A Tale of Two Spies

OK, this is really a tale of two groups of spies and it goes like this…

There was once a small nation of people who set their sights on making their home in a distant land.  As they got nearer to this land, the nation’s leader sent an elite reconnaissance team into the area to explore, observe, and report back to him what they had found out.

This team of a dozen “spies” explored the same ground and observed the exact same things, but when it came time to deliver their report to the nation’s leader this team divided into two distinct groups.  Ten of the men cited all the challenges that existed, determined that the obstacles would be too great for them to overcome, and recommended that the nation go back to the place from whence they came.  Two of the men, agreeing with the basic facts of the other spies’ report, came to a different conclusion, however.  They believed that their nation of people could successfully inhabit the land, so they should do it.

But why did these spies come to differing opinions?

Was it a matter of personality – the difference between pessimism and optimism?

Was it a matter of having divergent Enneagram scores – one group was bold and one was risk-averse?

Well, as this Bible story goes, it is revealed to us that it was a matter of trust in God.

Numbers 13 and 14 records the story of the 12 spies – one from each of Israel’s 12 tribes – that God told Moses to send to explore the land of Canaan, which God had promised to give to the Israelites as their home.  Joshua and Caleb – the 2 positive spies – believed that God was a promise-keeper and that God was greater than any obstacle that stood in the way of His will.  In fact, they said to the Israelites: “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.  Only do not rebel against the Lord.  And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them.  Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us.  Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:8-9).

But the people were afraid.

And, according to Caleb, this was the fault of the unbelieving spies: “I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land.  And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear.  I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly” (Joshua 14:7-8, emphasis mine).

God agreed because, in Numbers 14:23, speaking about those who rebelled against Him, He said, “…not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors.  No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.”

And in Numbers 14:36-38 (emphasis mine) we read this: “So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it – these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord.  Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.”

Here’s the summary: A whole generation of Israelites missed out on the home and the life that God had promised to give them because they rebelled against God, and the reason they rebelled against God was because a small group of people (10 spies) spread a bad report and incited people to doubt God.  The reason these ten men spread gossip was because they were afraid to do what God asked them to do, and to justify/rationalize their fear they spread a bad report about the land God had promised and about the God who had promised to give it to them.

Now, here’s the point: Our words, attitudes, and actions matter, and they can have eternal consequences.  We have the ability to steer people away from God and “make the hearts of the people melt in fear” through our grumbling, gossip, and complaining, but we also have the opportunity to lead people closer to God by reminding others that God is greater than their challenges and that He will do what he has promised.  We have the choice to be a Joshua/Caleb within our community whose courageous faith inspires others to be courageous too or we can be like one of the 10 who tries to justify our lack of faith by pointing fingers at everybody else but ourselves.

So, here’s the question: Which spy are you?

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