And they told him, “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 there. (Numbers 13:27-28 ESV)
After a year in the wilderness the people of Israel come to the edge of the land they have been promised. Twelve spies are sent out to explore the land and confirm God’s description of it. If they had stopped after their first sentence this story would have had a very different ending. However, they didn’t stop. Rather than focusing on the abundance in the land they chose to focus on the obstacles that would have to be overcome to partake of that abundance.
It would be easy to put all the blame for what happens next on the ten spies who give the negative report. However, there was another report and it focused on God’s power rather than the power of the people in the land. The people were presented with a clear choice and they chose to reject God’s plan and promise. The result was forty years wandering in the wilderness.
I’ve been thinking about desire and this appears to be a case of misplaced desire resulting in very negative consequences. It seems to me that if the people had desired what God had promised them they would have chosen the positive report by Caleb and Joshua rather than the negative report by the other ten spies. It appears that what they really wanted was to go back to Egypt and return to slavery. Slavery was difficult, but predictable. There is very little risk in being a slave. There is almost no requirement to trust God when your slave masters provide you with everything you need.
Desiring the promised land more than a return to slavery would have changed everything. If their desire had been great enough there would have been much less complaining as they traveled through the wilderness. If their desire had been great enough, they would have listened to Caleb and Joshua and begun preparing to receive what they had been promised.
However, their desire was to return to Egypt. God has made many wonderful promises to us. Receiving those promises always requires trusting that God will keep His promises. Occasionally, the promise is off in the distance and a wilderness must be walked through before the promise becomes a reality. Often, we lose sight of the promise as we walk through the wilderness and the word “however” enters our vocabulary. We say, “This sounds like a great promise. However, I’m not sure what is promised is worth the effort.” As soon as this thought enters our mind, we must recognize it is a lie and tell ourselves the truth. Instead we say, “This is a great promise and God will provide the strength to make it through whatever stands in the way of receiving it.”
For my grandchildren:
Desire what God has promised. Check for lies when you hear the word “however”.
For a song to go with this story check out Grandma’s website here.