Spying Out Your Promised Land: Interpreting Conflicting Circumstances With Eyes Of Faith

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GrapesHas God made you some promises but the circumstances are contradicting? Should everything line up nicely and neatly as you approach the ‘Promised Land?’ No better place to find the answer than from Numbers Chapters 13 & 14.

The children of Israel were coming ever so close to the land of God’s promise. They had left Egypt several years ago and now God was getting ready to fulfill his oath. He instructed Moses to send spies into Canaan. “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.”

Moses further told the spies what to look out for, “Go up into the South and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds, and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.

The twelve spies set out and traversed the land from the South to Hebron and all surrounding areas. In those days, it was not difficult to get into a foreign land and blend in with the locals. Speaking the language was a significant deterrent from suspicion but it was easy to claim to be simply passing through on a journey to another territory.

So the spies viewed the land and as God had said, it was good and produced bountifully. The fruit was of such fine quality that when they cut off a single cluster of grapes it was too heavy for one man to carry. They put it between a pole and two men carried it. They also collected other fruits like figs and pomegranates.

They returned from where they came and it had taken them forty days to accomplish their task. When it was time to give report there were two conflicting assessments.

The first was as follows, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak (the giants) there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

I want you to take note of the words in bold. Those words sprung out to the people and there were groans and moans among them. They were filled with fear.

The second report was as follows. But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” He later went on to add, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey… and do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

Looking at both reports, one can ask, which was accurate? The answer is both of them stated the facts but one report was made with God in mind and another disregarded him. It was true that cities were fortified, that the people were strong, that there were giants in the land and that there were several armies, but it was also true that the land was a good one flowing with milk and honey.

The bad report seemed to prevail however, and the Israelites talked of finding a leader and returning to Egypt. They even considered stoning Caleb because of his positive report.

WHAT WE CAN LEARN

Do not always expect smooth-sailing

Do you ever think about some things that God has promised you and see conflicting circumstances? You wonder why God chose a ‘land’ with so many ‘armies’ and ‘giants’ and ‘fortified cities’. Does he prefer taking us to where he has promised the hard way? Well, more often than not, yes. His intention is not to make it tough for us but to let us experience his strength in the challenges. How can we ever know God’s saving power unless we are faced with difficult situations?

We will always have a choice

The two groups of people in this Bible account visited the same land. They saw exactly the same things but at the end of it had a choice to make. You can choose to see all that is wrong, you can consider all the odds and you can even look at the past as a reference for discouragement. In short you can disregard God’s promise by emphasizing what the circumstances tell you. On the other hand you can choose to believe that even though the odds are stacked, even though it has been so long, even though you are weary, God is with you. And with him all things are possible.

Turning back is not a wise option

Let’s be honest, sometimes going back to the way we used to do things feels like our only option. It is at times extremely difficult to refrain from taking matters into our hands and attempting to fix things our way. Especially when we have depended on God but still face many challenges. This is what some of the Israelites did and they (that particular group) ultimately never entered the Promised Land. Those who had a good report and trusted God eventually dwelt in the good land.

The battles will be won by God

The armies in Canaan were overcome, the giants defeated, and the fortified cities occupied. It took faith, it took courage and it took time. But what God promised he delivered. Similarly we will have our own battles but if we choose faith, God will help us win them. We do have our part to play: the army of Israel had to prepare for war and enter into battle with all those armies. However it is God who gave them the victory. In Joshua 21:45 it says, “Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came to pass.”