Moses sent [twelve men] to spy out the land of Canaan, and he said unto them, “See the land, what it is, and the people that dwell therein.” So they went up, and searched the land. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said, “We came unto the land to which thou sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great, and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.”
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it!” But the men who went up with him said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we!” And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eats up the inhabitants thereof, and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants, and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”
– excerpts from Numbers 13
The spies whom Moses had sent out to scout the land of Canaan were troubled. God had already done the impossible for the Israelites. He had delivered them from Egyptian slavery and taken them safely across the burning sands of the Sinai Peninsula, miraculously feeding them every day with manna, the sweet wafer-like substance that David called “angels’ food”. Now, here Israel was, just about to be given the whole land of Canaan, but the spies discouraged them, telling them they could not take Canaan, and they convinced their fellow Israelites that they should all return to Egypt.
Two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, did not agree with the other spies. Caleb and Joshua believed God and were thrilled that He was about to give Canaan’s land to Israel. But because they were thrilled about it, and because they told their fellow Israelites that they could take the land, the other spies and Israelites set about to stone Caleb and Joshua, and they would have succeeded if God had not miraculously appeared and stopped them.
God was so angry with the ten spies who discouraged Israel that he struck them dead. Then, He cursed Israel by sending them all back into the desert wilderness to wander about until that whole generation died. Forty years later, a new generation of Israelites did take the land, including old Caleb and Joshua, whom God spared because they had put their faith in Him and did not fear the giants of Canaan.
This was the kind of faith Preacher Clark was exhorting us to have when he said in a sermon in 1972, “Don’t compare the giants to your own strength.” The giants of this world can indeed defeat us. We are small, and they are big. But God has promised to be with us, and to give us the victory. And as Paul said, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” That is how Caleb and Joshua felt, and because they felt that way, they were allowed to enter into the Promised Land and to possess a portion of it. If we believe God as they did, if we look to God instead of the giants that oppose us, we, too, will enter into the Promised Land and be given our portion, with all the rest whose faith is in God instead of in the giants.