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Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

“If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8: 31

THE SCRIPTURAL account discussed in this article is found in Numbers 13 and 14 and Deuteronomy 1: 19-46. We will first consider the typical account, followed by its antitype, and then offer some lessons for the Christian.

The first journey of the Israelites from Egypt to Mount Sinai followed their crossing of the Red Sea and deliverance from the Egyptians. The Israelites remained at Mount Sinai for about a year before they embarked upon their second journey, to the land of Canaan, the promised land. The journey was begun ceremoniously, with the blowing of the silver trumpets and Moses’ invocation, “Arise, O LORD, and let thy enemies be scattered, and let them that hate thee flee before thee”; in the evening, Moses prayed, “Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel,” in other words, “Abide with us.” The Israelites would be led by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.

The journey led through a waste, barren wilderness, scorched by the sun. This was quite different from Sinai’s valleys, where they had recuperated and rested. The journey to Kadesh-Barnea on the southern border of Canaan was 160 miles. They faced unknown dangers, such as serpents, bands of Arabs, and lack of water. The travelling nation included women, children, household goods, cattle, and sheep. They necessarily had to travel slowly, so the journey lasted between one and two months, arriving at the time of the first ripe grapes, which would have been in July. Kadesh-Barnea was a delightful place, well-watered, a sharp contrast with the route through the desert of Paran. The people refreshed themselves and looked toward the mountains north of them, the promised land.

Moses’ Encouragement to Enter the Land

Moses, who was full of faith, proposed that they should enter the land of Canaan at once, reminding them that God had manifested His favor toward them in so many ways: delivering them from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, sweetening the waters of Marah, giving them victory over their enemies, the Amalekites, sending them manna and then quail, making the Law Covenant with them at Mount Sinai, and showing His presence with them in the tabernacle and in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.

But the Israelites were timid. They had no knowledge of war, except the little experience with the Amalekites. In a word, their caution overbalanced their faith. The people suggested that spies be sent to investigate conditions in Canaan. The Lord accepted their request, and through Moses selected twelve chief men, one from each tribe, except the tribe of Levi. Instead, they counted Ephraim and Manasseh for the tribe of Joseph. Apparently, the spies went out in two companies of six. The group led by Joshua toured the entire country, covering 300 miles. The other group led by Caleb made a shorter journey. Caleb’s group returned first and gave their report, followed by Joshua’s group, which then gave their report. The spies had been commissioned to gather information respecting the fruitfulness of the land, the desirability of the country, and the character of the inhabitants, whether they dwelt in walled cities or movable camps.

Report of the Spies

Ten of the spies reported favorably regarding the land, but unfavorably respecting the possibilities of conquering it. They referred to the people as giants and themselves as grasshoppers in comparison. They stated that the cities were immense and walled up to heaven. Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, possessing a greater faith, assured the people, “Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” The people felt greatly discouraged. The report of the ten spies was an “evil” one, for it exaggerated the difficulties and entirely ignored the divine supervision of the past. The people murmured against the Lord and against Moses and Aaron. They declared that they would have preferred to have died in Egypt or in the wilderness. They even proposed to choose a leader and return to Egypt. Only Joshua and Caleb stood by the Lord and defended Moses and Aaron. 

The people were about to stone them to death, but the Lord intervened. A bright light shone out from the tabernacle. A pestilence broke out and the ten spies were among the first victims. Moses pointed out their guilt in manifesting such a lack of confidence in the Lord. He delivered the Lord’s message that because of their unbelief, none of the people over the age of twenty years should ever enter the land of promise except for Joshua and Caleb. The Lord further explained through Moses that for every day that the spies had searched out the land to bring an evil report, there should be a year of delay in eventually reaching it. That amounted to forty years.

Amazingly, the peoples’ courage revived. They were now determined to go forward and take possession of the land. They would ignore the Lord’s prohibition. They were intent on taking it anyway. In their lack of faith, they did not realize how much the Lord’s hand was connected to their progress. Without Him they could do nothing. The people informed Moses of their decision, but he refused to have any part in their venture and forewarned them of disaster if they proceeded. They ignored his warning, marshalled a host, and went out to face their enemies. But they soon retreated in disorder and multitudes were slain. Oh, what a hard, but necessary lesson! They were now resigned to journey back into the wilderness.

Two Antitypical Applications

We recognize that Fleshly Israel during the Jewish Age types Spiritual Israel during the Gospel Age. More specifically, the above picture types Spiritual Israel’s journey to God’s Kingdom. During our Lord’s First Advent, He drew many faithful Fleshly Israelites, “Israelites indeed,” and made them parts of Spiritual Israel. But there were not enough Fleshly Israelites to fill the desired number of Spiritual Israelites, so He proceeded to call worthy Gentiles to fill up the rest. This process continued throughout the Gospel Age. At the time of our Lord’s Second Advent, He finally found enough faithful Jews and Gentiles to complete the number.

But the above picture has a larger application, and that includes the entire world of mankind. The world has been wandering in a wilderness condition for over 6,000 years. But they are now about to enter antitypical Canaan, the Millennial Kingdom condition under the leadership of antitypical Joshua (Jesus) and Caleb (the Church). But just as the typical Israelites had trials and difficulties to overcome in typical Canaan, so the world will have antitypical trials and difficulties to overcome in the Millennial Kingdom. These will consist of the world’s experience in overcoming the weaknesses of the flesh and developing more and more into the full perfection of the human nature. The restitution processes at that time will reward every act of obedience and reprove and punish every act of disobedience.

Lessons for the Christian

Let us strive to be like Joshua and Caleb and by faith enter into the land, confirm the Lord’s promises, and give a good report. By faith we have already entered into Divine favor, we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, we have experienced the forgiveness of our sins through the merit of our dear Redeemer, and we know that the Lord’s power is not limited. We realize, through the Lord’s strength, that we can meet the conflicts, difficulties, and trials belonging to the consecrated life. By faith we are already living in God’s Kingdom. We are battling with the world, the flesh, and the Devil day by day, but at the same time are resting in the promises of God, in the strength and grace which He supplies, and in the victories that He grants us. As our victories of faith progress, the fruits of victory, pictured by the luscious fruits of the land, become ours. Those antitypical fruits include meekness, gentleness, patience, longsuffering, brotherliness kindness, and love, as well as many others.

The essence of the lesson for us is that faith and trust in the Lord is essential for His acceptance and blessing, as we read in His Word:

“Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust” (Psalm 40: 4).

“Without faith it is impossible to please him [God]” (Hebrews 11: 6).

“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5: 4).

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4: 13).

The battle is in the mind. The Truth and its spirit are a goodly land, but we need to fight the good fight of faith to take possession of that land and to overcome our enemies, both in this life and in the next one.