God’s plan was to take the land “little by little” (Exo 23.30) and not all at once. It is the same with us in our spiritual walk. God does not turn us into a spiritual giant overnight, so we should not get impatient with ourselves. We should not let fears and insecurities stop us. But people want to know everything in the Bible at once, but it does not happen that way. We have to study and work.
So, the question is, what is God’s plan? It was to be “free men and women.” That is why they left Egypt. They cried out to be delivered, and the Lord delivered them with many signs and wonders. They were saved with a “mighty hand” and now they were free. They actually heard the voice of God. They are now poised on the thresh-hold of what it was all about, going into their own land that was promised to the fathers. It is the same with us, but we forget the plan. Free men need a place to go.
Now, let’s talk about this “bad report” in 13.32. When did the change in these princes (the scouts) occur? As soon as they left the presence of Moses. While he was with them they could stand, but the key is to have this ability to stand on their own, but that takes spiritual development. The ten scouts were suffering from fear. Caleb and Joshua tell them this fear is unfounded. They were the “eyes” of the congregation. But others decided to use their mission to investigate whether or not they could take the land, or if it was advisable to even try at all.
So, they have found out that the land was fat and had trees (Question 6 and 7), the people were strong (Question 2), the cities are fortified (Question 5), and there are many there, including “giants” (Question 3).
However, they lied saying the “land is bad” (Question 4) because they said the land won’t produce enough food to support them. What has happened is they thought they had a responsibility to mold public opinion, and we know the rest of the strong. This report made the people weep, complain and cry (14.1). Bad news travels fast and they feared the wrong things and in the end they had a reason to fear. They were sentenced to die in the wilderness (Num 14.29).
They wanted a new leader to take them back to Egypt (14.21) and they were concerned for their wives and children. Its natural to want to protect your family, but don’t let them get between us and the Lord’s plan. The real issue is this, could they trust God with their children? Here is an important concept. To really protect our family we must really follow God’s ways. Even when we fail, he will repair the breach in the next generation. He will find a faithful father and mother. The point is, all of this was for everyone to be free (Exo 3.7). Israel still had a mindset of a slave (slave mentality). They were dishonest and refused to remember what God had done for them in the past. There are no conditions to mistrust the Lord.
We have already discussed the destructiveness of words in “Metzora.” They made the classic mistake of judging the future through the eyes of the present. They wanted to go “backwards” (Jer 7.24). They believed the worst about themselves. They didn’t think they deserved to go in. They forgot their God and who they were. They forgot their covenant. How could a generation that witnessed countless miracles even contemplate a rebellion like this? What a maidservant saw by the sea the great prophets never saw.
The concept of a ladder comes into play here. Nobody automatically gets to the pinnacle spiritually. The idea of a “leap of faith” is a biblical myth. A hasty leap can be reversed by a hasty reversal. Israel was a nation of slaves one minute and they were “pulled out” and they saw miracle upon miracle. They heard the voice of God (Deut 4.33). They were not able to internalize all they had seen and experienced. We must do our part and work in order to grow. It is a steady walk, and with measured steps that carry us up that ladder.
Caleb and Joshua told the people in Num 14.9, “Only do not rebel against the Lord.” We don’t have to be righteous for God to help us, only don’t be in rebellion. There is a story about a young man who was going to travel on a train for the first time. He looked for people like him. He saw some well-dressed people and he knew he wasn’t one of them. Then he saw some vagrants and he figured he should be with them. The train leaves and the young man jumps on with the vagrants. He endures the baggage car, the bumps, the heat, until the conductor comes in. The young man showed him his ticket. The conductor said, “Young man, you should be traveling in first class.” If Israel had trusted the Lord and didn’t have that slave mentality, things would have been different, They were a kingdom of priests, a nation with a kedusha. They were mighty princes with first class tickets, but they thought they were grasshoppers going nowhere. As a result, God judged them. Anyone willing to go back to Egypt was not compatible with the land of Israel.
In Num 14.20-23 God gave them what they wanted in Num 14.2. They would not see the land of promise. They died in the wilderness, and the children they worried about in Num 14.3 would go into and take the land, and taken in by the Lord. This portion is a lesson in consequences, reward and punishment. So, we are going to take a look at that. Reward and punishment is a by-product of our relationship with the Lord. Consequences is the direct reaction that every action sets in motion. For example, if one breaks a neighbor’s window, what should we do? We should pay for it. This is restitution for damages and he apologizes to compensate for any inconvenience.
In the case of the ten scouts, teshuvah (repentance) and consequences are more complex. On one hand, the re-establishment of Israel’s relationship with God had to be done. On the other hand, the damage to the soul of the nation had to be repaired. A simple “We’re sorry” would not be enough. The closeness with the Lord was re-established in Num 14.20, but the damage had to be repaired. All the people who saw the kivod (glory) and the miracles in Egypt and the wilderness, and still tested the Lord, died in the wilderness (twenty years old and above). The goal of the consequences was to correct that deficiency and prepare the nation to occupy the land. Their punishment was not immediate. Only the ten scouts with the bad report died right away (Num 14.37).
Accepting the difference between punishment and consequences isn’t easy. Most of us would like to make our past feelings disappear, and hope our saying “I’m sorry” is enough. However, some “hurts” just don’t go away with an apology. Certain behaviors carry inevitable consequences. every action results in consequences of reward and punishment. It is our choice to work within the framework of God’s justice and utilize every opportunity to be closer to God and those we love. This was the mistake of the group who attempted to enter the land after the bad report of the ten scouts in Num 14.40-44. They heard the decree of God and wanted to make it “all go away.” Their heartfelt teshuvah and apology would not avert God’s decree. They wanted to believe God would relent and lift the decree. The problem is, they did not take into account that the sin of the ten scouts caused inevitable consequences that wouldn’t just “go away” because they said they were sorry.
What is the spiritual application to this story? The heart wants what it wants. The heart and our eyes are “scouts” for our body, producing sins for it. The eyes see, the heart desires and the body commits the sin and we get what we want (Gen 3.6; Mark 7.23). Israel got what they wanted in Num 14.2, and they died in the wilderness.
In Part 14, we will pick up here.