The Story of Twelve Spies

Numbers 13‑14  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Since the work of spies is important and dangerous, they must be people of courage and skill. They must be able to observe, listen and bring back accurate information to those who sent them.
Twelve men of Israel were handpicked to be spies while they and their families were in the wilderness on their way to the promised land of Canaan. The spies were given directions and a list of the information they must bring back to those who sent them. Their instructions were to go southward and up into the mountain to see the land. Here is the list of what they were to find out on their spying mission: Are the people strong or weak?
Are there few or many?
Is the land good or bad?
Do the people live in cities or do they live in tents?
Do they have strongholds?
Is the soil fertile or poor?
Are there trees?
Bring back samples of the fruit growing there.
The instructions did not include anything about methods of attack or fighting, but only sight information. It looked like an interesting assignment, and they probably set off eagerly. Imagine the excitement as Moses and their families and friends watched them leave and disappear across the sands of the desert, full of hope and strength.
They were gone forty days. We can imagine the welcome when all twelve arrived safely home again. They brought back good news of the fertile and wooded land which God had promised to give to them and were loaded with pomegranates and figs and grapes. In fact, one big cluster of juicy grapes was so heavy that it took two men to carry it between them on a pole!
But why did their faces look so gloomy and dark when they brought back such good news and wonderful fruit? Ten of the spies looked hopeless and defeated, and the crowds soon learned the reason. It’s no use, those ten spies said. No hope. Their cities have great walls, and the people living there are as big as giants! They looked down at us like we were grasshoppers, and we felt like grasshoppers too.
This message was greeted by cries of despair and disappointment. Here we are in the wilderness, and there’s no hope of taking the land! Let’s elect a captain and go back to Egypt where we used to be slaves. It’s better than dying out here in the wilderness! And their cries of despair turned to anger.
But there were two of the spies who did not agree with this unbelief and rebellion. Caleb quieted the people and told them, We are well able to go up. But no one listened. Joshua and Caleb stood up again and answered them with confidence that came straight from God. Just the two of them stood alone in front of all that angry, shouting crowd, but they had the word of God to trust in, and nothing changes God’s word!
“If the Lord delight in us, then HE will bring us into this land, and give it [to] us.” These good words rang out above the crowd, and they heard it. But their angry answer was, Stone them! Kill them!
Rebellion can lead people a long way into sin. But whether you are very young, very old or in between, you can share the brave words of those two men, and be sure, very sure, that if you belong to God, He is going to take you to His home, because He promised, and God keeps His promises. He knows how, no matter what you have done.
Then the glory of the Lord appeared, and all the people saw it. That silenced them, but it did not change their hearts. God sent a plague which immediately destroyed the ten spies who had rebelled against Him.
Being a spy may be dangerous, but it is more than dangerous to rebel against God: It is sure destruction. It was nearly forty years later that God brought that huge crowd of over a million people into the land that the spies had visited. But during that time, all the rebellious adults died and were buried in the wilderness. Did God hate them? No, not at all. He loved them and took good care of them on that forty-year journey. But the children were the ones who lived to enter and enjoy the wonderful land which the spies had explored.
By this time, Joshua and Caleb were about eighty years old, strong and vigorous, and they received the place of their choice in the good land which God had promised to them. Why? Because they simply believed God. When God said, This land is for you, they said, Yes.
Can you do that too? God says that salvation is for you, because His Son, the Lord Jesus, died to take away your sins. His gift of eternal life is for you, right now. Will you believe Him and say, “Yes”? Eternal death will come to you if your answer is “No.” What will your answer be?