THIS STORY IN THE BIBLE?
Numbers 13:1 - 14:45
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