After God had miraculously rescued the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, parted the Red Sea for their escape, and led them through the wilderness to Mount Sinai, He gave them His law that was to govern their nation and their worship. From there, He led them across the desert until they arrived at the edge of the land He’d promised to give them.
At this point, the Lord told Moses to select twelve leaders from each of the tribes to spy out the land and return with a report (13:1-2). The spies came back with a sample of the fruit—some figs, pomegranates, and a single cluster of grapes so big that it was carried on a pole between two men. The land was certainly fruitful and productive.
However, the cities were large and strongly fortified, and the people were extremely strong. The spies even reported seeing giants there.
The Spies’ Reports
Because God had promised to give the Israelites the land, Caleb said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it” (13:30). But ten of the spies discouraged the people by giving a bad report. Instead of remembering God’s promise and power, these spies focused on the situation and raised the following objections.
“We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us” (v. 31).
“The land . . . devours its inhabitants” (v. 32).
“We became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (v. 33).
As a result of the negative report, the people wept, grumbled, and accused the Lord of bringing them to this land “to fall by the sword” (14:3). They wanted to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb and appoint another leader to take them back to Egypt. How quickly they forgot their previous slavery and God’s supernatural work on their behalf.
Everything the Israelites longed for was across the border, but because they wouldn’t obey the Lord, His judgment came upon them. He declared that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years until all the men who were twenty years and older when they left Egypt had died. When they heard this, they changed their minds and went out to take possession of Canaan, but because the Lord wasn’t with them, they were defeated.
Sometimes God gives us opportunities that only come once. If our courage fails, we will never receive a second chance. This is why obedience is so important, even if we’re afraid or reluctant. When we live in daily obedience to God, we’ll never miss the opportunities He has for us, and He will supply whatever we need to accomplish what He’s called us to do.
The Key to Obedience
Meditation on God’s Word keeps us in line with His will. This includes reading the Scripture each day, talking to God, and bringing Him every issue that concerns us. The promises we need to strengthen our obedience are found in His Word. Scripture has the power to change our minds and attitudes from fear and uncertainty to confident courage.
And it also reminds us that we are never alone if Jesus is our Savior. His Spirit lives within us, giving us guidance to know what to do and the power to accomplish it. When we trust the Lord and believe His promises, we have nothing to fear as we courageously move forward in obedience.
This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message “A Collapse of Courage” which airs this weekend on TV.