In our last post, we uncovered some eternal gospel truths out of Numbers Chapter 12. We come now to Chapter 13, where we read of Moses sending spies into the land of Canaan (The Promised Land).
The first we thing we should note is that God told Moses to send out men for this risky military mission (vv. 1-2). This will not ring popular in our culture, but this is the clear pattern and design of God. Men are called and equipped by God to lead out, especially if the mission is dangerous and has potential wide-spread consequences. We may hate gender roles, but God doesn’t.
These men are so important to the history of Israel and God’s dealings with them, that they are all named in verses 3-15. The future of this people, this nation called Israel, appears to depend largely on how these 12 men carry out their God-given mission. These men represent their fathers (note how each one’s father is also named) and families (tribes) and nation. Much rides on these 24 shoulders! The implication for our day and age in America is obvious, isn’t it?
Verse 16 tells us something interesting: “but Hoshea the son of Nun Moses called Joshua.” Hoshea means “salvation” or “deliverance.” Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation.” The Greek form is “Jesus.” Thus, Moses exercises authority over his protege and does something God has been known to do throughout Israel’s history – he gives a man a new name, signifying a critical moment in redemption history. Moses wants these men and these people to know their salvation and deliverance comes ultimately not from any man, but from Yahweh Himself!
Then Moses gives the men their marching orders (vv. 17-20), and the men carry out their mission perfectly (vv. 21-24). After 40 days in the bush, prowling and sneaking and spying, the men emerge and report back to Moses and their kinsmen (vv. 25-26). One can hardly describe the anticipation that must have filled the air in the camp of Israel as these spies open their mouths to describe the land and its inhabitants.
The report starts out matter-of-factly (v. 27). The land is fertile and produces abundance! So far, so good.
“Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak [a giant] there” (v. 28).
Wait a minute! What just happened? This positive report took a downward turn in a hurry, didn’t it?
Ah, but there is a man among these so-called men. His name is Caleb of the tribe of Judah. He begins to counter their cowardly claims, saying, “We will surely overcome” (v. 30). The cowards keep insisting, however, that conquering the land is not in the realm of possibility (vv. 31-33). “The people are too strong for us,” they shout.
And so now, Israel has a choice, a decision. Will they listen to the voice of cowards, or the voice of Caleb the Conqueror? Will they fear man, or God? Will they trust in the very name given to their leader-to-be, Joshua? Or, will they trust their own instincts for self-preservation and survival?
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Are not these same questions ones we must answer daily as Christians and as a Church?