Saturday, April 30, 2016

The other 10 Israel spies: 7 lessons we learn from their mistake

While the Israelites were on their way to Canaan, the land they had been promised, God instructed Moses in Numbers 13 when they were at the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh to "send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel..."

Moses, in his usual manner, obeyed and "sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the Lord, all of them who were heads of the children of Israel," (v 3); with the instructions, "Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land." (vs 17-20).

They went up and spied out the land (v 21) as they were instructed; all 12 of them, each representing a tribe of Israel.

They ALL returned with the SAME report that the land "...truly flows with milk and honey...the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large..." (vs 27-29).

There was a difference, though. While two of the 12, Caleb (son of Jephunneh from Judah) and Joshua (son of Nun from Ephraim vs 6,8), interpreted the fact of the report as they could "...go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it (v 30)": the other 10 interpreted the same set of facts as, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we (v 31)." Same land, same facts, different interpretations! Their perceptions of what they saw in Canaan were different!

It's interesting, isn't it? How two people can look at the same thing but see different things! It's all about perception! One wise man put it nicely: "Your mind is the interpreter of your life"!

The Israelites ended up buying into the interpretation of the 10 (crowd mentality!), which drove them to complain bitterly to Moses and Aaron - they even mooted the idea of stoning them! - (14:1-4,10), provoking God's anger (14:11-12); culminating in God wiping out that generation (14:26-36), "Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun..." (14:30).

Our question stands: where did they get it wrong? What went wrong with the 10? And what can we learn from their story? Let's attempt to answer that, shall we?

They walked by sight, not by faith

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7.

"...while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:18.

As children of God, we must see like God our father. God doesn't walk by sight, He walks by faith. God doesn't say what He sees, rather He says what He wants to see!

In Genesis 1, the earth was without form (I guess like the Amoeba micro organism), was void and dark, but God didn't go about describing what He was seeing. Rather, He looked at the things which were not seen by faith and pronounced what He wanted to see!

The 10 got it wrong here. They focused on the problem, rather than on a problem-solving God. They over analyzed the situation (instead of handing it over to God); they meditated upon it (instead of meditating on God's promises), and out of the abundance of their problem-focused meditation and analysis, their mouths uttered: "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we."

Yes, the reality was that the people in the land were strong giants. God Himself confirms that in Amos 2:9 when He was pronouncing judgment on Israel for defiling His holy name. He said: "Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was as strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath."

Heck. Who focuses on physical reality, huh? We are not blind to the things which are seen (yeah, we watch the news, or, at least, skim through the headlines), we just choose not to focus on them. We choose rather to walk by faith and focus on God's saving power because the Lord also said in Amos 2:9 "...I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath" - our God has unlimited power!

They chose fear over faith

"Do not unbelieving, but believing." - John 20:27.

Fear or faith? Your choice! You can choose which to activate!

Moses had charged them to "Be of good courage" (13:20), but they clearly didn't keep the charge. They chose instead to allow fear cripple them!

Hear them speak, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature." (13:32).
Funny, isn't it? If the land indeed "devours its inhabitants", how then are there still living people in it? Why haven't they all been "devoured"?! That is fear speaking!

One moment they are saying the land "...truly flows with milk and honey..." (13:27); the next they are saying it "devours its inhabitants"!

And how did they arrive at the conclusion that the land "devours its inhabitants" after just a forty day survey? Did they witness anyone being "devoured" by the land?

You can either choose to allow fear cripple you; or choose to walk in and be inspired by faith.

You can choose to believe God's word that says you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you; or you can choose to believe the devil who tells you are not good enough!

Choose faith, brother. Let faith fill your heart, sister. Has He said it? He'll surely bring it to pass! Has He spoken it? He'll surely accomplish it! (Isaiah 46:10-11).

They had victim/slave mindset

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." - Romans 12:2.

"...and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight" - (13:33).

Have you ever stood over a grasshopper before, how far down was it? How small did it look on the ground from your height?

Let's say the people in Canaan weighed in at 350 pounds and stood at over 8ft (I'm stretching it, I know), can the Israelites realistically look like "grasshoppers" in their sight? Can you even picture that? What an exaggeration!

This 10 are an interesting bunch, aren't they? They must have a special gift or some super power to be able to see through other people's eyes, "...and so we were in their own sight." Are you serious!!! You don't mean it!

What else will you term that if not victim/slave mentality! They were suffering from deep inferiority complex, "...and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight." How sad!
It's so sad considering the kind of God they had! They had the creator of the world on their side, yet they saw themselves as "grasshoppers". Sad, indeed.

Scripture enjoins us to be transformed! Renew your mind by His word! God has not given you the spirit of timidity or inferiority complex, no! But of power (to fill you with confidence that you can triumph), love (to cast out all fear) and sound mind (to give you correct insight and understanding)! Why are you still feeling inferior?

They forgot, much like all Israel

It is apt that the Psalmist charged himself not to forget God's benefits (Psalm 103). Why? Because truly it is so easy to forget the past victories God has won for us.

When we are faced with challenges, sometimes, it seems to perform a memory wipe, especially of the great things God had done! And bring to the fore, similar instances where we or some other person had failed.

They forgot. How God mightily delivered them from Egypt. How God bore them on eagles' wings and brought them to Himself (Exodus 19:4). They forgot. How the Red Sea super naturally parted before them. They forgot. How they had been sustained up until that time. They forgot. All the battles God had won for them. They forgot all!
Worst of all, they forgot God's promises.

Oh! My soul, forget not His benefits!

Had He not sworn to bring them into the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Did He not promise, " shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6).

No matter what you go through, never forget God's faithfulness in the past! He that did it in the past, will He not do it again?

They didn't understand God's ways

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9.

The 10 didn't understand that our God is a specialist in what we humans call impossibility; and that He likes to step in when we are at our wit's end!

When we humans have tried all the scientific theories, applied all the cutting edge technology, implemented the best economic policies, consulted the so-called egg heads, moguls, tycoons, geniuses, experts, specialists, researchers and their likes; and still come unstuck, that's when God likes to show up!

They didn't understand this.

They weighed the challenge against their strength, not God's.

"And he said, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: 'Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours,
but God's."
- 2 Chronicles 20:15

Joshua and Caleb understood that the victories they had enjoyed came from God, not by their strength.

In verses 8-9 of chapter 14, they said: "If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ...and the Lord is with us..." - insightful!

The 10 didn't understand this. They weighed the challenge against themselves and expectedly fell short, instead of weighing the challenge against their God.

The Lord had been fighting for them and giving them victories upon victories up until that time, why should that change?

They didn't know God for themselves

"And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain." - Exodus 19:17.

"Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." - Daniel 11:32.

This, I believe, is the foundational problem.
Those who know their God will, first, be strong, before they will carry out exploits.

Do you know your God for yourself? Does He speak to you personally? Have you heard and known Him for yourself? (John 4:42).

Until you get to that place where you can beat your chest in confidence about what God promised you in your closet, your feet will not be firmly planted!

Today, I enjoin you to seek to know God for yourself, beyond just what the preacher says on Sundays and at bible study.

Have you meditated on and personalized certain Scriptures and run with them? You should try it, it's a good place to start.

Don't stand at the foot of the mountain like the Israelites. Go up to Him like Moses. Draw close to Him. Seek Him. Diligently. You will find Him. He's not hiding. He just won't force Himself on you.

"He made known his WAYS to Moses, his ACTS to the people of Israel." (Psalm 103:7). Move from just His acts to knowing His ways!

Don't go the way of the 10, instead be like Caleb who God said in 14:24 had "...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."

What other lessons do you reckon we could learn from the mistakes of the 10 and even from Joshua and Caleb? Do share them with us in the comments section.
During Easter, we explored Judas' betrayal of Jesus and what lessons we could learn from it.

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