The Forty Days' Searching of Canaan Part 2: Numbers 13-14

Numbers 13‑14  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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UM 13-14{Mark the end of this cloud of unbelief-no bigger that day than a man's hand; mark where the fruit of that day placed Israel, and where they still are seen. We read, "Yea, they... believed not his word; but murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord. Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness: to overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands." (Psa. 106:24-2724Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: 25But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord. 26Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness: 27To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands. (Psalm 106:24‑27).)
Indeed, we might take a pencil and write across the pages of the Book of Numbers, "According unto your faith, be it unto you." This is the motto of the book. Each one got according to what faith or unbelief counted on. Moses says, "I am not able to bear all this people alone "- and the unbelieving word had scarcely passed his lips, when God says: "Gather me seventy men of the elders of Israel!" (Num. 11:14,1614I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. (Numbers 11:14)
16And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. (Numbers 11:16)
.) Israel says: "Would God we had died in this wilderness." In the same chapter we read, "As truly as I live, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness." (Num. 14:2,28,292And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! (Numbers 14:2)
28Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, (Numbers 14:28‑29)
.) "Who shall give us flesh to eat?" was the cry of lusting Israel. (Num. 11:1818And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. (Numbers 11:18).) "The Lord shall give you flesh to eat," was the reply of Moses. But what was the result, " He gave them their request, but sent leanness to their souls." What a comment on that whole chapter (Num.11.) is the word of James! (James 1:1515Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:15).) Lust had conceived; it had brought forth sin, and sin when finished had brought forth death, as Kibroth Hataavah solemnly witnessed.
Caleb, in the splendid language of faith, cried out, "Let us go up at once and possess it [i.e., the land]; for we are well able to overcome it; "and God took him, too, at his word, and said as it were, "You shall have the land!" And Joshua: "If the Lord delight in us then he will bring us into this land, and give it us." Beautiful language of faith-so fully answered in his own words at the end: "Ye know in all your hearts, and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you: all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof." (Josh. 23:1414And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof. (Joshua 23:14).)
The twelve men are then appointed to search the land. They go through it in the length and in the breadth of it. They see its beauty and fertility; its streams and springs; its mountains and its valleys. Full forty days did they journey through it, kept by the hand of God. No son of Anak molested them; no enemy barred their way. They cut down the cluster of grapes at Eshcol, with the pomegranates and the figs; and they returned to their brethren "from searching of the land after forty days!"
Now hear their report. The land is good, say they, and God's word as to it is true; all agree as to this; all agreed, too, as to the difficulties, and the obstacles, and the enemies that were there. Caleb cries, "Let us go up at once, and possess it." To this Joshua agrees in the next chapter: "If the Lord delight in us, he will bring us in." But ten men of the spies now give an evil report of it: "We be not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we!" The horizon was clouded by unbelief and the fear of man, and in one moment God was forgotten. His strength was not measured against the sons of Anak, but their own; and in very deed they were but grasshoppers in their own sight, as they were also in the sight of Anak's sons-" for they are stronger than we."
Ah, beloved reader, have you never seen this? Have you never seen a soul in a divine position, rejoicing there before the Lord, seeking, too, to bring others into the same blessedness? Perhaps that soul has got away from the Lord, and you meet it again in a short time, and hear it speaking evil of the place so recently the boast of its lips. Can we not recall the tendency of our own hearts to do so, even without openly avowing it? We are disappointed with the place where God has brought us, when faith has lost sight of Him.
Look at these spies; at one moment delighting in the land of promise, the next, condemning it, from first to last, as the difficulties rose before their eyes. Mark, too, the two witnesses for God-Caleb and Joshua. How lovely is the meaning of Caleb's name-" all heart"-the man who followed the Lord fully. (Of Joshua I do not speak, for he is more the type of a heavenly Christ, who leads His people into the possession of all.) He (Caleb) took the scales of the sanctuary in the hand of faith; and in the one scale he put the children of Anak, and all the power of the enemy, and the cities walled up to heaven; in the other scale he placed the promise of the living God. The scale he held did not hesitate in the beam; the single word of Jehovah outweighed them all. "We shall be," said he, "more than conquerors through him that loved us."
Yes, beloved brethren, Numbers is the testing and total failure of man walking in the wilderness under the government of God; yet God preserving two witnesses for Himself, of that energy which counts on God with undimmed faith, and runs the whole way through, to the very end. All fail but they: Moses fails; Aaron fails; the people fail; yet God brings in the little ones whom they said would be a prey. He takes care of and glorifies Himself in weakness, as that in which His strength is perfected; for His power is made perfect in weakness itself.
We find, then, the first thing Israel does is to speak evil of what God gives them; and next, they speak evil of Himself: "Wherefore hath the Lord brought us into this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt." Caleb and Joshua seek to cast the people back on God's heart, but hopeless unbelief had thoroughly set in. The Lord then speaks of smiting and disinheriting them; and Moses pleads that "mercy"- his resource which never failed. The Lord answered, "I have pardoned according to thy word." (Num. 14:2020And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: (Numbers 14:20)). Then He sentences the people, and commends Caleb: "Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers; neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: but my servant, Caleb, because he hath another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land where into he went; and his seed shall possess it."
Thus, then, runs the sentence of the Lord: "Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me; doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years; and ye shall know my breach of promise."
They had waited for "forty days" for human testimony, and when they had received it, they believed it not; nor had they believed the testimony of God. Fit testimony to the world and its character through which we pass. Man does not trust God, nor trust his fellow. Ask yourselves- is it not so? We have a lock on our door; a bank in which to put our money; a policeman to guard it. No man naturally trusts his fellow, and the last thing he does is to trust God, and this only when grace had taught him that he had nothing else that will avail.
Forty years' wandering was the result of the unbelief of a moment, and to the sin which flowed from it. How often is a life marred, and a forty years of sorrow prefaced and introduced by one moment of sin and unbelief. It may be a sin had been committed, so secret that no eye had ever seen it but God's alone. Yet it leaves its scar, though His pardon has been known. Does it not so, my reader? Are there any scars left in your own soul? Have you never seen a life marred for every act of service and usefulness for God, which had been prefaced by one act of unbelief, which led to some secret or open sin?
Beware, then, of unbelief. It shut Israel out of Canaan; take care that it shuts not you out of heaven! "The fearful and the unbelieving shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." How many will turn out, by-and-by, not to be believers at all, though making a good profession now!
The ten spies were judged for their sin. Israel, repentant, say, We will go up, we will obey; we plead His promise; we will confess our sin. What more, we might say, than these, then, could they do? "And they rose up early, and gat them to the top of the mount"- and they do these things. But "Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord? But it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekites" (mark it well, beloved, this had been the reason of unbelief not to go when the Lord had commanded) "and the Canaanites are there before you; and ye shall fall by the sword; because ye are turned away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be with you. But they presumed to go up unto the hill-top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah" [destruction].
We must accept and bow to God's government when He has so ordained, and take the consequences of our sin.
We turn now to another man- the man of "another spirit"- Caleb, the man with an undivided heart. These two men (Joshua and he) went right into the land of Canaan, and passed through it for forty days: then they came back, and traversed the desert the whole forty years. Did it not seem hard that such should be to those faithful men? To have to bear the consequences of the sins of others, if they had not shared in them? Nay, they would not have been without the journey; they learned wondrous things of the God of Israel by the way. They saw the rod of Aaron budded, and blossomed, and fruitful. They saw the judgment on Korah, Dathan, and Abiram the brazen serpent too. And they walked with God all through the way, and at the end they had an "abundant entrance" ministered unto them into the glorious land!
If we turn to Josh. 14, where Caleb's history is referred to, we read, "Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, the Kenezite, said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses, the man of God, concerning me and thee in Kadesh-Barnea. Forty years old was I when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to spy out the land; and I brought word again, as it was in my heart"- this man of an undivided heart; and " I wholly followed the Lord my God." When a man can stand up before his fellows of forty years, and say this, he is entitled to our belief. None could say it without fear of contradiction, were it not true. It is not often a man can testify of himself; when he can, I believe him! And Moses testifies, too, of him, and said. (ver. 9), "Thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God." The Lord, too, had said of him (Num. 14:2424But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it. (Numbers 14:24)), "My servant, Caleb.... hath followed me fully," and now Joshua, at the end: "And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, Hebron for an inheritance.... because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel." Four precious testimonies of that single hearted man.
Would you like to be a Caleb, my reader; or to be of that great multitude whose carcases fell in the wilderness? Can you put yourself with that man in spirit, and say, "From henceforth we will live, not unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us, and rose again"? "From henceforth:" how often have these words been but the purpose of an hour, and then have passed away. We want more of "another spirit," like Caleb." We have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God," my brethren; and those two spirits are in full opposition, each claiming the allegiance of our souls.
If we turn for a moment to 1 Chron. 2:18-5518And Caleb the son of Hezron begat children of Azubah his wife, and of Jerioth: her sons are these; Jesher, and Shobab, and Ardon. 19And when Azubah was dead, Caleb took unto him Ephrath, which bare him Hur. 20And Hur begat Uri, and Uri begat Bezaleel. 21And afterward Hezron went in to the daughter of Machir the father of Gilead, whom he married when he was threescore years old; and she bare him Segub. 22And Segub begat Jair, who had three and twenty cities in the land of Gilead. 23And he took Geshur, and Aram, with the towns of Jair, from them, with Kenath, and the towns thereof, even threescore cities. All these belonged to the sons of Machir the father of Gilead. 24And after that Hezron was dead in Caleb-ephratah, then Abiah Hezron's wife bare him Ashur the father of Tekoa. 25And the sons of Jerahmeel the firstborn of Hezron were, Ram the firstborn, and Bunah, and Oren, and Ozem, and Ahijah. 26Jerahmeel had also another wife, whose name was Atarah; she was the mother of Onam. 27And the sons of Ram the firstborn of Jerahmeel were, Maaz, and Jamin, and Eker. 28And the sons of Onam were, Shammai, and Jada. And the sons of Shammai; Nadab, and Abishur. 29And the name of the wife of Abishur was Abihail, and she bare him Ahban, and Molid. 30And the sons of Nadab; Seled, and Appaim: but Seled died without children. 31And the sons of Appaim; Ishi. And the sons of Ishi; Sheshan. And the children of Sheshan; Ahlai. 32And the sons of Jada the brother of Shammai; Jether, and Jonathan: and Jether died without children. 33And the sons of Jonathan; Peleth, and Zaza. These were the sons of Jerahmeel. 34Now Sheshan had no sons, but daughters. And Sheshan had a servant, an Egyptian, whose name was Jarha. 35And Sheshan gave his daughter to Jarha his servant to wife; and she bare him Attai. 36And Attai begat Nathan, and Nathan begat Zabad, 37And Zabad begat Ephlal, and Ephlal begat Obed, 38And Obed begat Jehu, and Jehu begat Azariah, 39And Azariah begat Helez, and Helez begat Eleasah, 40And Eleasah begat Sisamai, and Sisamai begat Shallum, 41And Shallum begat Jekamiah, and Jekamiah begat Elishama. 42Now the sons of Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel were, Mesha his firstborn, which was the father of Ziph; and the sons of Mareshah the father of Hebron. 43And the sons of Hebron; Korah, and Tappuah, and Rekem, and Shema. 44And Shema begat Raham, the father of Jorkoam: and Rekem begat Shammai. 45And the son of Shammai was Maon: and Maon was the father of Beth-zur. 46And Ephah, Caleb's concubine, bare Haran, and Moza, and Gazez: and Haran begat Gazez. 47And the sons of Jahdai; Regem, and Jotham, and Geshan, and Pelet, and Ephah, and Shaaph. 48Maachah, Caleb's concubine, bare Sheber, and Tirhanah. 49She bare also Shaaph the father of Madmannah, Sheva the father of Machbenah, and the father of Gibea: and the daughter of Caleb was Achsah. 50These were the sons of Caleb the son of Hur, the firstborn of Ephratah; Shobal the father of Kirjath-jearim, 51Salma the father of Bethlehem, Hareph the father of Beth-gader. 52And Shobal the father of Kirjath-jearim had sons; Haroeh, and half of the Manahethites. 53And the families of Kirjath-jearim; the Ithrites, and the Puhites, and the Shumathites, and the Mishraites; of them came the Zareathites, and the Eshtaulites. 54The sons of Salma; Bethlehem, and the Netophathites, Ataroth, the house of Joab, and half of the Manahethites, the Zorites. 55And the families of the scribes which dwelt at Jabez; the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and Suchathites. These are the Kenites that came of Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab. (1 Chronicles 2:18‑55), we find how God carries out the promise that his seed should inherit the land. We may have passed over this chapter as a dry list of names, and never have seen any of the divine principles that even such can teach us. We find here the genealogy of Caleb traced onwards, till we read at the end, "These are the Kenites (cf. Judge. 1:16) that came of Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab." We find their descendants still in the possession of their portion, in the words of one of the last prophets of Israel—Jeremiah. If you turn to Jer. 35, you will find how the Rechabites would not forfeit the vow that their father had put upon them. They were the descendants of this very man, who wholly followed the Lord God of Israel; and in the very end we read, "Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before me (said the Lord) forever!" Such is God's reward of faith; and His faithfulness to a faithful, undivided heart. F. G. P.