“Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, ‘Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!’ But the men who had gone up with him responded, ‘We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!’” (Numbers 13:30-31, Christian Standard Bible).
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose whom to believe? Different voices, different opinions. But who is right? Or what if it’s many voices against one or two voices? Do you go with the majority? After all, the majority is no doubt right. Right?
The Forty Day Mission
Numbers 13 describes just such a situation. After the Israelites departed Egypt and saw many miracles by the Lord, they are now poised to enter the land of promise. Everything they looked forward to is right before them, their journey nearly over. To get a feel for what lay ahead, Moses sends out twelve responsible men, one from each tribe of Israel, to bring back a report. This would help him determine their strategy for conquering the land God had promised. After a forty-day undercover fact-finding mission crossing many miles, the men have returned.
The vote is ten to two against going forward. The only two yes votes are Joshua and Caleb.
Ten say, “We can’t do it. They’re strong. They’re big. All of them are giants! We’re just like grasshoppers in their sight.”
Two say, “It’s a great land. It’s everything we need. We can do it! Let’s start now.”
The people say, “Ok, that’s it. We’re done with this. Let’s head back to Egypt.”
Imagine the voices, the confusion, the anger. Did anyone in the crowd stop to ask, “What does God say?” Did anyone examine the report, looking for facts instead of emotion and crowd reaction? I’m not sure why the ten men brought back the report they did. Fear? Insecurity? Lack of understanding? Apathy? They were apparently good men, leaders in their tribe, yet they allowed something to hinder their faith in God. And the crowd followed their lead.
Verse 32 calls the report of the ten an “evil report.” Their negative words held far-reaching consequences as God left the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day of their scouting mission. None of that generation survived except Joshua and Caleb.
The children of Israel misunderstood their enemy. It wasn’t the inhabitants of Canaan. Their true enemy was internal—their lack of faith in God. They listened to the voices of doubt and forgot the strength of their God.
There are many lessons to be learned from this story. Perhaps one of the most important we need to understand is the majority is not always right. Look behind the words and seek the truth. Don’t be afraid to stand up to the crowd if God is in the situation. Joshua and Caleb did.
Prayer: Lord, give me the resolve to stand for what is right rather than following the crowd in a wrong direction. Give me the wisdom to discern the right way to go and help me to never doubt Your power and strength. Give me the courage to always do what You would have me do.
I believe that the 10 leaders of Israel, that brought back the negative report, still had a slave man’s mentality. Despite the miracles they witnessed in Egypt and in the desert, they were not convinced that God was on their side. They were still in the mind set that what had taken place was not because God loved them, but because God was angry at the Egyptians. They lacked understanding. Their hearts were hardened by lack of love that they found it hard to believe.