“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel….’” (Numbers 13:1-2a)
James Bond. Mission: Impossible. Charlie’s Angels. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Jack Ryan. Harriet.
Those names should invoke images of spies, secret agents, and all kinds of clandestine activities. Well, fictional ones at least.
We’re fascinated with spy stories—the thrill of intrigue, mysterious assailants, secret codes, disguises, nonstop action, and those breath-catching scenes when someone is dangled off the side of a skyscraper. We yearn for popcorn-munching moments where we can live vicariously in the danger zone.
In the make-believe world of books and movies, spies are cool. They wear cool sunglasses; they drive cool cars. They get cool “toys.” Anyone who has ever watched a Bond movie knows James gets the latest and greatest crime-stopping gadgets, carte blanche. Even little kids can get in on the action with spy kits (see this vintage toy commercial for over-the-top drama— https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DkYTRYB6tU).
Every spy story involves some kind of mission, too. The hero/heroine is assigned an impossible task under threat of death and has to carry it out purely on wits, agility, and a whole lotta futuristic weaponry.
In real life, spying isn’t quite that glamorous, although it can still be dangerous and challenging. While in college, I took a course in Soviet government and politics, taught by a former CIA agent who had spied on factories near Moscow. He said it was pretty boring…that the Russians knew who he was and left him alone. But I got the impression that he glossed over his trepidation as a foreign agent alone in a hostile land.
His true stories are a whole lot more like the spies in the Bible. Joseph accused his brothers of being spies, Joshua sent spies to Jericho, and David sent spies to find out Saul’s intentions. The chief priests and scribes sent righteous-acting spies to watch Jesus and catch Him saying something for which they could haul Him off to the governor and authorities.
One of the most telling spy stories, however, is in the book of Numbers. In this pivotal moment for the Israelites on their march from Egypt, God tells Moses to send spies into Canaan, the “promised land” He had prepared. Moses chooses 12 leaders for this mission: “Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.” (Numbers 13:17b-20a)
Off they go, spending 40 days looking around. They all come back with a cluster of grapes so huge it has to be carried by two of them.
Ten of the spies come back with a bad report to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite congregation. The spies confirm Canaan is truly a good land, flowing with “milk and honey.” But, these spies also see the Anakim “giants,” people of very large stature like Goliath. The spies describe themselves as merely “grasshoppers” in comparison. They are afraid.
Caleb and Joshua disagree. Caleb insists that the Israelites go up at once to take possession of the land, saying they’re well able to overcome obstacles. Instead of listening to Caleb, however, the people fret, whine, and complain. They listen to their fears. They even want to oust Moses and choose a new leader, after all that God has done for them through this faithful man. And, they wind up dying in the wilderness because of it.
I sure wish I could say I had a “Caleb spirit.” I have to be honest, though, and say that I’d probably have sided with the 10 spies instead of listening to God’s words.
Do you find yourself in the same fix, like the ancient Israelites, trusting your fears instead of God’s faithfulness? Seeing the giants instead of His power? Wanting to shift your loyalties instead of following His loving leadership? Join the spy club.
The challenge for us today is to walk in the footsteps of Caleb and Joshua, men of courage who were “good spies” in tackling the mission set before them. What looks impossible is, indeed, possible through the strength of Jesus Christ. He is greater than any giants we face.
Put on your “good spy glasses” this week, and look for His help in getting through impossible situations. Be of good courage, ignore your fears, listen for His leading, and move forward in whatever mission He sets before you. He will provide everything to help you succeed. And you won’t need any futuristic gadgets!
Savior, teach us to trust Your word and Your purposes for us. Help us to be faithful to Your mission, knowing that You will help us overcome any giants or obstacles in the way. Make us like Caleb and Joshua, strong and courageous. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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© Copyright 2021 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.