During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The Cross-over Miracle (4)/ The twelve spies. Her text was taken from the Book of Numbers, chapters 13 and 14.
In the Book of Numbers chapters 13 and 14, we read about the rebellion in the camp of Israel. This is one of the most painful stories in the Bible. The people are just at the edge of the Promised Land but not yet inside. Moses sends 12 leaders to spy the land. People grumble because of the bad report of ten of the spies. They rebel against God’s plan for them. God is angry and sends them back to the wilderness. We learn from other peoples’ mistakes. The people’ sin of rebellion changed the direction of the whole nation. It affects the people of Israel even until today.
The Promised Land of Canaan in the Bible is not a symbol of heaven, because there are no wicked people in heaven. It is a symbol of God’s best for you, while you live on earth. It means to fulfill destiny! Only a Spirit filled obedient believer can enter that Land. You need to trust and obey God’s Word to be able to cross over into that land ‘of milk and honey’, also called ‘The Rest of God’ (Hebrew 4:1-10). You need faith in God and in His Word to enter and possess your possessions. Grumbling, rebellion, presumption, and doubt will block the way to your inheritance.
This is the story of God’s people. They left Egypt thru God’s miracle. They crossed over the Red Sea by faith. This is another miracle. They gathered at Mount Horeb (also called Mount Sinai) where they met with God. It is here that God gave His Law to Moses. The people rebelled and worshipped a golden calf. Many died in that plague. Now, God is directing His people to leave Mount Horeb (Sinai) and go towards north. They trekked thru the desert about 100 miles. They traveled about 10 miles per day. They covered that distance in 11 days (Deut 1:2). They settled at Kadesh Barnea. This is what Moses said to them: “So we departed from Horeb and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the mountains of the Amorites, as the Lord our God had commanded us. Then we came to Kadesh Barnea. 20 And I said to you, ‘You have come to the mountains of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.’ “And every one of you came near to me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come” (Deut 1:19-22). From Kadesh Barnea they can see the Promised Land. After trekking in the desert for so long, their dreams of success and God’s best in life is just before them. At this spot, there is no River Jordan to block their entrance. The cross over to the promised Land is so easy. Moses wants them to enter the Promised Land now! He is encouraging them not to fear or be discouraged. But the story is a tragic one. The people are slow to believe God’s promise! They want to waste time to send 12 spies into the land. Clearly, they are not excited about the future promised by God. They reject God’s best for them! Selah!!!
Lesson: A leader’s responsibility is to carry the people along. But it is so hard and sad when followers do not share in the faith of their leader.
Kadesh Barnea is on the border of the Promised Land. So close, yet not in. They see God’s best for them. Vision is good but you must walk into it by faith. “By faith they obtained the promises” (Heb 11:33). Your eyes, ears, heart, and feet must be coordinated to see results. For example, God told Abraham after Lot left him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you” (Gen 13:14-17).
Lesson: many Christians dream and pray to inherit God’s best for them. Yet, they stop just before the dream becomes a reality. They stop short of glory. And that defines sin. What do you need to do? To possess your possessions, you need eyes, ears, heart, and feet. You need vision and action. It is all done by faith in God and His Word. You see the vision with your eyes; you hear the Word with your ears; you believe the word with your heart, and you walk with your feet into your vision to possess it. Your feet are the stamps of approval and possession. That is faith!
Study these people! Face to face with God’s best for them, they are not excited enough to cross over. Moses told them that God personally takes care of the land. “For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (Deut 11:10-12). But this is the problem! They like the land, but they hate the Landlord! There is rebellion in their hearts! They suggest that Moses should send spies into the land to confirm that the land is good. Moses prays and God approves their wish. Moses sends 12 men, each a leader from his tribe to explore the land and bring a report about the type of cities and the people living there. They should bring a sample of the fruit from the land. Is it not interesting that we do not remember the names of the other 10 spies who brought a bad report? We only remember the names of Joshua and Caleb, for they are the only surviving spies, and the only ones who possessed the Promised Land. Selah! After 40 days the 12 spies come back. They brought big clusters of grapes and fruits from the Promised Land. In the presence of Moses, Aaron the priest, and all the people, the spies give their report (Nu 13:26). This was a public address. When hearing about the giants and dangers in the land, the reaction of the people was disturbing. Unbelief and rebellion manifested openly. That terrible rection affected a whole generation. Selah!
Forty years later, when the people are at the same place, facing the same Promised Land, Joshua does things differently. He clearly has learned from what happened at Kadesh Barnea. Joshua sends only two spies to inspect Jericho, but he does not inform all the people. The spies go secretly and come back the same. They give their report to Joshua alone and not to the public. In that way, he removed the possibility of having a crowd reaction of rebellion. The Bible Commands that “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil” (Ex 23:2).
Lesson: As leaders we need to be sensitive to what and when we inform all people about decisions taking in private, in God’s presence. Selah!
This was the report of the 12 spies. They all agreed that the land is good. But then, the ten spies added ‘a bad report’. In Hebrew ‘the bad report’ means something evil, to defame or to slander. They said: that the people in the land are giants and the cities there are fortified and strong. They saw and emphasized the problems and not the good of the land. They were sure that they can’t possess the land, that they will be killed there. They saw themselves as ‘grasshoppers’ and were sure that even the enemies will see that like that. Fear, unbelief, and inferiority complex gripped their hearts. They forgot that in the presence of God, before the King of kings, all men are ‘like grasshoppers’ (Is 40:22).
Remember that these spies were not ordinary people. They were leaders. Immediately, like a plague, the demons of fear and unbelief from the leaders spread into the crowd. They started weeping loudly for lost hopes and dead dreams. Caleb tried to silence the voices of fear and unbelief, but the people refused to listen to him. The spirit of fear became rebellion. The people started to complain against the Moses and Aaron saying: “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt” (Nu 14:2-4). Now they want to go back to Egypt. They forgot that Egypt was a land of slavery. It was in Egypt that all their baby boys were killed. The wilderness was difficult, but it was much better than Egypt. At least, in the desert, God is with them, teaching them how to worship Him. What foolish ugly ungratefulness!
What was the main cause for this national sin of rebellion and backsliding? It was the sin of the leaders! Just imagine this: ten men stopped a whole nation to enter into God’s best for it. Ten men allowed the Canaanites to enjoy 40 more years in the Promised Land! Selah!
The spies were all leaders in their tribes. The spies forgot that God thru Moses sent them on that mission. They were leaders but they were also servants to Moses. A spy is not to give his opinion, to tell the crowd about what to do. A spy is to faithfully give a report about what he has seen to the person who sent him. The spies became proud and took the advantage to speak like leaders to the congregation. This is seen as pride, selfish ambition, and trespassing. That is why the ten of them were killed by God. Let us not forget the responsibility of leadership. A leader influences the followers, for good or for bad. Disobedience causes us to lose the promises of God, of a successful life on earth. Obedience is rewarded by God, on earth and in heaven!
Lesson: In God’s Kingdom, leaders are judged by a higher standard than the followers. Jesus said: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required“ (Lk 12:48). May we humble ourselves and submit to the Captain of our salvation! For His glory!
In the midst of this loud voices of unbelief, ungratefulness, and rebellion, four men stood for faith in God. These were Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. Moses and Aaron fell on their knees interceding with God and pleading with the people to repent. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes as a sign of grief in the presence of sin. But the people became like a wild dog. They wanted to stone these four people and kill them. That is when the glory of God shone in that place. Try to imagine what happens when God comes down. As the Judge of all the earth, God brings three accusations against the people: God said that His people have rejected Him, that they do not believe in Him; and that they do not appreciate all the miracles He has done for them (Num 14:11). Apart from Joshua and Caleb, the High priest, Eleazer, the son of Aaron, and the Levites, they too entered the Promised Land. They did not participate in the rebellion. They did not receive personal plots in the Promised Land.
The people build cities for them where they lived as Levites, helping the priests at the temple.
Lesson: The ten spies saw problems, but Joshua and Caleb saw God’s Promises fulfilled. Doubt saw giants, but faith saw victory. Doubt saw death. Faith saw life abundantly! At this moment, Joshua and Caleb failed to make an impact for God. Many people are affected by mistakes and failures of their youth. Forty years later, after Moses died and Joshua became the leader, he might have remembered this incident when he failed as a leader. That is why God commanded him to be strong and courageous because this time, he will lead the people into the Promised Land. That is why we need to forget the past, with its successes and failures. God said, Moses is dead. It is now time to move on into the future!
God’s people tempt God to break His covenant with them. In that case, the curses of the same covenant will come upon the people. God tells Moses that He will break the covenant he made that Judah would lead God’s people and the Messiah with come from him (Gen 49:9-10). God tells Moses that He will make another nation when the ruler comes from Levi, who is the tribe of Moses. But the great man Moses intercedes with God. He has a passion for God’s honor and glory. His meekness is revealed in his intercessory prayer. Here we see Moses as a symbol of Christ, our intercessor. Moses tells God that the Egyptians will say that God was not able to fulfill His promises and that Egypt and slavery was a better option for Israel. Moses’ intercession appeals to God’s character who is slow to anger and abundant in mercy. God receives the intercession of Moses. He forgives the rebellious people. But God decrees that because of this sin, there shall be consequences. The 10 spies that spread the bad report and discouraged the people to enter the Promised Land die of a plague. God directs Moses to lead the people back into the wilderness. For the next 40 years, one for each day the spies stayed in the Promised Land, all adults above 20 years of age will die in the desert. God will give to them what they said with their mouths: that it is better to die in the wilderness than to Cross over. The children will suffer for the rebellion of their parents, by wasting 40 years in the desert. This is God’s Law: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). The people need to learn that even though God is gracious and merciful, sin is punished with death. They also need to learn that even when God forgives sin, the consequences of sin remain. The children suffer for their parents’ unfaithfulness. God accepts Moses’ intercession. The people still remain God’s nation but the individuals who have rebelled will die in the wilderness for the next 40 years. God continued to show mercy and grace to them in the wilderness. But the people missed their higher calling and now they have to accept an unexciting ‘second best’. Apostle Paul knew the danger of running into a race and becoming ‘disqualified’. He said: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27).
At the same time, God rewards the faith of Joshua and Caleb. They alone survive from all that generation, and they shall possess the land where their feet touched, according to God’s promise. Selah!
Lesson: Pray always! Remember God’s character! Ask for God’s mercy and grace in time of need! Stay faithful! God rewards faithfulness!
Hearing that they missed the Promised Land, the people start weeping again, this time because of God’s judgment. They say that they are sorry for their unbelief. But this repentance is superficial. The next day they tried to enter the Promised Land. Moses warns them that they cannot succeed for this is also rebellion. Moses and the Ark of His presence remain in the camp. The people commit a presumptuous sin (Num 14:44). They are defeated by the Canaanites and run to the camp. God commands that they should go back to the wilderness. They say goodbye to the Promised Land. “Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the Lord spoke to me” (Deut 2:1). This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Selah!
Lesson: Unbelief and rebellion manifest in many ways: as grumbling, fear of dangers, slandering God’s promises and His leaders, as criminal hot temper, or backsliding. Never forget, God always judges sin! Even after God forgives men for their sin, the consequences of sin remain.
Forgiveness means to let go of a grudge against another. You need the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive well, like God. You can forgive someone who sinned against you, but that forgiveness does not mean you must reconcile with that person like nothing has happened.
God’s blessings do not come automatically to God’s people. You need to see and accept them by faith. There are different levels of faith. God cannot work with rebellious people. Backsliding does not mean going to hell. During backsliding, you lose peace, joy, opportunities to do ministry and rewards from God. Do not lose what you have! A backslider is a child of God who rejects God’s best for him. When he dies, he goes to heaven. But he dies as an unfulfilled man, with regrets in his heart. True repentance means to turn away from sin and turn to God. A fake repentance may come with sad tears, but there is no turning to God, to obey Him. May we fear God! May we pay the price to enter God’s Best!
JOSHUA AND CALEB
When the 12 spies went to see the Promised Land, they all saw the same thing. But when they came back and gave their report, the group was spilt into two. The interpretation of what they saw was different. Ten of the spies brought ‘a negative report’ that discouraged the people. They had the wrong spirit, lazy, angry, doubting, and rebellious. Their fear of death overpowered their gratitude to God for leading them. Only Joshua and Caleb brought a good report. Listen to Caleb: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it… The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them” (Nu 14:7-9). By faith, they said that they can conquer the giants and take over the Land. God will keep them alive and help them to cross over to possess it. What type of people are these two men of God? This is what God testified about Caleb: “My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Num 13:30; 14:24). He called Caleb ‘My servant’. He said that he has ‘a different spirit in him’. That means Caleb was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. The spirit of rebellion that took over the crowd was clearly an evil spirit, but Joshua and Caleb were different. They followed God wholeheartedly, in big and small decisions, from youth until their old age. They refused to follow the grumbling people. They persevered until they entered the promised inheritance. They had no other God! When the congregation picked up stones to stone them, face to face with death, they did not run, beg, or compromise. God intervened and saved them. Like Daniel and his three friends they were ready to go into the furnace and die than to disappoint God. This is standing against serious peer pressure. This is the faith God rewards. This is the faith we need to cross over, possess, and enjoy God’s best for us in this life and forever. God promises to preserve Caleb life until he possesses his inheritance. Caleb was in his 80s when he enters Canaan. He was still able to fight his enemies at 85. Also, remember that God honors them that honor him. God gave Caleb the city of Hebron, which is the very the land that he trekked upon. Caleb wants the land of the giants! He is not seeking for an easy retirement! Caleb is a leader in his tribe of Judah and a great hero of faith! (Joshua 14:6-15; 15:13, 14).
As for Joshua, God rewards him with the leadership, not only of his tribe but of the whole nation!
Lesson: Even in the midst of unbelievers, God locates you and will reward your faith. God will keep you alive until you possess your possessions. Faith conquers! Doubt is a loser! This is a question: Do you follow the crowd of doubters, or you stand with the faithful minority?
THE SIN OF GRUMBLING
“Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word, 25 But complained in their tents, and did not heed the voice of the Lord. 26 Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness” (Ps 106:24-26). God had great and wonderful plans for His people. He brought them out from the land of slavery in Egypt. He wanted them to enter and settle in the Promised Land. It was a good land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ (Ex 3:8). Why did they not enter? The powerful Pharoah and all his armies could not stop them. The giants living in the Promised Land could not stop them. What was the main reason why they failed to inherit God’s promises? It was the sin of grumbling in the hearts of the people of Israel! To grumble, to murmur, to complain, or to nag it means to accuse, to find fault with someone or something. It means to make a dull, low, unintelligible sound in the throat, expressing anger. It is the sound of an angry dog just before he jumps to bite you. Grumbling is rebellion, which is like the sin witchcraft (1 Sam 15:23). Grumbling is a common sin in the church. Because it hinders God’s blessings, it is not a small sin. They who grumble against God and against the human authority over them are sources of poison that affects many. God hates grumbling. Repent of it. Replace grumbling with gratitude in your hearts. Be filled with the Holy Spirit!
When Jesus preached His Gospel, the Jews complained against His doctrine. He commanded that we should not murmur (Jn 6:41-43; 60, 61). We are commanded: “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (Jam 5:9). People grumble against visitors in their homes or newcomers in the church. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet 4:9). We are to shine our light for Jesus, to preach His Gospel. Grumbling quenches our light. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Phil 2:14-16). The story of Israel, how they missed God’s best for them, is a warning! “Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:10, 11). Grumbling damages relationships and especially the marriage. “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife” (PV 21:19; NLT).
Finally, listen to our Lord Jesus Christ: “Stop complaining about what I said” (Jn 6:43; NLT).
THE SIN OF PRESUMPTION
Presumption is defined as believing that something is true without having proof of it. It is taking something for granted. It is jumping at conclusions without having knowledge of the facts. It is based on partial knowledge and pride. Most of the time presumption proves to be wrong. That is why presumption has a negative meaning. The sin of presumption is an intentional rebelling against God thru a deliberate, proud, and willful action. A believer commits presumptuous sin when he knows that what he does is sinful and an offence against God. It is not a mistake. It is not just a weakness. For example, after God judged them for rebellion, He told His people to go back to the desert. But they insisted to go to the Promised Land. This was a presumptuous sin (Nu 14:44). Another example: David committed presumptuous sin when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband Uriah. Later David repented and prayed: “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Ps 19:13).
Presumptuous sins are like spiritual suicide. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Heb 10:26,27).
Presumptuous sins are deliberate. They are committed with the full knowledge that they are sins and in full light of what God has said. Presumptuous sins are premeditated. There is intent to sin and a time of deliberation before the act. Presumptuous sins can only be committed in suppression of the conscience and in spite of its appeals. Those who sin presumptuously say, in effect, “I’m going to do this, and nothing is going to stop me. I know what God says about it, and I don’t care if it’s wrong. I’m going to do it anyway.” God may forgive the sins of presumptions, but there are always consequences that follow these sins. Selah!
WHY DID THE TEN SPIES BRING A BAD REPORT? WHAT IS THE ROOT OF THEIR UNBELIEF?
*THEY FORGOT GOD’S PAST GOODNESS
Forgetfulness is a memory failure. When you stop thinking about a person you will forget that one. These people forgot God and His works. They stopped reading God’s Word, pray and praising Him. They forgot what God has done for them. God said that they tested Him ten times even after they saw the miracles He has done in Egypt, how He saved them. How can they forget how God split the Red Sea, how God turned the bitter water into sweet water, how God fed them with Manna and gave them water to drink in the wilderness? This forgetfulness is evil. It comes from despising the miracles of God. This is God’s warning and command: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today” (Deut 8:11).
Lesson: It is our duty to study and meditate on God’s Word. It is our duty to praise and worship God! You forget what you do not appreciate. You need to develop a spirit of gratefulness and worship. One of the hardest things to do for a parent is to teach the children to be grateful. This gratefulness never comes automatically. It is always a skill to be thought and acquired. Only the faithful and humble people remember God! “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Ps 103:2).
*THEY BECAME DISCOURAGED AT THE PRESENT SITUATION
Discouragement is the state of losing courage and moral strength. Courage is defined as the strength to control your fears in a dangerous or difficult situation and to be confident of your faith in God. Discouragement leads to feeling rejected, depressed and hopeless. Sickness, poverty, and dangers ahead are common reasons for discouragements. The opposite is encouragement, This happens when courage is poured into you thru words of faith and prayer. At Kadesh Barnes, God, thru Moses, commanded the people to be strong and courageous. But they refused to obey the command. They saw the problems ahead and forgot that God brought them there and that God is with them. As they despised the past miracles, they now despise the presence of God with them.
Lesson: I reject discouragement, a common weapon of the devil. I encourage myself thru God’s Word, prayer and coming to church!
*THEY BECAME AFRAID OF THE FUTURE
Fear is an uncomfortable, often painful emotions in when anticipating danger. The people allowed the demon of fear to intimidate them. That can be a fear of difficulties, of the unknown, of giants, of the future, fear of war, or fear of death. Fear became the dominant emotion.
Lesson: Fear is a demon that weakens the body and the mind. The only fear we should allow to influence our hearts is the clean strong fear of God. This is wisdom and courage. All other fears are demonic, and we should reject them. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). How do you get free from these demonic fears? By seeking God in His Word and thru prayer. “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears” (Ps 34:4).
FINALLY… LET US MOVE ON!
This is a sad story. But there are so many lessons for us. The wilderness was never designed to be their home or their grave. It was always to be passage. It is a tragedy to live and die at the wrong place. The wilderness is a picture of spiritual immaturity. God uses it to humble people and add grace to them. God is preparing you to inherit the Land. The promised Land is God’s Best for you, to gain spiritual maturity. May we follow Jesus, our heavenly Joshua unto the end! May we trust and obey Him until we possess our blessed inheritance! Worship the Lord!