I was reading Numbers 13 and 14 this week as part of a year-long Bible reading plan. This is the part of Israel’s story where they are standing for the first time just outside of the land God had promised to give them. The 12 spies they had sent into the land to scout it out had just returned. Ten of the spies report how dangerous the people and the land are, essentially allowing their fears to override the truth of what God had promised them. In opposition, the other two spies express their faith that with God’s help they can overcome these obstacles.
80% of the spies couldn’t see past their fears of the unknown and trust God to fulfill His promises. This is reflected again in the majority of the people’s willingness to accept the spy’s perspective. In 14:2-4, all the people side with the ten and rebel against God’s leadership over their lives, preferring to go back to the slavery He had just rescued them from. It seems like the entire nation, in their fear, is willing to sabotage their own future blessings! Why?! I think they did not know their God enough yet to trust Him and follow Him into the dangerous unknown – which led to their rebellion against Him. How wonderful, though, that God, in his patient love, did not abandon Israel because of their lack of faith!
Even though God would hold the people responsible for their rebellion (v.22), and while He states that He is ready to wipe them out and start over with Moses’ progeny; I wonder if it is possible that He said this knowing the response Moses would give to it. Moses felt he needed to remind God (apparently for all there to hear, and all that have read it since) that it would be said by watching nations that He was UNABLE to bring His people into the land (vs 15-16). It is so encouraging to me that, in the end, God proves to everyone that He actually IS ABLE to do what He said He would! What I see here is one of the innumerable steps God has taken in the process of patiently and lovingly revealing Himself to weak Israel, the rebellious nations around them, and all of self-focused humanity just who he is and what he is like. He loves to be known, and He is committed to helping us do so!