Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness
Lesson: Numbers 13.1, 2, 17, 18, 25-28
Read: Numbers 13.1—14.10a
And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.”
Numbers 13.27-28 (NRSV)
In Numbers, Chapter 10, the people of Israel departed from Mount Sinai. By Chapter 13 they were close enough to the Promised Land to send out spies. Twelve leaders, one from each tribe, covered the land with specific instructions to evaluate the towns, the land and the people (Numbers 13.17-20) and even to bring back samples of the produce. They came back with a cluster of grapes it required two men to carry! But, the inhabitants of Canaan were formidable. There were two reports. Joshua and Caleb said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” The other ten leaders said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13.30-31). Before the whole camp could hear both sides, those ten brought their unfavorable report to the people (v. 32). The congregation wept and cried out against Moses and Aaron, even suggesting they elect a new leader to take them back to Egypt (14.1-3). If not for the intercession of Moses, the Lord would have destroyed his people in the desert and made a new people from Moses (v. 12). Instead, only Joshua, Caleb and all those under the age of twenty would be preserved (v. 29). And since the spies sought out the land for forty days, the unfaithful Israelites would wander for forty years (v. 33-34). The “little ones” they sought to protect from the dangers of Canaan would be the very ones God would deliver into the land (v. 31).
The unfaithful Israelites feared Canaan. They did not believe they could overcome its perils. They were right. Caleb tried to remind them that, with God, they could possess the land. When they doubted that fact, they doubted God’s power and God’s promise to bring them into the Promised Land. God does not quit us when we quit. God is faithful despite unfaithfulness.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence