Numbers 13 & 14. It’s finally time to enter the Promised Land…but will they actually go in?
Numbers 13 & 14. It’s finally time to enter the Promised Land…but will they actually go in?
“Papa’s Bible Stories” brings the Bible to life for your kids. For each episode, I pick a Bible story to talk to my very own kids about. The stories are entirely Bible-based, scripture is quoted at every opportunity, and the kids are always pointed to the Bible as the authority. And we’re not afraid of having a little fun too! It is my hope and prayer that your kids will be excited to explore God’s Word for themselves after hearing each and every episode. #bible #stories #kids #children #adventist #sda
Last we left the Israelites, they had just arrived at the edge of Canaan. It had been about 2 years since they’d left Egypt…and boy it had definitely been an eventful two years. All kinds of crazy things had happened to them. And I’m sure that as the Israelites got within sight of their final destination and realized that they were just about to close this chapter of their lives and begin a new one, that more than a few of the Israelites began to think about all the things that had happened along the way.
Hmm…let’s see. What were some things that had happened to them along the way? Well…remember just after they’d left Egypt and the Egyptian army had trapped them against the sea, and then they’d blamed Moses and told him that they were going to serve the Egyptians again…but then God saved them and opened the sea so that they could get away safely? And remember not too long after that in the Wilderness of Sin when they’d run out of food, and that they’d complained to Moses about how they missed all the amazing food they had in Egypt…but then God started giving them manna every morning? And remember not too long after that that they ran out of water, and they thought Moses was trying to get them killed…but then God saved them and provided water out of a rock? And who can forget about the Ten Commandments and whole Golden Calf incident! Then remember just after they’d left Sinai that they’d had a meat craving…and God even went ahead gave them quail?
And as the Israelites went through all the painful memories of the last few years, it would have been hard not to realized that they sure had made a lot of mistakes…and that ya know they needed to stop blaming Moses for all their problems and also needed to learn to trust God more. In fact they had majorly doubted God 9 times now…and as you kidzos know each time God had come through for them…providing for their needs and taking care of them. Moses had even been offered to abandon the troublesome Israelites and to start afresh with his own family…which he didn’t do because he didn’t want to abandon them. And as they arrived at the edge of the Promised Land…as they were just about to enter the destination of all their wants and dreams, and after having learned these lessons over and over again, no doubt the Israelites were confident that there was no way that they would make the same mistakes again. I mean…there was no way that they were going to test God a 10th time…would they? Well…we are about to find out.
So as the Israelites got close to the Promised Land it seems that they got a bit…antsy. You know the feeling when you are just at the end of a long trip how you just can’t wait to get there? Like…when you’ve been driving in the car all day long and we are just turning onto the very final street before you get there? Yah…that’s probably how the Israelites felt about right about now…they were just at the end of the longest and most detoured trip ever. And so, to help their antsyness, the Israelites went to Moses and said, “Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.” (Deut. 1:22) So before they got to Canaan, the Israelites understandably wanted find out more about Canaan…more about this place they were going to live. How was the land? Was it flat or were there mountains? Were there forests or deserts? Was the land good for growing things or not? What kinds of things grew there? How many people lived there? Where did the people live and where were the cities? The Israelites were just overcome with curiosity and anticipation about their new home…so why not send some people ahead to take a look?
Well, Moses didn’t seem to mind the idea, and so Moses took their request to God…who also thought it was a good idea and even told them who to send. They were to send 12 men…one man from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. So, 12 men were picked…(which btw one these 12 men was Joshua whom we already saw in episode 28 when they were fighting with the Amalekites), and off they went. And the Bible says, “So they went up and spied out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob.” (13:21) And for 40 days (which is over a month) the 12 spies explored Canaan. They travelled all the way to the far north of Canaan, and then all the way back south to where the Israelites were camped. They checked out everything…the land, the people, the cities…and they even took some souvenirs – some pomegranates, figs, and a cluster of grapes (which BTW the grapes were so big that the spies had to one bunch on a pole supported by two men).
And as the 12 men arrived back to their camp, they went straight to Moses and Aaron to give them the report. Now of course many of the Israelites saw them coming, and because everyone just couldn’t wait to hear about the land…all the Israelites came and gathered around the spies to hear what they had to say. And at first, the news seemed pretty good. And the spies said, “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” (13:27) And they pointed to the souvenirs they’d brought with them…especially the ginormous grape cluster. Well…this was great news! Really the promised land was everything that they’d hoped it would be! And no doubt everyone got super excited and they just couldn’t wait to get going!
But then the spies continued with their report, and said, “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. (29) The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.” (13:28-29) So, what the spies were saying is that even though the land was amazing…the people on the land were a big problem. The Amalekites they’d already run into on the way to Sinai…and they’d attacked the Israelites on sight…and the Amalekites were in the south…which meant that they would be the very first people they would run into as soon as they stepped foot in Canaan. But they weren’t the only ones…there were Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites too. And…the sons of Anak…who were known to be giants – monster people who were legendary fighters. And to top it all off, all these people lived in huge, well fortified cities. (Longer pause.)
Now, on hearing about these challenges, how do you kidzos think that the Israelites reacted? I mean…we already talked about all the crazy stuff that the Israelites had run into over the last few years…they’d seen some crazy stuff…things much crazier than this…and God had been there for them each time. God had even parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could walk through it on dry land! So of course the Israelites just brushed off these challenges like they were nothing…celebrated that they were going to the Promised Land…and excitedly started packing their things …right?
Well…no. No, as soon as the Israelites heard about these challenges, they got upset. And started thinking…what were they going to do? The Promised Land was filled with giants who lived in fortresses! It was a death trap! How could they even think about going into the Promised Land now? Now, 2 of the 12 spies (Joshua and another man named Caleb) noticed that the Israelites were getting upset…and that they were really focusing on these challenges. I mean, yes there were challenges…and they weren’t small challenges…but hadn’t they heard the first part about how amazing the land was? Had everyone already forgotten that they could trust God, and that God would take care of them? And so, Caleb spoke up and tried to get things moving in the right direction. And he said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (13:30)
But, seeing what Caleb was trying to do, the other 10 spies immediately tried to shut him down and said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And then they exaggerated the challenges, and said, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. (33) There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (13:31-32) So…all of a sudden we went from a land flowing with milk and honey to a land that “devours its inhabitants”? And all of a sudden all the men in Canaan are “men of great stature”? And all of a sudden the giants were so huge that they were like the size of “grasshoppers” to them? The 10 spies were obviously exaggerating and even changing their story. But despite the obvious exaggerations and contradictions, and despite Caleb’s positive encouragement, the Israelites decided to listen to the bad report of the 10 spies. And the Bible says that, “all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried.” (14:1) The Israelites were completely devastated and the whole camp began to cry. And the Bible tells us that they cried all night long. (Longer pause.)
The next morning, when the Israelites woke up, they had to decide what they were going to do. They did have a few options. Even though they were upset and discouraged…they could still move forward…maybe just with a bad attitude. Or maybe they’d just think about spending a little more time at the edge of the Promised Land to better prepare themselves. But no…the Israelites immediately went back to the only other thing that they seemed to ever be able to consider…and you guessed it – they wanted to go back to Egypt. And so the Israelites went to Moses and Aaron and said, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! (3) Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (14:2-3) And then they turned to each other and started deciding who should be the leader to replace Moses and to take them back to Egypt.
Now Moses and Aaron looked at what the Israelites were doing and realized that the Israelites were making a horrible mistake. Actually of all the mistakes that the Israelites had made up to this point, this one was probably the worst. Going to the Promised Land had been the whole point of freeing the Israelites from the Egyptians in the first place. The Israelites inheriting the Promised Land was what God had promised to Abraham all those years ago. The Tabernacle, the sanctuary services, and the priesthood were given to them assuming they would be a separate people in the Promised Land. And let’s not forget that God had made a covenant with the Israelites that they would be His people and that through them all the people of the earth would be saved. So not only were the Israelites having a criminal lack of faith in God, but also they were rebelling against God and getting in the way of God’s plan to save mankind. The incredible insanity of what the Israelites were doing overwhelmed Moses and Aaron. They couldn’t believe this was happening and they had no idea what to do. And the Bible says that they, “fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.” (14:5)
Now Joshua and Caleb also realized that the Israelites were making a horrible mistake. And the Bible says that they tore their clothes (which back then was a way of saying that you were really upset) and then tried one more time to change their minds…to focus on the good part of the report and to trust that God would take care of the rest. And they said, “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. (8) If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey.' (9) Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.” (14:7-9). But it was too late…the Israelites were now beyond reason. And all that Joshua and Caleb managed to do was to make the Israelites angry. And the Bible says that the Israelites picked up stones to stone them to death.
Now, no sooner had the Israelites picked up the stones that they immediately dropped them. Because the Bible says that, “the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting.” (14:10) A flaming light all of a sudden appeared in the tabernacle. And all the Israelites were immediately quiet…this sign from God seemed to shake the Israelites out of their anger. And Moses went over to the tabernacle to speak to God. And God said to Moses, “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? (12) I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (14:11-12) By disobeying God’s command to go into the Promised Land, and by doubting God despite having so many reasons to trust Him…the Israelites had committed a horrible sin. It was just as bad as when they had worshipped the golden calf. And God’s punishment was that they should all be killed.
But…just like with the golden calf, Moses would not abandon the Israelites. Again Moses plead for the Israelites using many of the same reasons he’d used last time. And he asked God to forgive the Israelites, saying, “Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” (14:19) And amazingly, God did forgive the Israelites, and God said to Moses, “I have pardoned, according to your word; (21) but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD— (22) because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, (23) they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.” (14:20-23) So even though God was forgiving the Israelites, there were still going to be consequences. The Israelites had shown so much disbelief in God that He just couldn’t bring these Israelites into the Promised Land…it was just a recipe for more trouble. So instead, God would delay his promise and would give it to the next generation of Israelites…to the children of the Israelites who were rebelling against God on that day.
And God gave a message to Moses and Aaron to pass along to the Israelites, and He said, “As I live…just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: (29) The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. (30) Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. (31) But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.” (14:28-31) “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. (35) I the LORD have spoken this.” (14:34-35) So the consequence of their disobedience and lack of faith was that the Israelites would be stuck outside the Promised Land for forty years, and would wonder in the wilderness until everyone who was 20 years or older as of today had died. God’s promise to Abraham would be fulfilled…it would just be fulfilled 40 years later than the original plan. And as for the 10 spies who brought a bad report to the Israelites, the Bible says, “those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD.” (14:37)
Now since the Israelites hadn’t wanted to go into the Promised Land anyways, this punishment should have been good news. I mean, 5 minutes ago they had just about killed Joshua and Caleb for even suggesting that they go into the Promised Land. So obviously they were happy about this…right? Well actually…no! As soon as Moses and Aaron had given them the message from God, the Bible says that they, “mourned greatly.” (14:39) They were crying again. Just the night before, they’d been crying because they didn’t want to go into the Promised Land, and now they were crying because they couldn’t go into the Promised Land. Crazy!!
Somehow, as soon as the Promised Land was taken away from them, they remembered just how much they’d been looking forward to it. So what did they do? Well…the next morning, the Israelites got up and decided that they were going to go into the Promised Land anyways. Oh boy. There was a group of Amalekites and Canaanites close by at the top of a mountain blocking their way to get into Canaan. So, for the 2nd time in the last 24 hours the Israelites rebelled against God…and a huge group of Israelites headed up the mountain to fight the Amalekites and Canaanites. But…as you can imagine…it didn’t go very well for them. And the Bible says, “Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.” (14:45) God was not with them, and so the Israelites were defeated. The way to the Promised Land was blocked. And there was nothing left for the Israelites to do but fall back into the wilderness…and accept that this wilderness would be their grave. (Longer pause.)
Now, I want you kidzos to know that for Papa this is one of the craziest stories in the entire Bible. It’s hard to believe that the Israelites could get so many things wrong in such a short amount of time. And ya know…it’s sometimes very tempting to think that these Israelites were kinda crazy…like what in the world were they thinking! But ya know what…when we start thinking like that, we have to realize that we are in no position to judge the Israelites. Think about it this way, if tomorrow God asked you and your family to uproot everything and move to…some place where most people hate people who look like you and sometimes people do bad things to people who look like you…do you think that maybe you might be a little afraid…and maybe you might drag your heels a little bit on that one? Of course you would! And while you should know that if God was asking you to go there that God would protect you…but let’s be honest with ourselves…we would also be tempted to rebel against God…wouldn’t we? And that’s without any giants like what the Israelites would have faced. Now of course this comparison isn’t exactly fair…because we don’t have a pillar of cloud leading us and we haven’t seen God part any oceans. But let’s face it…most of us struggle to make any major changes in our lives when we feel God leading us somewhere…just like the Israelites.
As the Bible says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1) So let’s be careful not to judge the Israelites and instead learn from these stories what God would have us learn…that when God leads you somewhere that you can trust Him and that He will take care of you…and that we cannot let ourselves get overly upset by challenges and bad news…and that at some point continued lack of faith in God becomes a sin. Believe it or not, but each one of us will at some point have a Promised Land moment in our lives…a moment where we will have to move forward in God’s will despite the challenges. And when that moment comes, will you trust God and move forward…or will you doubt and get stuck in the wilderness? I hope and pray kidzos that you will move forward.