Numbers 13 & 14: “A Different Spirit”
I need to know that you are getting the magnitude of where we are before we get started today. The Israelites have been in slavery for over 400 years. Let me say it again, the Israelites have been in slavery for over 400 years! They had been “worked ruthlessly” (Exodus 1:13) for centuries. Then finally their Hero spoke after so many years of being silent, He moved mightily through His faithful servant Moses, He performed many miracles for their deliverance, and at last the Lord had brought them to the border of the land that had been set aside for them. They were standing on the edge looking in. What a climactic moment that must have been for the Israelites, as well as the onlookers from heaven! The Lord had been faithful to do all that He had promised, all God’s people had to do at this point as we enter Numbers 13 & 14 was believe…and the land would be theirs. A free gift was being offered.
Moses sent spies into the land to bring back a report to the whole Israelite community. Hear the words of the spies in Numbers 13: 27-29:
They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
Their account of the land begins promising. The men report to Moses that the land was indeed as great as God had told them it would be. Do you sense a bit of surprise in this report? There is something about the wording of “and it does flow with milk and honey!”, that seems to reveal an element of surprise in the heart of these men. I could be wrong about that, but for some reason I sense that they had not fully believed God to deliver a land as amazing as He had told of. I think it’s easy for me to imagine their doubt, because I do the same thing in my own personal walk. How many times do I doubt whether God will be faithful? How many times do I think “those promises are for other people, better people, people more deserving of God’s grace”? How many times have I received a blessing from God, and then been genuinely surprised that He would offer it to the likes of me? I know what it’s like to literally see the fruit straight from the Promise Land and think to myself “wow, God wasn’t kidding when He said He had a better place for me, a place better than life in Egypt”.
But aside from what they saw to be true of the beauty of the land, 10 of the 12 spies chose fear over faith. They believed Lies over Truth. They chose to walk by sight rather than by faith, and the Word tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Do you think it was just by chance that the inhabitants of the Promise Land were giants? For that matter, let’s look elsewhere in scripture for similar circumstances. Do you think it was just by chance that the small, young shepherd boy named David, stood up to a mighty giant named Goliath? Do you think it was just by chance that an orphaned Hebrew girl named Esther, would one day stand before a mighty king? Do you think it was just by chance that the disciples Jesus chose to spread His word among the nations, were simple, everyday men, commoners? Do you think that maybe God is trying to tell us something through their lives? By faith, all of these people obeyed God; though their flesh was telling them otherwise, though the Prince of Lies was telling them they could never make a difference, they chose to believe Truth instead.
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” Corrie Ten Boom, author and Holocaust survivor
If only the Israelites would have sat still and trusted their very present God to conquer their enemy! God brought them into a situation where they had to trust in Him, and they failed. And so what was God’s response?
“As surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times, not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (Numbers 14:21-23)
Oh friend, where are you in your walk with God? Have you seen His work of redemption? Have you accepted His salvation? Have you walked side by side with Him through the desert, on the way to your Promise Land? Are you standing at Kadesh hearing the report of the land? Are you starting to doubt whether you can really do what God is calling you to do? Don’t fall into the trap, for what you have before you is a test, a way for you to exercise your muscle of faith. The writer of Hebrews does not devote all of chapter 11 to commending those who walked by sight, but rather those that walked by faith. Verse 1 tells us “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. That is what we are called to!
And so what of those who chose to believe? What is given those who chose to take God at His word, despite an Anak giant looking down upon him? Let’s read Numbers 14: 24 together:
“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”
Do you remember from your homework what Caleb’s response was to the bad report in chapter 13? He attempted to silence those speaking out of fear and said “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it”. This was a battle cry for God’s people, a plea to have faith. Caleb believed God, and so God rewards him for having a “different spirit”. I want to have a different spirit! Don’t you? Don’t you want to stand on the borders of your Promise Land and believe God to deliver it to you? I want the kind of faith that Caleb had! I want to be the person of faith that the author of Hebrews is referring to when He says:
“People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…They were (we are) longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11: 14, 16)
God has prepared a city for you. He has a specific plan for your life, and for mine. But make no mistake, we will never see it without faith. So who are you going to believe as you stand outside your Promise Land looking in? The Father that made a way for you out of slavery by parting your Red Sea, or the Father of Lies that wrapped the chains around your ankles to begin with? May we all have a “different spirit” and boldly claim our inheritance. Take your Promise Land friend, the victory has already been won, all you have to do is believe.
Much love in Him who has already won the battle for us,
Your homework for next time is to read Numbers 20: 1-13
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