This is the preparations for going into the Promised Land. God told Moses to send spies, one from each tribe, to check out the land and all it held.
The spies that were sent were heads of the tribes. They were not trained in the art of spying but they were intelligent enough to understand the importance and intricacies of this mission. They knew that the future of Israel depended on them doing a thorough job.
Moses had never been in the land before and he didn’t know what to expect to find there. But what he did know was that they were on a mission from God. After telling them what to look for he gave them two final commands. The first of these two was the most important for those going in; “Be of good courage” (verse 20b). The second was to encourage the people when they returned; “Bring some of the fruit of the land” (verse 20c).
The spies were sent to look at the tasks ahead of them with surety that whatever faced them would be dealt with by God. They were on God’s errand. They were under His protection. And they were under His direction. These provisions should have emboldened them! They were going in to check out what God had promised to them and brought them all this way to give them.
The fruit of the land that the spies were to bring back was to motivate the people. “Look what awaits us!” The fruit carried out was superb. Nothing like it had been seen on this journey. Can you imagine a cluster of grapes so large that it had to be carried out on a pole between two men? I’m assuming this grape harvest happened at the end of their mission, otherwise they might have been bringing home raisins instead.
During their time spying out the land they covered it from one end to the other. They visited many different locations. They didn’t just stop with one town or region. They looked it all over thoroughly. When looking at bible maps showing this mission I came across two different representations. One showed the trip as a straight line from one end to the other. The second shows several possible other offshoot trips that might have been made. I’m a bit more inclined to believe they looked at more than what lay right in front of them. I wouldn’t doubt they broke up in groups to cover more ground. But I don’t know this for certain. What I do know was that their travel was extensive and they observed everything Moses sent them to look at. Next time we meet we will see what they saw.
Let’s look for a moment back at the time when they were packing their bags to go. The excitement in the camp was contagious. This was it! They were nearly there. One more task before God took them into the land He had promised them.
I’m certain there were two expectations running in the camp even on that morning. Some were excited to see what lay ahead. God had performed so many miracles for them. Certainly He wouldn’t fail them now. He brought them here for a reason. All they had to do was trust Him and follow His commands. Their previous battles had taught them the importance of following His EVERY command.
On the other side of the camp were those who were afraid of what lie ahead. They were not enjoying the wilderness but they didn’t hate it enough to want to risk their lives and the lives of their families on the unknown. Truth be told, they were still wishing they could crawl back in bed with Egypt. At least there they knew what to expect. This was asking for trouble, going into someone else’s territory. But they were more afraid of defying God than they were of following His command. Maybe they could stay in the rear. Disguises were probably a good idea too. Their encounter with the “neighbor” who made a treaty on the sly was probably on their minds.
Bright and early in the morning twelve strong young men headed out of the camp. They were determined to do as God had commanded and to bring back a full report for Moses. They were excited and cautious as they made their way into this foreign land. Their steps were full of purpose. I wonder how long those steps remained steady.
Father God, I’m reminded of starting out on tasks of my own. Not all of them were directed specifically by You. One task that comes to mind is when I started graduate school. I had been in many classrooms and pursued many different dreams over the years before attempting that one. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I didn’t expect it to be as scary as it was in the beginning. I can identify with the spies setting out on this journey.
What got me through the first steps of my journey was looking back over the past journeys with You. I literally stood with my back against a tree that first day with my hands trembling and ready to throw in the towel until Your Spirit brought back to me the memories of that same feeling at the beginning of each journey and how those journeys turned out when I gave them back to You. EACH time I felt overwhelmed YOU gave me peace. YOU sustained me in the past and because of that I KNEW that YOU could sustain me in the future.
I don’t know what journeys still lay ahead for me but I do know that with YOU by my side I will be fine! There WILL be hard times. There will be obstacles to overcome. There will be little and big victories. You will supply ALL my needs along the way; even in some unexpected ways. And You will see me through to the end, no matter how long it takes.