Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Defeating The Giants (Num.13:26-33)


The plan was set and the men were chosen. Twelve men, one from each tribe, approached Moses to receive their orders. Moses told them, “You men are being sent on an intelligence assignment. Your job will be to spy out the land of Canaan, gaining all the information you can, and returning to me with that information.”

Perhaps Moses bent down to the ground and sketched a makeshift map in the sand at his feet as he told them to go into the land from the south and follow the mountains. One of the newly selected spies may have asked, “What type of information are you really interested in?” Moses replied, “Find out everything you can. Check the land from top to bottom. Check the soil to see if it’s suitable for growing our crops. Check the people living there, and find out if the population is many or few. Find out if the people are strong or weak and if they can be conquered easily. Scout the cities to see if they are weak and easily accessible or if the land is prosperous. Are the animals fat or lean? Is there wood for construction and fire? Bring back samples of the fruit of the land so that those of us who stay behind have something on which to base our opinion. Most of all, be of good courage” (vv.17-20).


With knapsacks on their backs, they started their journey. They did as Moses had instructed. Making their way southward, they came to the brook of Eshcol. There they cut down a cluster of grapes to return for the people to see.

They carried the bunch of grapes on a pole between two men, not only because of its size but also you keep from  damaging the fruit. You cannot very well carry a cluster of grapes in your hip pocket. They also filled their knapsacks with pomegranates and figs until the weight made them a burden.

They spied on the people who inhabited the land. Hey followed orders to the letter. Forty days after they left camp, they returned to give their report. Arriving with tired feet, they were immediately surrounded by neighbors, eager to hear their report. Lowering knapsacks to the ground, they breathed a sigh of relief that the journey was over. No doubt they thanked God for His mercy to them.

When ushered before Moses, he asked for their report with breathless excitement, they began to speak, “We found a land flowing with milk and honey, a beautiful land of lush, green meadows and snowcapped mountains. A land of cool rivers and warm, windy plains. Look at the evidence we brought back with us” (v.27). They unloaded the pomegranates and figs and had the large bunch of grapes brought forward for Moses to inspect. The people pressed in to make their own inspection.

They continued with their report, “Nevertheless, the people are strong who dwell there, and the cities are walled and strong” (v.28). As the crowd heard the report, they began to get restless, Their voices raised in excited clamor. Finally, one of the spies named Caleb raised his hands  and stilled the people, With his voices filled with excitement, he yelled, “Let us go at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it” ( v.30 KJV).

There were great shouts of victory at such a good report-especially over the fact that Caleb thought the land could be conquered.   But seconds later, the crowd was stilled again as another of the spies began to speak. He almost laughed at Caleb as he said, “What do you mean? We can’t go up against those people, for they are stronger than we are” (v.31). The scripture says, “And they brought up an evil report” (v.32 KJV).

They told of a land that was hard and that ate up its inhabitants. They told of a land filled with men of great stature. The straw that broke the Camel’s back came when their report told of the sons of Anak, “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight”(v.33, KJV)

Although Joshua cast his vote with Caleb to go in and conquer the land immediately, the other 10 voted the motion down, the people cast their lot with the 10 who were pessimistic. The main difference between Joshua and Caleb and the other 10 spies lie not in the facts they were presenting but in their interpretation of those facts.

Today we often face the same situation. Many times the difference between people is not the facts they face but the interpretation they give to the facts. The experience of the 12 spies illustrates that truth. Their purpose in spying was not to determine if the land should be taken. That had already been decided. It was to determine how best to accomplish that task.

All spies found the land to be an exceedingly good land, flowing with milk and honey. All saw the giants, the sons of Anak. But Caleb and Joshua viewed the giants in the light of God’s orders, and they didn’t look so big after all. To Joshua and Caleb, the giants only represented opportunity. They say concerning those giants, They are bread for us (Num.14:9 KJV). Looking at the same situation the other spies become completely unnerved “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (14:33 KJV).

Looking at the same situation, the other spies became completely unnerved. “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (14:33 KJV). Looking at the opinions given by the two sets of spies, we see two very different reactions. Although that story took place thousands of years ago, those same two categories of people still exist today.


We live in a problem-conscious culture. We are probably the best surveyed people in history. Those surveys disclose that we have a keen realization of our problems. We are aware of the pollution problem, the energy crises, the threat of mass starvation, the possibility of global holocaust. We are aware of church problems, national problems, international problems, and individual problems. These problems are very real, and we cannot simply ignore them.

But neither do we need to over-emphasize problems, becoming so conscious of the problems that we are paralyzed by fear. Too often people lacking faith at all of the problems of life, settle down, and become very satisfied doing nothing. This is what happened to Israel that day in the wilderness.

I am reminded of the wild duck that came down into a barnyard while migrating south for the winter. He liked it so well that he stated. In the fall, his companions passed overhead and his first impulse was to rise and join them. But he had eaten too well and could rise no higher than the eaves of the barn. The day came when his old travelers could pass overhead without his even hearing their call.

When we first decide to become content taking the easy way out, we sometimes start to jump and help when a problem arises. But eventually we get so used to running from giants that we don’t even respond to the problems. Perhaps the giant is injured feelings or broken fellowship. Perhaps it started out small but, by trying to ignore the problem, it has become bigger and refuses to go away. That curt remark or that unkind word has become a giant in your life, a giant that you fear and refuse to conquer.

Because of the fear and lack of faith among the 10 pessimistic spies, the whole nation of Israel spent 40 years wandering needlessly in the wilderness. Many times today the small problems that churches have allowed to become giants keep the whole congregation wandering needlessly in a spiritual no-man’s land.

But there was another reaction.


That’s what Caleb and Joshua did. Their reaction and report doesn’t mean that they were any less intelligent that the other spies. It simply means that they were not obsessed with the problems. It takes at least three things to enable one to see the possibilities of life.

4.1.   We need a sense of mission:

Joshua and Caleb had a sense of mission about what they were to do. They went to find a way into the land, not report the difficulties. They had a sense of mission. With a strong sense of mission, anyone can succeed.

4.2.   We need a vision of strength:

A person who thinks he is a failure will more than likely be a failure. The 10 unfaithful spies saw themselves as grasshoppers before the inhabitants of the land. They considered themselves insignificant and too weak to act. But Caleb and Joshua did not agree, “We are well able to overcome” they said. They had a vision of strength.

4.3.  We need an awareness of God:

Real power comes from an awareness of God. The secret of Caleb and Joshua’s view was dependence on God. Knowing as much about the new land as the other spies, and knowing as much about the children of Israel as the others, if they had depended on their own strength, they, too, would have been discouraged. But there was a difference. They depended on God.


Our dependence on God needs to be sincere and honest. God will help us defeat those problems dressed as giants. The way that you face up to life will depend on the interpretation you give life and upon your dependence on God. Hence, remember the Israelites and learn from the spies. Take heed! Do not and never ever listen to the 10 spies.

Jesus Will Make a Way 


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