In 1984, my husband Mark and I decided to move from Western Pennsylvania to New Jersey. His dream was to be an excavation contractor. Although he owned a backhoe, he was still working for the township that we lived in and performing excavation on the side. I was employed with a local bank. Western Pennsylvania was comprised of many old steel towns that had not recovered from the industry crash of the 70’s and 80’s. Our town was one of them. It was quite depressing.
In August of that year, we decided to come to New Jersey to scope out the land. The economy seemed to be much better and with that could bring greater opportunities. By the time we got home, we had made the decision to move, and quickly gave notice at our jobs and shared the decision with our families.
In Numbers 13, we have the account of Moses sending out the twelve spies. Their mission was to see what the land was like and if the people were strong or weak, few or many (vs 18), if the land was suitable and if the cities were walled (vs. 19). Finally, they were tasked with bringing back some of the fruit of the land.
Psalm 34:8 begins with “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” As Moses sent the spies into the land, it was an opportunity to SEE the goodness that God planned for them and to TASTE the bounty of the land.
The scouts set off on their mission with great anticipation. After all, this is what the Lord had promised. The Israelites were standing on the very threshold of their destiny. After 40 days had passed, the spies returned. Ten of them reported on a land flowing with milk and honey. They brought back not only the good report of the land flowing with milk and honey but presented Moses with a taste of the abundant fruit that filled the countryside. I am sure the people experienced much excitement. However, the dynamics and atmosphere would begin to shift dramatically as the description of the land continued.
Human Perspective vs. Heavenly Perspective
The men shifted their report from the bounty to the Giants they had witnessed dwelling in the same land. Fear entered the arena. The twelve spies could only see from a human perspective rather than a Heavenly perspective. Suddenly, as they looked at these GIANTS, Almighty God didn’t seem as powerful.
As Mark and I shared with our families about the move, we were met with the most critical reaction from Mark’s father who thought for sure it was the worse decision ever. My father-in-law was a wonderful man who wanted the best for us however, New Jersey was an unexplored territory full of giants!!! It did not ease his concern by us making the decision and moving in one week’s time. He believed that we had not considered all the possibilities…all the things that could be encountered with such rash decision making. He was right of course. We had not taken everything into account. From a human rationale, we should have weighed all the pros and cons but there was something greater driving us. We were desperate for more and knew that it would not be found where we were living. We needed to go.
As the report was given, there were two spies who had a different viewpoint; Joshua and Caleb. In verse 30, Caleb declared that they needed to take the land and could undoubtedly conquer it. I hear no doubt in his declaration only the agreement with the Host of Heaven. Joshua and Caleb were able to connect the promises of God, the protection of God and God faithfulness for the journey. However, even Caleb’s declaration could not combat the fear already planted inside the people.
Forgetting God’s Goodness
As the people chose to believe the fear-based report, they encountered a snare. It kept them from going into the Land that God Himself had promised them. I don’t believe the ten spies meant to be a snare or a stumbling block to the tribe. However, their viewpoint told the people that the land was dangerous. They looked at the giants and ultimately forgot what had been promised by God.
Psalm 22:19 states “O Lord, do not stay far away? You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!” When fear comes knocking at our door, we have to make a choice. Are we going to allow the door to open and invite fear in? Unfortunately, the ten spies opened the door to fear, and the people welcomed it in. God wasn’t far away, he was close, but the people did not see correctly.
A friend who recently had cataract surgery was telling me how many more things they could see since the operation. Even things they could not see before were now visible!! They had not realized how much their vision was impacted because it had happened gradually. Let’s be honest, when God calls us into new territory, not only can we talk ourselves out of taking the journey but it is difficult to even see the good the journey will bring. We need to tend to our relationship with God or we risk creating an opening for fear to slip in and grow. As the fear grows, it changes our field of vision. Eventually, we will only see from an earthly standpoint and not from a Heavenly perspective.
Taking a Risk
The day rolled around for Mark and me to move. What a sight!! Mark had the backhoe hooked up to the dump truck, and the route mapped out. The body of the dump truck was filled with our effects. I drove the pick-up truck with the back overflowing and our cat Silky soundly asleep beside me. I’m sure a few heads turned as we drove down the street with more than one comment being spoken about the situation. As the family gathered around to say good-bye we were missing one important person; my father-in-law. He was in such disagreement with the move, that he could not bring himself to be part of the sendoff.
As we made the journey to our new home, we had no idea of what God had in store for us. It was a decision made in a moment that would impact us for years to come. If we had allowed the “giants” to develop into “fear”, I suspect we always would have wondered what could have been. As the Israelite people began to wander around the desert again, I wonder if they questioned their decision not to be brave.
While writing this, I’ve considered why it is so difficult to stand up against a majority of a crowd that is against you. Joshua and Caleb stood up alone against the majority, at least no one spoke out in support of their findings. Could we stop for a moment and consider the possibility that some of the people who received the report but chose to remain silent and went along with the crowd. For years the church, including myself, has remained quiet about many issues rather than aligning themselves with the word and promises of God.
Although the voices of the ten spies drowned out Joshua and Caleb, God still covered them. However, because God looks at the whole (community) and part (individuals), Joshua and Caleb spent additional years wandering around the desert until the generation that was full of fear and unbelief died. As those years progressed the two men would have reminded themselves of the promises of God. I imagine they dreamed of the land that would someday be their home. They had tasted the land for only a moment in time and then had to walk away from it because of fear invading the camp on the day the report had been given.
As the new generation sprung up they had Godly elders in Joshua and Caleb. Eventually, Joshua took over the leadership from Moses. Imagine taking over command from the man who met with God “face-to-face.” Now there is an intimidating call to duty!!!
In Joshua 1 there is a conversation between God and Joshua. God knew everything that Joshua had experienced and what was yet to come. Joshua was being up-graded by God because he had remained faithful. God was going to use him in mighty ways because it was time to take the land! As God and Joshua had their high-level corporate meeting, God not only promised to be with Joshua as He was with Moses, but God reassured him that no one will be able to stand against him (vs. 5).
Remember all the fear that had been running through the people? I love that God called forth courage in Joshua.
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.9 This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:6-9 NLT
God gives Joshua his assignment, confirms the call on his life and calls for courage. Not only that but he gives him specific keys to remaining strong. Joshua is to study this book of instruction, meditate on the book, and obey all that is in it.
Focusing Our Hearts
The only way we can entirely walk with God is to know Him and to know His word. We need it to be the unending thought that fills our minds day and night. With that filling comes strength from the very throne room of Heaven.
It wasn’t until we had lived in New Jersey around ten years that my father-in-law affirmed that the move was the best thing we could have done. He had been scared for us and expected failure. However, what he ultimately saw was the success and faithfulness of God in our lives.
When we are moving with God, there will often be a combination of voices around us. Some of those voices will be people close to use, and others will be further out. Some of those voices will encourage and believe in us while others, although well-meaning, can become a snare to forward movement.
As we look at the giants in our lives, we can rely on the word that God gives to Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Whenever God calls us into new territory, we can be assured that He has a plan. Granted, we may not see it at the moment, we may not understand it, and it may even look impossible! But he’s got your back (front and sides too)!