What changed? This question, along with so many others, began to reverberate in my mind as I read through the account of Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. What do I mean by this question? Well, for starters, lets compare two reports that involve the same land, the same inhabitants, and the same nation, yet broken up by forty years of wilderness wandering.
Numbers 13:31-33 (KJV)
31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
Joshua 2:23-24 (KJV)
23 So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them:
24 And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.
Two different accounts separated by roughly 40 years. While we know that two of the spied sent by Moses claimed a report of “We can do this through God,” it is incredible how the other men declare a total diminished viewpoint of God’s authority and their ability to seize the promises of God. Yet, turning to the account of Joshua’s sending of the two spies one is immediately impressed by the stark differences between the two.
According to the spies’ report to Joshua, “all the inhabits of the country do faint because of us!” Contrast to the “evil report” given to Moses many years’ prior, “we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” So again, what changed? How does forty years, two spies, a strengthened Canaan, and a new leadership so effectively see a change of heart in the nation of Israel?
To better grasp this issue we should begin by reviewing the first attempt at “spying out the land.”
Numbers 13:1-3 (KJV)
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.
3 And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.
First off, contrary to the opinions touted by many, God commanded that Moses send men into Canaan to “search the land.” God also ensured that each man sent was a ruler among each tribe. Why? God wanted men of influence whose words would carry great weight when they returned. This serves as an important point in the narrative and one that translates to today. It was Moses’ job to choose rulers out of each tribe. I would submit that it is important who we choose today when it comes to “overtaking the land that God has promised us!”
Were some of those men already inclined toward a mindset of timidity, fear, or negativity? It would behoove leaders that seek to cast a vision of success to carefully choose the platform the vision will be built upon. There is no room for negativity in the boardroom of evangelistic vision. We do not need men closer to carnal realities but men who are further away! We need to surround ourselves, not with “yes” men, but with men that are willing to take a chance on God’s Word! We need to surround ourselves with men who do not scare easily.
Imagine if those ten men would have been like Gideon’s remaining 300! What if they had been like Abraham’s 318 trained servants of his own household? What if those men would have had the disposition of David who stood appalled at the “uncircumcised Philistine” that opposed the mighty God of Israel? What about men like David’s mighty men, willing to lose life and limb to bring their leader a drink from a well surrounded by enemy lines?
I’ll submit, without question, that if the men chosen had the resolve of Naboth, the unyielding stand of Shammah, or the dedicated passion of Phineas…forty years would have reflected barley and abundance instead of wilderness and grave-sites.
Instead, how quickly the word of negativity can overwhelm the majority and drown out the isolated cries of positivity and vision. Let this question hang at the edge of your peripheral… “Did Moses choose wisely?”
Numbers 13:17-20 (KJV)
17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:
18 And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many;
19 And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds;
20 And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.
Interesting how God knows the right time to send spies into the land destined to become the nation of Israel’s. Notice, “now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.” It seems that God will often cast the abundance of the promise alongside the opposition to that promise. In other words, those spies had to weigh the reward with the rival. That will preach I think! The Reward and the Rival.
How often it is that men will focus on the rival instead of the reward! Look at the story of David and Goliath. We have all been guilty when it comes to the story! We focus on Goliath, just like all the other warriors (and king) shaking in their tents. However, what is the emphasis of the story? Is it Goliath? I think not! It’s what stands behind Goliath! It is where the Philistines have encamped that is the prize! Still not convinced? Let’s look…
1 Samuel 17:1-3 (KJV)
1 Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.
2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.
3 And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
Did you get it yet? Yes? No? Well, look closely at verse one. Where were the Philistines gathered? Where did they pitch their tents? Yes! They were “gathered together at Shochoh.” What’s the big deal with Shochoh? It belonged to Judah! There you go! We get so caught up with the descriptive narrative of Goliath, his armor, his weapons, his stature, his terrible strength…but we fail to see the “bean patch” worth fighting for!
What’s the deal with David? Why is David the man? Well, look backwards to the encounter between Saul and David just prior…
1 Samuel 17:32-37 (KJV)
32 And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
33 And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.
34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.
36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
37 David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.
David was a young man that was not willing to lose one lamb, regardless of the rival that opposed him! How then could David allow the Philistines to just sit on a parcel of land, purchased with the blood of men past, that belonged to Judah? You see, that is the key. Those are the men we need to lead the charge! Men that are unwilling to yield ANY ground! Men who are not distracted by the RIVAL but focused on the REWARD!
Yet, that is the problem you get when a Benjamite (Saul) shows up to fight. You get a man that doesn’t grasp the “bigger picture.” Ask yourself this question… “would Saul have been more inclined to fight if that position had belonged to his own tribe?” It is amazing what men will fight for…and what men will not fight for. So often the visionless are men who cannot see beyond the perceptions of “self.” Take this a little further, it is interesting that the Hebrew word David used for “defied” means “reproach” but it comes from a root which means to “expose.”
In other words, if I can extrapolate a bit, David recognizes the vulnerability of the nation as a whole. That one man named Goliath has effectively exposed the character of the nation. They have become a timid, defeated, and faithless people! Goliath was not prepared for a young lad whose character and vision exceeded the valley of despair everyone else was in!
So, turn back to the story of Moses and the spies. Could he have chosen better? I’ll leave that in your court…part two coming soon.