The whole account of Numbers 13 and 14 of the people spying out the land, and then choosing fear over faith, captivates me. Every time I read it I find more rich gems about faith, and fear, and trust in it. Today I was glancing through it and a verse I know I have read many times jumped out at me like it never has before. It is Numbers 14:36–37 and it comes right after the Lord told Moses and Aaron that all who were twenty years and older (except Joshua and Caleb) will fall in the wilderness over the forty years and not see the promised land. It says, “And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land—the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the Lord.”
Wow! That really made me sit up and re-read it. What had these men done? The whole congregation would wander out their days in the wilderness because they had made the choice to not believe God, to be in fear and not faith, and to grumble and complain . . . but these men seemed to pay an extra hard price. What was their special “sin”? They brought the report that caused the people to fall in to fear.
Now, Joshua and Caleb saw the same land they saw, and gave the same report of bounty and of the enemy . . . but the difference came after that. Of the ten spies singled out here Numbers 13:31–33 says, “Then the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.’ So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’ ”
What of Joshua and Caleb? What was their response that “earned” them the favor of seeing the promised land? Numbers 14:6–9 says: And Joshua . . . and Caleb . . . tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Prior to that, in Numbers 13:30, Caleb had spoken the words that caused the other ten to rebut him when he said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
The result? The people chose fear and grumbling over faith, and God would go so far as to say they didn’t believe in Him! That would be a shocking statement to a people who would absolutely say they believe in God and who would see a difference between believing in Him, and believing Him (He had promised them the land) . . . it appears God doesn’t see that difference.
So, the people would wander and perish over the years in the wilderness . . . but of those ten, the ones whose words were words of fear and not faith, the ones whose words brought out the unbelief and fear in the others, there was stiff accountability. It makes me wonder, what is our responsibility for our words around those in whose lives God has given us influence? Are our words building up their faith and drawing their eyes to their great God, or are our words causing them to be in unbelief and grumbling? Do our words and expectations give more power to God, or to the enemy? Are they words of life and hope, or fear and pessimism? This isn’t about drumming up false encouragement and denying reality . . . it is about embracing true reality, in faith, and not letting sight define it. It is about God and His Word and His promises and His power being the most powerful influence on our expectations and words, and not the world and its “wisdom” and its predictions and its circumstances. We have the God who speaks out stars that are so big they would swallow our Sun and all the planets out to near Saturn (and all the space in between those planets). He is our God! Do our words reflect it? What are they bringing out in those we influence? It is a thought worth asking the Holy Spirit about, because our words have power and they have influence and God does listen to them.