Num 13:1-34 – Spies Sent into Canaan

Christian MölkNumbers Leave a Comment

Num 13:1-3

  1. God’s promise to give the promised land of “Canaan” to the people of Israel, the land overflowing with “milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8), had first been given to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21), then confirmed to Isaac (Genesis 26:3) and to Jacob (Genesis 28:13).
    1. The “promised land” of the Old Testament can be symbolically likened to the “kingdom of heaven” of the New Testament. In this, and many other similar stories, we can learn what it means to believe in God and enter heaven.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 1:20-25, it was actually the people of Israel who suggested that Moses send scouts ahead of time into the land to explore the land and see what roads they will take and what cities they will encounter. Moses thought it was a good suggestion and God then gave instructions that in that case it must be “leaders” who go out as scouts.
    1. Actually, one can question the need for spies, since God had already promised Israel both that they would receive the land of Canaan and that it would “overflow with milk and honey”. If Israel had truly trusted God’s promises, they could have entered the land in faith, they could have trusted that the land was good and that with God’s help they would defeat their enemies.
    2. Perhaps for this reason God wanted it to be “leaders” who were sent out as scouts. That is, reliable people who were used to leading the way, breaking new ground and not afraid to face difficulties.
    3. But whether this was the plan of the people, the plan of Moses, or the plan of God, it led to the testing of Israel’s faith.

Num 13:17

  1. The name “Hosea” means “salvation” and the name “Joshua” means “salvation of God“. Perhaps Hosea introduced himself to Moses and said his name was “Salvation” and Moses replied “GOD’S salvation”! Hosea went from being called “Hoshea” in Hebrew to being called “Ya-Hoshea” (where “Ya” is an abbreviation of “Yahweh”). This name, Ya-Hoshea/Joshua, was later assigned to the Messiah, which in a Greek variant becomes “Jesus”.

Num 13:18-21

  1. Moses’ instruction to the scouts was a good one, humanly speaking; to see if the land is good to live in and how strong its defences are. But at the same time, God had already promised that the land was good and that he would help them to take it. From that perspective, Moses’ instructions echo with unbelief.
    1. But on the other hand, can we really expect the people of Israel to trust God completely when they did not yet have much spiritual experience? The idea of sending out scouts may have been an expression of unbelief, but God in His mercy allowed it. Before one is fully ready to enter the Promised Land, one sometimes needs to be strengthened in one’s faith and to develop one step at a time.
    2. When we are spiritual beginners, we sometimes need a little extra confirmation that God’s promises are indeed true. God is patient with us. But the more we learn to walk by faith, the more we learn to trust God’s word.

Num 13:22-25

  1. The mission of the spies took 40 days, which is an indication that this was a “test” from God.
  2. The huge cluster of grapes becomes a sign that God’s promises that the land is good are true.

Num 13:26-29

  1. The spies return and report to Moses and the people. They confirm God’s promise that the land is good, BUT, they believe that the land’s defenses are too strong for Israel to overcome.
    1. The word “but” has prevented many believers from having their lives blessed by God.
      1. Yes, I believe in God’s promise of grace, BUT, I have a hard time receiving forgiveness for my particular sins.
      2. Yes, I believe in Jesus, BUT, I don’t want to do as he says or live as he teaches.
      3. Yes, I believe in God’s mission to witness to Jesus, BUT, not me.
      4. Yes, I believe in God’s promise of the power of the Spirit, BUT, I don’t think I can speak in tongues.
    1. The Christian life is more than just confessing your faith with your mouth and then going on living an ordinary life like everyone else. The Christian life is also about starting to live here and now as Jesus teaches us and doing what God tells us to do.

Num 13:31

  1. Caleb, and also Joshua we see a little later in the text, saw the same things as the other spies, but believed that with God’s help it would be possible to take the land.
    1. With God’s promises behind us and problems ahead, our faith in God is tested. Do we dare to take a step of faith, face our problems and trust that God is with us?
    2. God has not promised us a life without problems and struggle, but he has promised to be with us in the struggle and through the problems.
  2. The people of Israel were faced with the choice of believing in the humanly accurate and negative report, or believing in God’s promises of victory.
    1. The same challenges and trials face us as God’s people today. Do we look at our reality with human eyes or with spiritual eyes?
      1. What if someone prophesies to our congregation that there will be a revival, and we gratefully receive it in joy. And then we sit and wait for people to automatically come to church and be saved, but no one comes. Do we then stop believing God’s promises or do we try to work for people to be saved?
      2. Or we try to go out into the city and witness to Jesus, but find it difficult, they are secular and uninterested in the message of salvation in Jesus. Do we then give up and stop believing in God’s promises? Or do we realize that it will be a struggle to win every person for Christ?
      3. Or God has given you a calling to go on mission, but all the financial circumstances suggest that it is impossible. Do you then stop believing in God’s promise to you or do you continue to walk by faith and work to make it possible?

Num 13:32

  1. It was true that Israel’s opponents were stronger than Israel, but it was not true that Israel could not defeat these peoples. Often a mixture of lies and truth is the most dangerous creator of unbelief.

Num 13:33-34

  1. All the twelve spies saw the same grapes, the same cities, the same land, the same enemies. But in the end, what separated them was whether they had faith in God or not.
    1. In the same way, you and I can face circumstances in life either with God or without God. We all have a choice to believe in God or not. 
  2. Given the exaggerations reported by the scouts, one can imagine that even the size of the “giants” is an exaggeration.
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