“And they gave a bad report concerning the land.” (Numbers 13:32)
Moses sends 12 spies into Canaan as a reconnaissance unit to see the land that would soon become theirs. Each of the 12 tribes sent a representative to check out the territory, the local population and the crops of the land promised to their forefathers.
Why does Moses send these spies, when God has already chosen the land? The whole nation is already on its way there. Isn’t it a little late to check out the place?
For 40 days the spies go throughout the land, and then bring back a cluster of grapes so heavy that two men had to carry it together. Indeed, all the spies see the abundance saying: “… it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit…” (Numbers 13:27)
However, the obstacles are so frightening that they drown out everything. Ten out of the 12 spies focus on the difficulty, the impossibility. They see themselves as grasshoppers and the people of the land as giants. They conclude that the logical decision is to give up and go back to Egypt, because this is “a land that devours its own inhabitants.”
Only two of the spies focus on the potential inherent in the good land: Caleb and Joshua.
“The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then he will bring us into the land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the LORD nor fear the people of the land. For they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)
All the spies see the same land, the same reality, and yet they come back with such different conclusions and recommendations. So why are the spies really sent to spy out the land?
The mission of the spies is not to search the land, but to search out their own hearts! Are their hearts strong or weak? Closed or open? Focused on abundance or focused on lack? Is their heart a slave to fear or free from fear?
And the answer is as clear as daylight. Their hearts are closed. They are still in a default mindset of fear and lack. They are still unable to enter into the land and be “a free nation in our own land.” With such a view, they sentence themselves to stay in the desert. They will wander in circles in this desert for 40 years until all the generation that came out of Egypt dies, until there is a new generation, a new mindset, a generation that can grow up to be free. Not slaves to fear of lack or external threat.
Only free people can enter the Promised Land. Only they will be able to get through the difficulties and focus on the good more than the bad.
Notice that focusing on the negative and the lack pulls everyone down into discouragement. God seems like He is about to give up on His people. However, Moses intercedes on their behalf. He does not pretend the people are ok, nor give excuses. He seeks forgiveness for the people, and praises God for His actions. And God, amazingly, forgives (Numbers 14:20). Here we find the God of love, wisdom, and grace, “Long suffering and great in loving kindness.” (Numbers 14:18)
To begin to see the cup half full, and to be forgiven for having focused on the negative.
“Happy are the people who are in such a state. Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” (Psalm 144:15)