Wednesday, May 1, 2019
It’s time for the Israelites to take their next step of faith and enter the Promised Land. Or is it? It seems they still don’t have a correct understanding of faith, and they must learn yet another lesson. Even Moses, had some growing to do.
Numbers 13:1-2, 17-20 The LORD said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”
There is a constant conflict between faith and human nature. Moses had learned some great lessons about trusting and obeying God. His faith was strong, but he still didn’t completely trust God’s Word. When we read ahead in Numbers 14 we see that he believed that God would take them into the Promised Land, but his actions didn’t reflect his belief. The sending of the spies was not the problem: it was the instructions to the spies that were wrong.
God had promised over and over that He was giving this land to the Israelites. His instructions to Moses were specific and simple – send some men to explore the land. At this point Moses had two options. First, it could have been a mission of military strategy to find out the best possible route to go in and conquer the land. That would have been the faith-based purpose. It would have been the positive-minded purpose. The spies could have been sent with a conqueror’s mentality based on their faith in the promise of God.
But that’s not how they were sent. Moses chose the second option that was available to him. It is the option of human nature and the one we most often choose when confronted with a step of faith. Moses chose to send in the spies with a series of irrelevant questions to be answered that could only be an indication of his own uncertainty. If Moses truly believed that God would give them the land, then what is the relevance of what kind of land it was, or how productive the land was, or how big and strong the people were, or how fortified were their cities? Why did Moses need answers to these questions?
I think it’s for the same reason we ask questions when God gives commands – we want to know more details to determine our willingness to obey. We want to know if the obedience will put us at risk in any way. We want to see some of the fruit of obedience before we choose to obey. When God says, “Go through that door,” we want to open the door just a crack and look inside before we say, “I’ll go.”
Moses laid the groundwork for failure by giving the spies the wrong instructions. As we said before, in the rest of the story Moses is commended along with Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua for being the ones who wanted to obey, but Moses still had something to learn about how to obey. Obedience is not conditional on the outcome, benefits, or risk. Obedience is the product of a mature faith that totally and unconditionally trusts the word of God. When we add our human reasoning to God’s direction we are setting the stage for failure.
Let’s learn from this and apply it to the current situations and directions that God is giving us. Stand strong in faith on the promises of God, and let’s get going!