Bible Studies in Israel’s Wilderness Wanderings
Stop looking at the giants!
By Fraser Gordon
We will continue on in our study of Israel's journey through the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan; there are lots of really good pictures there. Last time we looked at the Amalekites. Remember the story when Moses had to stand on the hill with his arms up in the air and we looked at all the wonderful types and pictures that there were in that and how the Amalekites are a type in scripture of the flesh. They were the first nation to attack Israel when they journeyed out from Egypt. They didn't play by the rules. They attacked from the rear and they knocked off all the stragglers who were tired and weary. And we looked at how victory over the Amalekites was a victory that can only be received. It didn't matter how strong Joshua was, he was out there with the sword, but victory over the Amalekites and victory over the flesh is something that is God given and can only be received; it was when Moses was in a position of worship and of surrender that the victory was won. Today we are going to jump forward a little bit and continue on. The law was given to them as a nation and the whole purpose of God in bringing them out of Egypt was to bring them in to the land of Canaan- the land of blessing; His inheritance for a redeemed people. Canaan is not a picture of heaven. It is a picture of the fullness of God's blessing to Israel as a nation and a picture of His fullness for us. There are no wars to be fought in heaven, but there were many in Canaan when they had to go in and possess all that God had for them. So we will pick up the story in Numbers chapter 13.
12 good spies... A godly idea?
Num 13:1-3 The LORD said to Moses, (2) Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders. (3) So at the LORD's command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.
Numbers 13:1-3 Israel arrives at Kadesh Barnea, which becomes a pivotal place for the nation. It is from there that the 12 spies were sent out. Now if that was all the scripture which you read concerning this, then you would think that this was God’s idea, but in Deuteronomy 1:19-23 we see that it was not. It is always a good plan to look at the cross references in the scripture because we see here that when Moses spoke to the people the sending of the spies didn’t originate with God. There is a fuller picture of what actually went on.
Deu 1:19-23 Then, as the LORD our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful desert that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea. (20) Then I said to you, "You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. (21) See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (22) Then all of you came to me and said, "Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to." (23) The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe.
In Deuteronomy you see, from Moses own recollection of this passage it wasn't just God's directive to send out the spies. Moses was telling them “look you are to go into the land which is God's inheritance for you.” “God has already told you that from the time you came out of Egypt you are to go into the land.” “It is a land that He has prepared for you”. When Moses told this to the people they came back to him with their own plan. They said “let us send spies out to actually see which way to go”. They were not ready to trust God one hundred percent and so they came up with this idea, “let's send spies in.” So in Numbers 13, we see that God agreed with what Moses asked on behalf of the people.
Now this happens in other parts of Scripture too. Do you remember when Samuel went before God, who was Israel’s King, that he said to the Lord that the people had asked to have a king like the other nations? Samuel didn't want to do this because he didn't want Israel to be like the other nations who had a king. God was supposed to be their King. He was supposed to be their Ruler. He was supposed to be their Head. Samuel had this out with God and God said “Look, do what they ask, they are not rejecting you, but rejecting Me.” So of course, Israel got a king in Saul. So you see the same principle. The origin may not be in God, but He sometimes allows this for His own purposes. They didn't reject him they rejected God. In the same way here it was God's plan for them to go on into the land of Canaan. It was their job to actually go in and possess the land, but they were not quite ready. So in Deuteronomy God said to Moses “send in the spies.”
An initial glowing report!
Num 13:17-27 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, "Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. (18) See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. (19) What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? (20) How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land." (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.) (21) So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. (22) They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) (23) When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. (24) That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. (25) At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. (26) They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. (27) They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.
Here you see that from Moses' directions they had a pretty complete package from which to spy out the land; if the people were strong or weak, to cities, to the land and its produce - all of these types of things. So they got a pretty good view of things, and we read that they returned from spying out the land after 40 days. We know that the number 40 in scripture stands for trial and testing. 40 days here, 40 years in the wilderness, 40 days rain with Noah, 40 days temptation of Christ, 40 is always a picture of testing or trial. So when they came back to Moses, they brought in a report but it came in two parts.
You can imagine the nation... They have been waiting---knowing that this is God's inheritance for them, this is their possession; what are our brethren going to say to us and what are they going to bring out for us to see? They bring back a large cluster of grapes. I have a pretty good grape vine at home but I have never seen a cluster that took two men to carry it between poles. You can fit my clusters in one hand!
So the first thing that they did as part of their testimony was that they testified that God was true and that His word was true. He had told them when they came out of Egypt “I am sending you to a land that flows with abundance.” It flows with milk and honey. It is a land of blessing and they find it to be exactly what God had said. He had already gone in before them and spied out the land, so there was no need really for the spies to go in. So the first part of their report was that God was actually true, it is a land that has abundance, it is a land of blessing, and it is a land that is incredibly fruitful. God is true. What He says is true. But the second part of their report is very different. In verse 28 you get the word “nevertheless” or it could be “but”
But here comes the but...
Num 13:28-33 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. (29) The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan." (30) Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." (31) But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." (32) And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. (33) We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
Nevertheless, despite God's word being true, that it was a land of blessing, there was this ‘but’. Way back when they wanted to send out the spies that seed of unbelief and departure from fully trusting in God was starting to grow and you see the outworking of it here. They took their eyes off God, and onto the problems which they had seen. Now the difficulties took preeminence, and they brought back a bad report. It is like this when unbelief starts to grow in our hearts and fear begins to dominate. The things that we notice are what? It’s all the little hindrances, all the little problems, and God is completely shut out. They said, ‘yes the land is what God said it would be.’ Nevertheless… then there is this list of things that they were afraid of. Whenever r we depart from a simple trust in Christ fear and unbelief just rush in. The smallest of problems can become mountains in our thinking. If ever you are afraid of a situation, it is amazing the excuses you can find not to do something. These things just spring up and all of a sudden, they dominate our thinking, and God is pushed right into the background. He is nowhere to be seen. Unbelief works from the difficulties toward God and faith works from God towards the difficulties. So they had this word “nevertheless.” All that they can see now is not that God is faithful and that His word is true, it is “nevertheless.” All of these things stand in the way, so we are unable to go forward because we are not willing to believe that God, in response to our faith is willing to step in. So they brought back a bad report and said “Moreover, the descendants of Anak were there.” Here they are confronted by something that they are really afraid of; a race of giants!
A wee trip back in time...
Way back in Noah's time, the scripture says that “the sons of God came and had relations with the daughters of men. The term ‘sons of God’ means “fallen angels” in this case, and they produced a race called the “nephilim” who were men of renown. It talks about “mighty men” being on the earth in those days. This is an attempt by Satan to corrupt humanity, or the seed of woman, through fallen angels having relations with women who produced a half breed called the “nephilim.” Men that were born from this union had almost super human abilities. And part of the reason for the flood was to wipe out that corrupted seed of woman from the earth. Genesis 6 talks about this happening ‘afterwards’ as well, meaning it was going to be replayed again. So here you have a hindrance to the people coming into the land, a satanic principle in the sons of Anak. When you look through the descendants of Anak, you see that Goliath was a descendent of him. Anak had three sons and they all had distinctive qualities; they were men of extreme height and strength, and all had six fingers and six toes. So when Israel had to go into the land they were confronted by these giants who really frightened them. It is interesting that as far as I can understand, Anak only had three sons and again, from what I can understand, Israel had something like 600,000 soldiers. So when you look at that ratio you think, well there was not much to be afraid of, but in their minds it became a massive hindrance to prevent them entering into the land. Later on it is Caleb that actually goes up into Hebron and gets rid of these giants, and David destroyed Goliath later still. If they had believed God they should have just gone on in because the same faith that brought them out of Egypt was the same faith that was needed to walk into Canaan.
But they were not ready to trust God. For us it is exactly the same. What are the hindrances to us? There are always going to be difficulties, there are always going to be problems. There is always going to be satanic opposition to us going on into all that God has for us. There will always be an amount of that because we have enemies within and without that try to hinder us. If they had only just believed God they could have stepped on in, but instead, what dominated them was the “nevertheless.” The cities are big, the people are strong, all of these things that are against us. They were not allowing God to work on their behalf, and it is exactly the same for us. We need to be fully surrendered to God and we need to be ready to allow Him to work on our behalf, and not to allow fear to dominate our lives. It is true that most of the things which make us fearful don’t actually come to pass.
Afraid of a frightened enemy?
Let’s look at Joshua chapter 2 and I will show you that what they were afraid of was something that they actually shouldn't have been. Now Joshua sent spies into the city of Jericho and when they got there they found Rahab, the gentile woman who comes to faith in Jehovah, and hides the spies from their enemies in her roof.
Jos 2:7-11 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut. (8) Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof (9) and said to them, "I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. (10) We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. (11) When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
They learn from Rahab that the people of Jericho are afraid of Israel because they had heard of all the mighty things that God had done for them on their way up from Egypt. The thing that interests me here is that Rahab said “As soon as we heard these things our hearts melted and there remained no more courage in anyone because of you.” So here they are, afraid to go in, but of course, these problems and fears had dominated their thinking. They didn't know that the people in the land were afraid of them but they were. It is exactly the same for us, the enemy and the fears that we have within have already been defeated. From the very moment that you and I received Christ into our lives a greater power came into us. Christ has to be the ruler in our lives. When I read that, I thought, yes that is so true. A lot of things that we are afraid of will come to nothing. But if we can only take God in the simplicity of faith and step forward into the things that we are afraid of, we will find that God works on our behalf. It is just a simple, child like trust in Him to work on our behalf and to do something for us. But we must take a step forward. If we major on the hindrances, then unbelief comes in and it is followed by fear and we are defeated, like the nation of Israel. Kadesh Barnea is the place where they failed and wandered in the wilderness for forty more years as a consequence, but it is from this same place that they come to forty years later to face the same problem again. The things that we are afraid of will just keep coming around and we will have to face them sooner or later. Kadesh Barnea is a place of failure but it also became a place of victory.
Two men of faith out of twelve!
Let's go back to Numbers; out of the twelve spies that were sent in, there are two that saw all the same things as the others but they reacted differently. The first is Caleb in Numbers 13 verse 30:
Num 13:30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."
Caleb, straight away says “let's go”. “Let's get into it.” God has given us this land and we are able to do this. He was not concerned with the things that could actually hinder. His faith was in the fact that God had said this was their land, so ‘let us go up, we are able to do this.’ He starts with God and goes toward the difficulties and that is the difference. Unbelief always starts with the difficulties and the problems and goes toward God, but faith starts with God and moves from Him toward the problem.
Num 14:6-9 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes (7) and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. (8) If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. (9) Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."
The second person was Joshua who says “look, if God delights in us and has given us this land, it's ours, let's go, only do not rebel or fear.” Rebelling and fear are really the heart of unbelief. Unbelief starts foremost with a rebellion against God and that is just a failure to really trust Him. And when that happens, fear comes in. You rebel, you fear and then you have what is called unbelief. ‘Don't rebel against the Lord,’ Joshua said, ‘or fear the people of the land for they are our bread’. Joshua recognized that because God was giving Israel the land the inhabitants had no protection. This is exactly what Rahab said “from the time that we heard of what the Lord God had done for you, our hearts melted and we were afraid of you.” What was Israel’s response? We are told that the entire congregation wanted to stone them with stones. Why? Because they believed that what God said was true. .I used to do a lot of short term mission work and there was always a real theme within mission work to spy out the land. It was one of the terms that were always used. After looking at this I have been thinking a bit differently about spying out the land! So the seeds of unbelief started right back when they decided to send the spies into the land. And then when two men that do trust God say “let's go” they want to stone them. The old Bob Dylan song, ‘you have either got faith, or you've got unbelief, there ain’t no middle ground’ is true. All of us, all of the time are either saying to God “I love you and I trust You for this situation” or “get lost”. If you are failing to trust God in some way you are saying “I don't need you” and then you have unbelief. God is shut out of the situation, there is no middle ground, and it is one or the other.
The sin principle that is at war within us is that of Amalek, and as we saw in the previous study, God is going to be at war with it from generation to generation. It is not until we are fully redeemed and in heaven that this was will cease. But in all that we face here and now, no matter how big the giants seem, it comes back to a simple faith in God to meet a need that you can't meet yourself. He is the only One that can give you victory over fears and things that bring us down. It is a simple trust that God is able to take us on and take us in.
We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, but, like Israel, we also have a battle to fight. Yet “we do not war against flesh and blood”... our war is against “spiritual principles in heavenly places”. Our battle is also in the realm of faith and unbelief. Unbelief is not really an inability to understand, it is an unwillingness to trust God. It is not an intellectual problem but a lack of trust in Him. How big do your giants look? How big does your God look? Let us be like the minority (Caleb and Joshua) how were able to look past the ‘sons of Anak’ and see the awesome One who is for us!