I have always enjoyed the story of Moses sending the 12 spies from the 12 tribes of Israel when they were on the verge of entering the Land of Canaan. I was taught the song in Sunday school as a little boy, “Twelve men went to spy in Canaan; ten were bad and two were good!” I am sure many of you remember that song as well! I would like to draw your attention to 4 things the spies saw:
The Bible states that when they returned they reported to Moses and the congregation of Israel how large the grapes and the clusters of grapes were. They even went as far as to bring some of the grapes back on a branch carried by two men!
All of the spies that went into the land saw the potential of the land and how the land could be a great resource and benefit to their nation and families. The grapes represented more than just potential; they also represented prosperity.
God had made an unconditional covenant with Abraham that He would make of him a great nation. God reconfirmed that same unconditional covenant with Isaac, then with Jacob. God even went as far as to move Jacob’s family into Egypt for 430 years to protect His royal line through which the Messiah would come. Now, this great nation was about to enter into all that God had for them after many years of wandering, waiting, and wishing for the day they would realize the land that God had promised to them.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were only grapes in life? Unfortunately, with every opportunity there is always opposition. This was certainly the case for these 12 spies! They all saw grapes which represented potential and prosperity, but they also saw giants which represented problems! Someone once said, “The door of opportunity swings upon the hinges of obstacles.”
The Apostle Paul, when writing of a great door of ministry opportunity that God had opened to him in 1 Corinthians 16:9 states, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” There is no surprise in Paul’s writing tone when he talks of great ministry opportunities. He did not say, “But there are many adversaries.” He said, “And there are many adversaries.”
Adversity and problems always accompany new opportunities. Dr. Charles Keen stated to me once, “John, when you reach new levels, there will be new devils!” I have never forgotten that statement and wisdom from a pastor that reached many new levels. All of these spies saw the grapes and the giants.
The Bible states that when the 12 spies returned to give the report of the land to Moses and the congregation, they all told of the wonderful benefits and potential of the land. They then broke the bad news that the Amalekites, who were the giants of the land, were spread out throughout the entire region.
The people obviously began to panic because Caleb had to still the people in Numbers 13. Two men named Joshua and Caleb stated in faith immediately, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” I love these men’s spirit of faith!
Immediately, 10 spies began to speak back in faithlessness. They said that the nation was not able to overcome it. In fact they stated in Numbers 13:33, “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers.” This statement sums up the real problem in this story. The real problem was not the giants—the real problem was a lack of faith and belief in the Word of God.
Notice that it was all about their sight. Did anyone ever stop to ask, “What about God’s sight?” How did God view these giants? So many times in life when God opens a door, we see problems and immediately make foolish statements like: “This must not be God’s will.” The truth is every door will have problems, but our perspective is everything.
Someone once said, “Don’t show God your problems, show your problems your God!” We must learn from the foolish mistake of these 10 spies who only saw themselves as grasshoppers in the sight of the giants. May we learn to not rest upon our own potential and strength, but completely operate in the power of God’s Spirit and remember what the Apostle Paul said: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
I am so thankful that 2 of these spies did not just see grapes, giants, and grasshoppers, but they saw God’s work! They preached to the congregation that God can and that God will, but the congregation, as many do today, wanted to stone the preachers!
Because of the sin of faithlessness, Israel went on a forty year funeral march. All of the men of that generation died and never saw the Promised Land, except 2—Joshua and Caleb. It is so amazing to me that God brought these people to a moment of opportunity, but instead of seizing that moment and seeing God, they saw only problems. Thankfully, these 2 men not only entered into the Promised Land forty years later, they were leading the charge!
May God help more of us today as Christians to have a Joshua and Caleb mentality. Don’t shrink away from the problems. Face them and remember that God is greater than your problems, and His purpose will always be accomplished!