Why Spy Out the Land?

Over the last several months, God has been taking me on a journey, a transition from one point in my life to another. Many years ago he started me in Graduate School when folks much smarter than I could not get accepted. He worked out my schedule so I could keep my job, support my family and still travel to my classes when needed. He had a plan and promised to complete it. Now, I’m at that point where he is moving me into my “promise land’ if you will and it is introducing me to many new topics and taking me to a deeper relationship with Him. It is both exciting and scary, but I know He is with me.

I’m realizing many principles He uses to guide Christians in their individual journey through life. I’m not starting at the beginning of my journey but in the middle with this post on spies. Earlier this week God impressed on my mind the question, “why did they (Moses and Joshua) send spies into the promise land?” If you follow the logic, God promised the land… God has a way for you to take the land… if you follow His directions, the land will be yours, so then why did they send spies into survey the land?

God already knew what the land was like. He already had a plan of how they Nation of Israel would take the land. There was really no military reason to send people in to look at the land… But God. He had a reason for doing this that goes beyond our understanding of things.

If you look back at the charge Moses gave to the spies you have a clear picture of what they wanted to know about the land.

Numbers 13:17-20

17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: 18 And see the land, what it is, and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; 19 And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; 20 And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.

Moses asked that they look at the land and the people. He wanted to know:

  • Are the people strong or weak?
  • Are they few or many?
  • Is the land good or bad?
  • Are the cities tents or strong holds?
  • Is the land fat or lean?
  • Is there wood in the land?
  • Bring back spoils of the land (fruit)…

I’m not sure if this is the best way to split up the instructions Moses gave the spies but it makes sense to me. He basically wanted to know if the land was what God promised, and would it be easy to take over or not.

If you remember the story you will recall that 12 were sent in and returned with their reports. They reports were accurate but the perspective was wrong. Ten saw the land was good but too difficult to take but two saw that God had already given them the land, they just needed to take it. The end result was that the opinion of the 10 beat the facts of the 2 and the result was 40 years in the wilderness.

On the second visit to the land Joshua sent only 2 spies. I’m assuming this was based on God’s instruction but the Bible does not say. These two spies went in and focused on one city, Jericho. They returned with a report that was favorable. The people were walled up and afraid. The result was that God lead the Nation of Israel in and they took the city by walking around it.

The third mention of spies was related to the city of AI. I won’t get into it yet because God has not taken me there. I believe there will be a time but not yet.

So, the question remains, Why send in spies? I believe God has three reasons for doing this. Granted, He probably has many more and they are specific to each of us but what He laid on my heart boils down to three and they apply directly to my “promise land”.

Commonsense – God gives the details that impact the situation at hand and nothing more. If God tells you to drive to a city He may tell you to take a given route because there is something or someone you need to encounter. Otherwise the route is your choice. If you have a choice in the matter you will need to spy out the land to know what the best route is for your trip. If you are going to eat lunch, God does not tell you where unless there is a person you are to meet. Your purchase practices at the store are not directly dictated by God so you will probably spy out the deals, but if He says to get something you will do it despite what your report from the spies revealed.

These spies went in for different purposes but it could have been to confirm what God said and to determine what the best way for a large mass of people enter the area. It may have been to map out the area since they had no idea where the natural obstacles were. They probably noted where the water and the cliffs were located. In any case, the idea was to gather details on the trip that were meant to make the general trip easier.

See the obstacles early – Have you ever noticed that God does not give us easy work but hard work? He does this to prepare us for our next level of ministry. If the work was easy then we would take the credit and not give Him the glory He rightfully deserves. The land of Canaan was just as great as God promised but there were people living there. These people would need to be driven out before the Nation of Israel could possess the area. These people were big and strong with cities that were fortified. This was not going to be easy. If Moses or Joshua had taken the people directly into the land they would have revolted. They would have seen the obstacle and never given it a second glance before returning to the wilderness. Sending in spies gave the people the opportunity to discuss the problems and get their mind around what was about to happen.

If you notice the difference between the two events above, the first set of spies entered and returned report to the people and Moses. The second set of spies entered and returned report to Joshua. This two was important because you don’t give a difficult report to people who lack the faith to follow through on the work at hand. Someone on the internet pointed out that the first set of spies were leaders in the respective tribes, and the second were “professional spies”. The leaders felt an obligation to tell the people what they found. These leaders were probably placed in that position not based on their faith in God but some other quality the people desired. Notice Joshua and Caleb were also leaders among their people before God advanced them into being leaders to the nation.

So the key here is that the spies were to search out the land and report the truth. They must report back what they saw and then move to the next point. Failure to go forward will result in failure of the process.

Time to put God over the situation – You can’t fully put God over the circumstance until you have a handle on the magnitude of the circumstance. I’ve heard people use quotes like FROG (fully rely on God) to remind them to trust Him, but until you have an idea of how big the situation is you can’t fully put God in His rightful place as Provider, Protector, and … GOD. The Nation of Israel knew how bad the land was going to be to take over but they never put God over the problem. If the people were big then remind yourself that God is bigger and He promised you the land. If the cities are strong holds then remind yourself that God built the world and those walls are no match for His mighty hand.

Nothing the spies reported was a surprise to God. God did not need the spies to accomplish His will. The spies were meant to prepare the people for the trip, and for the faith they needed to be successful. I’ve been taught and totally believe that when a situation comes up I need to remind myself to put God over the problem. God is bigger than my circumstance. He is stronger than my enemy. When I visibly see Him over my problem the problem shrinks and is handled. There is never a problem that God is worried about. I also remind myself to look at the names of God. He is my provider, my protector, my teacher, my healer, He is…

As for me… I’m on a journey. I feel that God put me here for a reason. I know the people are big in status and are strong based on their professional accomplishments. I know the area is difficult with strongholds all around. The work will not be easy but God… God put me here and has a purpose for me. I’m not meant to take over a land but to simply do His will whatever that may be. I have spied out the land and know that it is good; rich with opportunities. I’m nervous but I’m reminded that God can take walls down with walking. He can dry up the waters with a word. He can do His will if I just trust His hand.

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Canoeing the Santa Fe River

Well it has been a while since Sylvia and I went on any adventures but finally one came up. It was a real experience. Wet wet wet…. and fun. Her venture crew took a 3 day canoeing trip down the Santa Fe River. I’ve been camping but never have I had to carry all of our gear in a boat. Yes we capsized.. yes there were bugs… yes we were hot then cold and certainly wet. But boy, it was fun and I can’t wait to do it again.

Sylvia really surprised me. She can work through anything and this trip was just another example of that. Attempt to drown in the rapids, fought to save the stove which turned out to be a table. Deal with hunger, thirst, sun, and did I say rain, storm, and wind… she did great. She discovered that she likes hammocks better than tints and I must agree. I can’t wait for another adventure with her, just next time we will not order so much rain or heat.

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