I can’t get past Numbers 13, so bear with me. Last time, I focused on the end of the chapter when the bulk of the scouts sent to check out the Promised Land declared themselves grasshoppers in comparison to the scary people they would be facing. Today, I’d like to slide back to the opening of the chapter, Numbers 13:1-3:
The Lord spoke to Moses: “Send men to scout out the land of Canaan I am giving to the Israelites. Send one man who is a leader among them from each of their ancestral tribes.” Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran at the Lord’s command. All the men were leaders in Israel.
The twelve men sent out, men who are named in the ensuing verses, were leaders among their respective tribes. Lest we miss that fact, it’s repeated in these verses. They were leaders.
Leaders? This is what leaders do? These guys came back from their little tour. From everything I can discern they all stayed together and saw the same things. After seeing those things, some of them–we don’t know how many–said, “Yeah, the land’s really great but there’s no way we can conquer it.”
Were these guys really leaders? Weren’t they the same leaders who had seen all the mighty works of the Lord in the preceding year? Honestly, they behaved more like Muppets than men.
After this Muppetry, Caleb stands up and presents the minority report:
Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!
That’s a leader! But the others became more determined in their cowardice. They compared themselves, as we saw before, to grasshoppers. Are you a grasshopper or a locust? These guys were content to be grasshoppers.
Before you jump to their defense and say things about the better part of valor and leaders exercising prudence, let’s look back to Numbers 13:17-20. Did Moses ask them to determine whether or not they advised an attack? No. Back in Numbers 13:2, God declared this to be “the land of Canaan I am giving to the Israelites.” He was giving it to them. These twelve were just to figure out the details.
The last two instructions Moses gave are intriguing to me:
Be courageous. Bring back some fruit from the land.
Be courageous and bring me some fruit. What a combo! The twelve men did the second of these but failed in the first. Why, if the people were so formidable, did the scouts slow themselves down with a two-person bunch of grapes? Could it be that they had more of a stomach for grapes than for any hint of danger?
Of course, the ten weak-willed spies received their punishment fairly quickly. But how often are we just as faithless? We’re pleased to accept the fruits of God’s provision but we back away when there’s a whisper of risk. Am I man or am I muppet? A grasshopper or a locust?