When first we enter the picture of Israel’s 12 spies, commanded by God and chosen by Moses, we enter a majority mindset of intimidation, inferiority, and faithlessness. According to scripture, the ten spies who brought an evil report declared, “we are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:31). Continuing further, scripture expresses that they “brought up an evil report” saying, “The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants therefore; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. 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” (13:32-33).
In part, some of the response given by the ten spies makes sense in light of the commandment of God found in Numbers 33 where God declares, “When ye are passed over Jordan in to the land of Canaan; then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places. And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein” (33:5-53). However, though God promises them possession of the land, if they do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, then the those who they let remain will become a “briar in the eye” and a thorn in the side.” Even more, “it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them” (vs. 56).
This was not a generation that was just supposed to move into Canaan, fly under the radar, and enjoy the blessings and providence of God. Instead, they recognized that long before they truly realized their promise they were going to have to undergo a tremendous military campaign to uproot, dispossess, and route the inhabitants of Canaan. This was a daunting task for a group of former slaves! Digress for a moment and one quickly realizes that God recognized this dynamic was present among His people.
Exodus 13:17 (KJV)
17 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:
It is kind of interesting when considering their immediate escape from Egypt that God diverted their path from the shorter route for the reason of: “peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.” They had yet to cross the Reed Sea, and thus, the option to run and return still remained. However, why then would God command Moses to send spies into Canaan when the inhabitants of Canaan made the inhabitants of the land of Philistines look like a trivial conflict? But that’s not it! Doesn’t Israel engage in conflict of battle in Exodus 17 with the Bedouin group of Amalek? Yet, after that sudden and swift victory, nothing is said about returning to Egypt or the possibility of greater conflict to come. Was it perhaps because both the conflict and the victory were so swift?
Rashi, when weighing in on the matter, states, “For example the war of ‘and the Amalekites and the Canaanites came down’ (Numbers 14:45), Had they traveled the straight way they would have returned [to Egypt]. Now, if when He led them by a round-about way they nevertheless said ‘ Let us appoint a leader and we will return to Egypt.’ (Numbers 14:4) had they gone on a straight way certainly [they would have returned to Egypt].”
Interpreting Rashi can sometimes (most times) be the most complex and unsuccessful task. However, it would appear that Rashi is making a unique case. If God had brought them the “straight way” they would have for sure returned to Egypt when the saw war. Yet, even by taking them the “round-about way” they still arrived at a point to where the exclaimed, “let us appoint a leader so that we can return to Egypt.” In other words, the round-about way did not avoid the desire to return.
What is extremely important to recognize, especially in light of Numbers 14 and the foreknowledge of the battle of Amalek, is that it wasn’t so much “conflict” and “battle” that became the nemesis of the nation, but rather, the perception of what was to come! Look back at the battle with Amalek. They didn’t have time to mentally prepare with Amalek! They attack was sudden and the victory was sudden. When all was said and done, they had no mindset to return to Egypt because they were victors! The problem arose with the nation of Israel when they had time to mentally process “FUTURE struggles!” It’s like the child that thinks he is going to the doctor to have some fun little examination and suddenly, in the course of that examination, he is unexpectedly stuck by a needle and vaccinated. The suddenness and unexpectedness of the pain is quickly diminished as a roll of stickers, toys, or some other unique reward is displayed. Turn that around, the child knows before he ever leaves the house that he is going to get a shot…he is clinging to the frame of the front door. If he discovers it on the way to the doctor…he’s screaming, crying, and begging to go back home! This is the problem with Israel!
Numbers 14:1-4 (KJV)
1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
3 And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
How many battles have been lost and a shot was never fired? How many times have we “backed up” and fled from conflict because our mind already lost the war? One cannot separate morale from the mind! Preparation can sometimes prove fatal! This was the case with Israel. It is obvious that the “way of the land the Philistines” was a region filled with potential violence, conflict, and battles. “Lest they see war and return to Egypt,” was God’s reasoning. He never specifically said, “lest they fight, engage in battle, or find themselves in great conflict with the inhabitants of that regions.”
There is something to be said of just finding yourself in the midst of conflict and the “fight or die” spirit is birthed within! Those moments of sheer panic, where you wish you could run, but cannot run and must engage with the enemy! That was, in a sense, what the encounter with Amalek was like. It was sudden, unprepared for, and over before it seemed to have begun! Israel, for all intensive purposes was their own worse nightmare!
So, when the report of the ten spies began to settle in the ears of the people and the knowledge of what was expected of them began to connect, Canaan defeated Israel without ever lifting a finger in opposition. The perception of the struggle was too great. Staring at the the reward of the land that had been carried in upon the shoulders of men, the people could not summon the courage to go forward. They could not summon the strength to see the bigger picture. Instead, summing up the mental defeat that had occurred, the spies that brought an evil report declared,
Numbers 13:33 (KJV)
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.
Notice…as they began to observe the size of their future task they began to diminish themselves. Those ten spies had already lost the battle by the time they had returned. They “saw war” whereas Caleb and Joshua “saw victory.” Isn’t it amazing how perception can determine outcome in mere seconds? This was the primary dynamic issue… “lest they see war,” God said. Sadly…they indeed saw war and decided in that moment…we can’t do it.
In our own sight we became grasshoppers. Think about this. I have observed “small” boys when I was growing up that were surrounded by several larger bullies. However, those larger boys were unsure of how to proceed based upon the confidence, swagger, and seeming nonchalant attitude of the little boy. Suddenly, the size of the “bigger” boys didn’t seem to serve them such an advantage. In their mind, something wasn’t right. Shouldn’t the little boy be cowering in fear? Isn’t that the appropriate response?
Sure! That is certainly the expected response! Wouldn’t you say that Goliath was “used” to the response Saul and his army gave? Sure he was! Goliath was used to his foes cowering before him, unwilling to engage, and unsure of what to do. Saul stood head and shoulders above his own people, yet he cowered beneath the shadow of a perceived giant! Why do you think scripture goes through such detail to describe Goliath? Scripture is explaining what Israel “SAW.”
1 Samuel 17:4-7 (KJV)
4 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
5 And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
6 And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.
7 And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.
An impressive figure! One cannot deny what Goliath was! He was big, strong, mighty, and seemingly beyond the reach of anyone within Saul’s army. Who could fight against Goliath? However, this is where I want to pose the question, “what does a grasshopper and a giant have in common?” Well, at face value…nothing! They are the opposite of one another! One is tiny while the other is big! But wait…that in itself answers the question. Both share one thing in common: PERECEPTION! Both the giant and the grasshopper have their own perception of the world around them. To the giant…everything and everyone is little, and there is very little, if anything, that the giant needs to fear. In contrast, the grasshopper lives in “small world.” Stealth becomes his means of survival. However, though I digress, a giant can perceive himself a grasshopper and a grasshopper a giant. Often times, it all depends upon upbringing!
This is why it is CRUCIAL that parents understand the power of their words and attitude towards their children. We shape our children’s perception by our trust, confidence, and attitude toward them. If a parent does nothing but “belittle” his children, then he will shape a grasshopper’s perception in them. This is a great digression in the subject matter of this treatise, but one must be careful of the environment that shapes our children. I have preached in many “defeated” churches and have come to the realization that if anything is ever going to change the dynamics of the church someone is going to have to first CHANGE the perception of the people.
Moving forward, let me make this clear: a giant’s perception of the grasshopper can become his downfall!
1 Samuel 17:42 (KJV)
42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
Goliath’s perception became his downfall! A youth, ruddy, and of fair countenance. Bah! Just a soft kid that knows nothing of war! Indeed, pride came before his fall. However, it was a pride based upon his perception. His perception had created a platform of false security. Too often this happens with “giants” when a grasshopper shows up with a mindset that goes beyond “self perception” to “God’s dimension.” Hey, Bethlehem-Ephratah… “though thou be little”…yeah, that’s where the Lion of the Tribe of Judah will emerge.
Everything rises and falls on perception…this is one thing that truly changes in the space of 40 years. As we continue we will notice Rahab’s word to Joshua’s spies…the giant fears the grasshopper.
Everything rises and falls on PERCEPTION…