In Numbers 13:1-2, as the Israelites are getting closer to the promised land, God instructs Moses to send out scouts to “explore the land”. Moses then instructs men to go see what the land is like, whether the inhabitants are strong or weak, and if the soil is fertile. The scouts return with their report, described in Numbers 13:25-14:4…
After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”
But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”
But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”
Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
Ouch. The heart of man is so fickle and fearful. I know mine is. This story is about the Israelites getting into the land that God promised them. Maybe they were thinking there wouldn’t be giants or fortified cities. Perhaps they expected God to clear out the riffraff before they arrived. In any event, they are faced with a choice. Which will they trust: God’s promise of good, or their fear of bad things happening to them?
I think every generation of God’s people face the same choice. There are giants out there, sure. They have names like fear, anxiety, loss, despair, danger, conflict, and weakness. Will we choose to believe God’s promise that He will bring victory over these giants? Or will we cower and try to avoid them? Or, worse, will we accuse God of trying to destroy us and begin demanding someone else lead us back to slavery?
We may shiver with excitement at the promises of God but we are just as likely to quiver in fear when big risks come into view. We wonder if we heard wrong, or misinterpreted something, or whether we have it in us to succeed, or even if we can just survive. We forget: it is not we who ensures the victory, it is God.
A life of faith (not sight), to which all Jesus followers are called, is both exhilarating and terrifying. Living by faith means we do not get to see how it will all work out; we only have a choice to believe that it will. When we rely on our own faithfulness, we get discouraged quickly. Incredibly, God remains faithful even as we lose our faith.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-9
We are called to walk out our faith, doing what God has prepared for us to do. If we choose not to, we may find our little faith eroding. Jesus tells the story of the ten minas in Luke 19:11-27, explaining:
‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’ Luke 19:26
There will be scary moments ahead. Be of good cheer, the Master says. He is with us every step. He will not fail us. He will not leave us. He will not let us down. He remains faithful. We should too.