“Then all of you approached me and said, 'Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up, and the cities which we shall enter.' And the thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe.” Deuteronomy 1:22
The passage of scripture above gives Moses' account of sending twelve representatives of each tribe of Israel to reconnoiter or observe the Land of Canaan which God had promised to them. A casual reading of this scripture as well as passages found in Numbers 13 make it seem as if God wanted to send them to determine the conditions of this land. But, why would God need these men to tell Him what they would find? The Hebrew word for send is the key to understanding this. Shelah-lekha literally means “send for yourself.” In other words, God told Moses, “if you want to send some spies, you have my permission.” The people came to Moses and in answer to his inquiry of God, Moses was told “if you want to send some spies, you have my permission.” After all God knew what was there in the Land of Canaan. It was the people of Israel who were unsure.
There is a difference between spying and scouting. Some bible versions say 12 were scouting, others spying. It's a little like the difference between shoplifting and shopping. They were instructed in Numbers to go scout out and see the land in order to reassure the people. It was like searching for a new community to buy a house, not like the preliminary to a military operation. And, if it had been a military operation, most certainly the leaders of the tribes would not have gone, and they wouldn't have sent 12; 2 or 3 would have been more appropriate because stealth would have been key.
This account in Numbers 13 is very interesting and one reason is because we find in verse 16 that one of those named to go was Hoshea, Son of Nun. Hoshea became known as Joshua, or more accurately in the Hebrew, Yehoshua. So what's the difference between Hoshea and Yehoshua? It is astounding. Hoshea means “God saves.” Yehoshua means “Yehoveh saves.” And of course our Savior's given Hebrew name was Yeshua, which is just a contraction of Yehoshua, Yehoveh saves. Jesus, Joshua, Yehoshua, and Yeshua are all the same name, just in different dialects and languages, from different eras. And, looking ahead to the book of Joshua it would be Yehoshua (Joshua) and not Moses that led the people into the Promised Land. We see a type and shadow of the the Messiah here. Moses led them to it but not into it; for that it took Yeshua, Jesus the Christ.
We know from the account given by the 12 scouts after returning 40 days later that Joshua (Hoshea) and Caleb were the only two who, despite the fact that they saw strong walls, strong men and what seemed like insurmountable odds, spoke against the other ten who had stirred a frenzy among the others by inciting fear into them. The two scouts who trusted God said, “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us; fear them not.” Numbers 14:7-9
It is interesting to read the account of the ten as they reported to Moses and Aaron the hint of the bent of these scouts because they say “we came to the land where you sent us.” They didn't refer to it as the land the Lord promised or the land that was sworn to Abraham. In other words, they disassociated themselves from the Promised Land, from the covenant, and from God. For them, this was simply a political/economic matter.
The account we are given above directly parallels our world today on many levels. The political climate in the Middle East is not about the land that belongs to God Almighty. It is about politics. And, it is a very contemporary parallel and one that is going to have a deep and lasting affect upon we the Church.
God had led His people, Israel, to the Promised Land; but ten men, trusted and respected leaders, decided to stand in the way of God's people entering that land of promise. These men did what any good leaders would do: investigate, evaluate, and then come to an honest and pragmatic conclusion without emotion. Ten leaders who lacked faith and trust but who had authority denied 13 million Israelites (who looked to them them for leadership), their God-ordained inheritance. And many within the Church today are doing the same thing by working so diligently and effectively to introduce us to the Messiah but then denying His (and thus our) connection with His own people, the Hebrew people, and His own land, Israel.
The account of the people's reaction to the ten reports of the Land of Canaan caused rebellion not against Moses, but against God Almighty. Their refusal to take God at His word was the greatest affront to His holiness. And, there would be grave repercussions. Fellow Believers, often we think that the main thing we're to listen to the Lord about is to NOT do something that we shouldn't. But equally often, as was the case with the 12 scouts, our rebellion against God is that we don't do things that we clearly should do. Instead, we focus on the obstacles and look away from Him and grow afraid and impatient. We think: well it if it's difficult and dangerous then certainly it can't be from the Lord. If God has set this deal up, it's going to be easy and without problems. If we encounter problems and difficulties and it doesn't go like we envisioned, we must be going against God's will. That kind of thinking has probably snatched more blessings and victories away from individual Believers and groups of Christians than any other. It is a false assumption.
Who can look at the Bible and find one word that abrogates God's often-stated covenant that the Land of Canaan belongs to His people Israel? Where do we find a single statement that says for the sake of world peace and humanity Israel should be pushed to give up part, if not all, of their sacred land inheritance. Yet, at least half of the Church today sides with Israel's enemies and the matter of the land. Entire denominations have openly denounced Israel's right to the very land spelled out in detail in the Word of God. Some of the Pro-Israel half believes it's only fair to divvy up at least some of that land and give it to those poor Palestinians. After all isn't that just simple love and justice like Jesus taught us? And, if we love the Palestinians the only responsible response is to carve off more of the Promised Land and force Israel to give it to them for their own nation.
The consequences for those who seek to thwart God's plan for His people, Israel, to claim their land inheritance is severe. Ten of those 12 scouts were about to find out just how seriously God takes His covenants, His commands, and the rights and duty to His people to assume their place in the Land of Promise. The Church today is also about to find out that the Lord God does not change, and He does not make idle threats, and that He has not gone back on His promise to the set-apart nation He created through Abraham.
As Believers today when we accept our salvation we go right on living as though it never happened. God brought us up to the promised land, and then we got cold feet and ran right back to the world much like when things seemed hard, the Children of Israel cried out to run back to captivity in Egypt. And, usually, we think we're taking God with us when we choose to go back to the world But is that really the case? Aren't humans funny creatures? How quickly we forget the pain and anguish of our past lives, our lives before God, and we'll go back for even more after we've escaped it for a time. This truth is so prevalent among men that there are Proverbs written to warn and remind us about our self-destructive human tendencies.
Note to the wise: you can't be against God on the one hand and on the other say you are for God. We cannot have the world and have God for we cannot serve two masters. Choose which you will serve for certainly you will serve one. Church, let God arise! Stand upon His word and upon His promises! He has never failed to keep His word and He never will. But, the world and those of it will certainly always disappoint.