“During the second year, in the second month on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud was lifted up above the tabernacle” (Numbers 10:11). Fourteen months after leaving Egypt, the Glorious Presence of God led the Jews away from Mount Sinai and north toward the Promised Land.
Faithfully following the Pillar of Clouds and Fire, the Hebrew Nation made their way through the desert and camped on the southern edge of Canaan at place called Kadesh (Numbers 13:26) or Kadesh-Barnea (Deuteronomy 2:14). According to archeologists, Kadesh was an oasis in the northern Sinai desert with springs that provided an abundance of water.
For four-hundred years their ancestors, generations of Egypt’s slaves, had clung to God’s promise, the covenant He’d made with Abraham. “Your offspring will be resident aliens for four hundred years in a land that does not belong to them and will be enslaved and oppressed. However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions ... I give this land to your offspring, from the Brook of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River: the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hethites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites” (Genesis 15:13–21). From Kadesh, Abraham’s distant descendants could look north and see God’s promise. They were almost home.
Before invading the land, God gave Moses clear instructions. “Send men to scout out the land of Canaan I am giving to the Israelites. Send one man who is a leader among them from each of their ancestral tribes” (Numbers 13:2). The tribe of Judah was represented by Caleb (Numbers 13:6). The tribe of Ephraim was represented by Hoshea, also called Joshua (Numbers 13:8, 16). Ten other men represented the other ten tribes.
The twelve spies were sent on a reconnaissance mission. “See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. Is the land they live in good or bad? Are the cities they live in encampments or fortifications? Is the land fertile or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not? Be courageous. Bring back some fruit from the land” (Numbers 13:18–20).
“At the end of forty days they returned from scouting out the land” (Numbers 13:25). Their report concerning the land was unanimous. All twelve spies “brought back a report for them and the whole community, and they showed them the fruit of the land. They reported to Moses, ‘We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit’ ” (Numbers 13:26–27). That’s where their agreements ended.
Ten men looked at the circumstances. Instead of looking up at the Divine Pillar of His Presence, they cast their eyes down to see giants and fortified cities. “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!” (Numbers 13:31). Joshua and Caleb didn’t see the problem but looked up and clung to God’s promise. “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” (Numbers 14:7–9).
It was a matter of perspective. Ten spies reported the potential pitfalls and problems, the dangers and difficulties, the insurmountable circumstances and the overwhelming opposition. The other two men knew God’s Powerful Presence and remembered His faithfulness. Ten doubted. Two trusted.
What’s your problem, your challenge, your battle? Don’t look at the circumstances and doubt God’s compassion or capacities. With Joshua and Caleb, remember that “the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!”
Hold on to Jesus! We’re almost home!