|SPYING OUT THE
THE children of Israel remained in the
vicinity of the mountain called Sinai for some
time while the tabernacle was being built. Then
God indicated that he wanted them to continue
their journey toward the Promised Land of Canaan.
God caused a cloud to float in the air over the
tabernacle, which was his way of telling the
Israelites that he would protect them. When it
was time for them to continue their journey he
made this cloud move away from the tabernacle,
and in the direction he wanted the people to go.
The tabernacle was built in many sections and
could be taken apart and moved.
Well, that cloud kept moving
day by day, until it led the children of Israel
very near to the border of Canaan, to a place
called Kadesh-barnea. There the cloud stopped
moving, and the people knew that God wanted them
to stay there for awhile.
Then God told Moses to choose
twelve chief men, or rulers, from among the
people, and send them over into the land of
Canaan to find out what kind of country it was,
and to see what the people were like. You
remember, dont you, that Jacob had twelve
sons. Now the Israelites were divided into twelve
large families, or tribes, each tribe being
descendants of one of Jacobs sons. So Moses
selected a ruler from each of the twelve tribes
and sent them into Canaan to spy out the land.
Even now, in times of war,
nations send spies into other countries to find
out all they can, dont they? The land of
Canaan really belonged to the Israelites, but
during the long time they had been slaves in
Egypt other people had lived in it. Now it was
necessary for the Israelites to conquer these
other people in order to get the land that
belonged to them, and it seemed very wise to send
these spies into the country to obtain all the
So the twelve spies crossed
over the border of Canaan into the Promised Land.
They traveled up and down the country. They found
it to be a very wonderful country. Food of all
kinds was growing there in great abundance. The
spies remained in Canaan for forty days, so you
see they had plenty of time to find out all they
needed to know.
Just as the spies were ready to
return to the Israelites with their report, they
picked a cluster of grapes in Canaan, and it was
so large that it required two of them to carry
it. Wouldnt you like to have had some of
those grapes to eat? When they showed this large
cluster of grapes to the Israelites you can
imagine how surprised they must have been!
The spies all agreed that
Canaan was a wonderful country, and that it would
be a great place for the Israelites to live, but
all except two of them were afraid of the
Canaanites. They told Moses and the Israelites
that the people who lived in the land were very
powerful; that they were mighty warriors. Why,
they said, some of them were great giants! The
spies said they felt as small as grasshoppers
when they stood beside those giants. The spies
surely were frightened.
What do you suppose happened
then? Why, ten of the spies advised Moses and the
Israelites not even to try entering the land,
because if they did they would surely be
defeated. They were sure that all the men of
Israel would be killed and that the women and
children would again become slaves.
There were only two of the
twelve spies who didnt agree with this
advice. These were Joshua and Caleb. They had
great faith in God, and believed that God would
help them conquer the people of Canaan. So they
advised the Israelites not to be afraid, but to
go in and possess the land.
But most of the Israelites
didnt have very much faith in God. They
knew that God had done wonderful things for them.
They knew how he had saved them from the plagues
in Egypt. They remembered the wonderful way he
had brought them through the Red Sea and
destroyed the Egyptian army which tried to
capture them. They knew that he was sending them
bread from heaven which they called manna. Yet
they didnt believe God would be able to
help them conquer the people of Canaan, so they
decided not to follow the advice of the two spies
who believed in God.
The Bible tells us that the
Israelites were a stiff-necked
people, which means that they were stubborn and
disobedient to God. Well, we can see why God
called them stiff-necked, cant we? He had
done all those wonderful things for themhe
had delivered them from Egyptian bondage and
brought them safely to the border of the Promised
Land, and now they were afraid to move into the
And not only that, but the
Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt. Yes, some
of them talked things over and decided that they
would select a new leader who would show them the
way back to the land of bondage.
Surely the Israelites were very
disobedient to God, but God loved them, so he
wouldnt let them select a new leader and go
back to Egypt. That night God spoke to Moses from
the tabernacle, saving that the Israelites would
have to remain in the wilderness for forty years!
Just as the spies had spent forty days spying out
the land of Canaan, so now Gods people
would have to remain in the wilderness forty
years. God told Moses that during these forty
years all the Israelites would die who were then
twenty years old or more. You see, it was these
grown-up folks who had rebelled against God, so
God didnt want them to enter the Promised
Land at all.
God told Moses that there were
only two men of all the Israelites who were then
twenty years old or more who would still be
living at the close of the forty years in the
wilderness, and they would be Caleb and Joshua,
the two spies who advised the people to trust
God. They believed that God would help them to
conquer the people of Canaan and take possession
of the land. God was pleased that these two men
believed in him. God is always pleased with
us when we believe him.
When Moses told the Israelites
that God had decided they would have to remain in
the wilderness, they changed their minds and
wanted to go right into Canaan. Werent they
stubborn! And they tried to do it, but because
God did not help the Israelites the Canaanites
were able to defeat them and drive them back.
This really did frighten the Israelites, so they
settled down for their long stay in the
We should always remember that
if we try to do what God wants us to do he will
help us, but if we try to do something he does
not want us to do, we are sure to fail. We may
think we are getting along very well doing what
he does not want us to do, but sooner or later we
will learn that we would have been much better
off had we obeyed God. Let us try to remember
Whom did Moses send into the
land of Canaan as spies, and what did they learn
What did these spies report
to Moses, and did they all agree?
How long did the Israelites
remain in the wilderness before God allowed them
to go into the Promised Land?
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