Lesson Thirty Three
TWO BRAVE SPIES
It wasn’t that the idea to explore the promised land was a bad plan; it was simply incomplete. The people told Moses they wanted to scout out the land (Deut. 1:22), when what they really should have said is “Let us go scout out the land God has promised.” The addition of those three words changes everything. Had they said this they would have returned reporting on the promise. Instead, they focused on the problem. Their report had everything to do with perspective. That is, except for two.
Caleb and Joshua clearly went with God as part of their mission. Thus, their report included only the possible, not the impossible. They had no additional insight than the others. How giants would disappear, walls fall down, or nations surrender was unknown to them, but what they did know was they had walked out with the spoils of Egypt without a fight. They walked through the Rea Sea on dry ground. They gathered manna in the morning and drank water from a rock. A God that can do those things, can certainly do what seems impossible.
Before we are too quick to criticize the 10 with limited vision, we need to take a closer look at ourselves. The human perspective will always be deficient. Our sinful natures will always lean toward forgetting those three words, “God has promised.” We see a low bank account, the absence of a job, the difficulty of a child, the challenge of an elderly parent, the car that won’t start, or the sickness without a cure, and it’s easy to get discouraged, depressed, or distracted. Satan really doesn’t care which one of those we experience—any of them will put us right where he wants us—focusing on the impossibilities and not on our all-things-are-possible God.
Something else we must not overlook is what happened when Israel demonstrated a lack of faith in God’s promise. By pushing forward their own agenda, they dishonored God before nonbelievers. Those nations who had heard the stories of an all-powerful God, changed their perspective. He was not the God who saves, but weak and of no consequence.
The next time you face a personal mountain, remember God has promised. An impossible task becomes possible with Him. Nothing is too wide, too high, too long, or too deep for Jesus to do for us. Turn your mountains over to Him. And don’t be surprised when those who witness your life, also see an Almighty God and are renewed.
In 1961, a literary critic by the name of Wayne Booth, introduced the idea of the “unreliable narrator.” The unreliable narrator is a storyteller who cannot be trusted. Typically narrated in the first person, the speaker leads the reader along, often as a trusted reporter of the events that unfold. It is only as the reader gets toward the end of the story that they find out they’ve been misled.
While Booth was primarily referencing fiction, in general, first person accounts of any event are “unreliable.” This is because when one tells a story, the account is often influenced by the person’s perspective and opinion. That’s why in a court of law, you want more than one witness. While they all may have seen/experienced the same event, they will report it quite differently. But the unreliable narrator cannot be trusted because it is often with purposeful intent that the story is skewed.
This becomes important to us because our lesson this week finds an unreliable narrator in the 10 spies that return to tell their story. Unreliable narrators have a variety of classifications, but the two that apply to Numbers 13 are the “exaggerator” and the “liar.” As you might suspect, one overstates the facts to make them more impressive while the other outright deceives.
Read Numbers 13:27, 28 again.
“Then they told him, and said: ‘We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.’”
Note the word translated “nevertheless.” In the original language this word suggests that it is impossible for man. By adding this word into their message to the people, they indicated their lack of faith as well as revealing their human perspective. They trusted only in human strength to conquer the land, revealing their unbelief in God’s promise. Read the verse again without the word, “nevertheless,” and notice how it changes the message. In this way they were simply reporting the facts. We went and we saw this. Adding “nevertheless” suggested that the task could not be accomplished and in so doing, discredited God as limited in His power to grant what He had promised since Abraham.
Now move down to verse 32.
“And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.’”
The phrase translated “they gave” in the original language means “to invent” or “to spread around.” Ellen White in Patriarchs and Prophets (p. 388) reveals that the 10 spies relished the power their false report brought to the camp. They embellished it more and more and exaggerated the height of those living in Canaan, even reversing their original report. The land that was “flowing with milk and honey,” now “devoured its inhabitants.”
Making it Real
The 10 spies left out the most essential part of their assignment—“God has promised.” This week think about what God has promised you. Then each time you are tempted to be irritated, annoyed, challenged, restless, or angry, put the situation into perspective. I will not be [fill in the blank] because God has promised [finish the sentence.]
Respond & Share
Satan is the original unreliable narrator. How can we remind ourselves daily of the true story of salvation? Please share with us in the comments!
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.
Coming next week:
“REBELLION IN THE WILDERNESS”