Their story begins in Numbers 13:1-24 when Moses assigns 12 men the task of scouting out the Promised Land. Moses charges them with answering several questions: What is the land like? Are the people strong or weak? Are they few or many? What are the cities like? Are they open camps or fortified? Is the land fat (productive) or lean? Does it have trees? The reconnaissance mission takes them from the lowest border of the Wilderness of Zin, through the Negev and into the hill country of Judea, Samaria and Galilee and as far north Rehob (the modern day border of Israel and Lebanon), a journey of about 500 miles (vv.17-20).
The spies venture forth and follow the route suggested by Moses. Paran, Zin, and the Negev (which means south) are arid with low vegetation and dotted with water sources such as wadiis and oasies like Kadesh Barnea where the Israelites were presently camped. There is a lot of room for grazing herds (if you stay close to the water) but it wouldn’t make you want to move in and stay! The northern region however would certainly do that. Replete with water sources and lush hillsides covered with vegetation, it lives up to the name God gives it in Ex. 3:8 – a land of milk and honey (see also Ex. 3:17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev. 20:24; Dt. 6:3; 11:9). While passing through the Valley of Eschol, 20 miles northwest of Hebron, they stop to gather some of the produce of the land (Num. 13:23). The grape clusters are so big it takes two men to carry one.
It takes 40 days to gather the information Moses is seeking. Although the land is relatively small (150 miles long and 60 miles wide) it is home to several people groups. The Amalakites are living in the Negev. The Canaanites were occupying the coastline. The Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites are living in the hill country. In Hebron they encounter the descendents of Anak who are identified as “giants” (Num. 13:32), but on the whole, all of the residents in the Promised Land look bigger, stronger and foreboding. The cities alone, with their 25 foot high and 20 feet thick walls were the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and the spies (with the exception of 2) nix the idea of going into the land completely.
How quickly the people seem to have forgotten their miraculous exit from Egypt. It hasn’t been that long since they left. Yet even with God’s presence evident by the pillar of cloud in the day and the pillar of fire at night, the Israelites are uncertain that God will be with them as they move forward. The negative opinions of 10 men turn their hearts from obedience to rebellion and the consequences are tragic. The report at first gives cause for faith- the land is everything God said it would be. But talk of giants and walled cities causes fear to rear its ugly head and the result is 40 years of wandering until that faithless generation died off. Faith requires that we not listen to the negative reports around us and trusting that God is faithful to fulfill every promise He’s made (Dt. 7:7-9; 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:1-11; 1 Th. 5:24). How many times have you “wandered through the wilderness” when you did not want to take God at His word (Ps. 95:6-11)?
Michael Davis O’Donnell, Robert Dale Draper, LeRoy Tafoya, Kelton Rena Turner, Dwaine McGriff, Marlin Eversgerd, William T. Perkins Jr., Danny G. Marshall, Tom Gonzales, and Stan King were not part of the rebellious nation that refused to venture out in faith and conquer a land promised to them by God. They did however believe in serving our country and in the process gave their lives for it.* For their ultimate sacrifice their names have been engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D. C. What kind of list would your name be written on today? Would you be one of the 10 spies whose negative attitude dissuades a brother or sister from taking a step of faith? Or would yours fall beneath Joshua’s and Caleb’s- a faithful servant like the men and women whose names are inscribed on the Wall in D.C. (1 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 3:12-19; 11:1-3; Js. 1:2-4)? Which list do you want to be on?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 2/19/2017
* You can read more about them at http://thewall-usa.com/names.asp