The twelve spies came back from exploring the land of Canaan to tell Moses and the people of Israel about everything that they had seen. The people were very excited. God Himself had led them out of Egypt, and finally they had arrived at the borders of the promised land.
Forty days ago Moses had sent out the spies, and had told them to find out as much as they could before the Israelites would enter the land to take it as their own. His words to them were, “Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.” (Read Numbers 13 and 14.)
And now they had come back, carrying a bunch of grapes so large that two men had to carry it between them! “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” Excitedly the people gathered around to see for themselves. Everyone wanted to have a share of the fruit.
The promised land
In the New Covenant we also have a “promised land” to take. As Christians we have received the greatest promises of all: to be finished with sin and to share in godly nature (2 Peter 1:3-4). The fruits of this land are the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, patience, goodness and peace. Who doesn’t want to have these things?
But the Israelites’ joy didn’t last long. The spies had also seen the people who lived in the land: strong people that lived in cities with strong walls. Their report was negative: “The land we checked out destroys those who live in it. All of the people we saw there are very big and tall. … We felt like grasshoppers, and we looked like grasshoppers to them.” Numbers13:32 (NCV).
As a result, the people of Israel lost hope and cried the whole night through. Had all their dreams come to this? Had they really suffered so much hardship, only to be stopped right at the entrance to the promised land?
Do you believe, like Joshua and Caleb?
It can often look like that in our Christian lives as well. We give up our old life to follow Jesus, with high hopes of a better life. But then our “enemy”, the sin in our nature, shows up like a large giant, and it looks impossible to overcome. We begin to feel that being a Christian costs too much; that it’s too much effort. Why doesn’t God help us?
God can’t help those who don’t want to believe. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. On the other hand, He richly rewards those who sincerely seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6.)
Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, then spoke up. “If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us… Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14:8-9 (ESV).
You would have thought that the people took courage, remembering the promises God had made and the miracles they had seen Him do in the desert. But no. Because of unbelief, when things became difficult and went against them, they wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb, these men of faith, instead of taking up a battle and fighting for the promised land.
Faith is a choice
But then God stepped in. By not believing Him, the people of Israel were actually saying that God had no power to help them. God became angry at them and swore that no one over the age of twenty would ever enter the promised land - they would all die in the wilderness.
There were two exceptions: “But my servant Caleb has a different spirit. He follows me with his whole heart. So I will bring him into the land he went to. And his children after him will receive land there … Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, will enter it. So will Joshua, the son of Nun. They are the only ones who will enter the land.” Numbers 14:24,30 (NIRV).
This different spirit was a spirit of faith. Faith means not looking at what you see but believing that God is Almighty. Faith means being obedient even when you can’t see what will happen. Faith means action, doing something. Faith gives results.
God wants us to choose to believe and choose to obey. He wants us to do something. God was with Joshua and the Israelites when, 40 years later, they could go into the promised land, but they had to show that they wanted it. They had to be willing to fight for it. When the Israelites conquered Canaan after the fall of Jericho, not one city was taken without a fight.
Tasting the fruit
In that same spirit of faith that Joshua and Caleb had, we fight our own battle against the sin in our nature. We must give up our own will and sinful desires. God gives us power when we sincerely seek Him and believe Him, and when we overcome, all the glory goes to Him.
Nothing is taken without a fight, but when we fight, there is nothing that we cannot take. One by one the “enemies” will fall before us. Then we will not only see the “fruit of the land” from a distance. We will taste them: love, joy and peace. The promised land will be ours.