Sending Men, Going Forward

"Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come." (Deuteronomy 1:22)

Arriving at the border of the Promised Land, the Children of Israel decided to send men to spy out the land. Tragically, the plan failed. Rather than inspiring the Children of Israel, they refused to enter the Promised Land. Sadly, many would die in the wilderness as a consequence.

Undoubtedly, the plan would have been carefully considered. A well-prepared strategy with clear objectives would have been essential before invading a country. And especially when it was known that the inhabitants were ready, waiting with weapons poised, defence systems activated and offensive tactics in place and practised to precision. The plan probably included a map indicating the preferred route so that any subsequent battle would favour Israel. Most military advisers would view such steps as critical. To pit an unprepared and inexperienced army against a seasoned enemy would be suicide. All would agree that a plan that would inspire the troops would be sound advice, and certainly welcomed by any capable military leader.

"The plan pleased me well; so I took twelve men, one man from each tribe. " (Deuteronomy 1:23)

The plan was endorsed. The twelve men were specifically selected for the task; leaders in whom the people could rely to give a genuine overview of what to expect, the lay of the land, obstacles to avoid-the path to take.

When the men returned, however, only two, Joshua and Caleb gave a favourable report.

Sadly, the Children of Israel were persuaded by the ten men who gave a bad report of the land.

Hesitation filled the horizon; timidity grew stronger.

God had brought them to this place, but now something was holding the Children of Israel from advancing. God hadn't changed. It was as if their faith had been stolen. Standing moments away from their inheritance, the Children of Israel were hesitating, reluctant to go forward ... couldn't go forward.

Going forward is made more difficult, when it is easier to stay where you are.

When the Children of Israel were in Egypt they had seen the miracles with their own eyes-the land of Egypt had been ravaged by God's judgements. The Egyptian army had been destroyed, at the Red Sea. They watched them drown as the walls of water, through which they had just walked, came crashing down on the Egyptians. Leaving the land of Egypt the Children of Israel had followed the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, until finally encamping at Mt Sinai. God's Presence was seen daily, for almost two years while they stayed at Mt Sinai, and then also for the entire eleven-day journey from Mt Sinai to the border of the Promised Land.

Now as they were about to enter and take possession of their inheritance they would experience a new reality. God would be with them, but He would remain unseen. He would continue to fight their battles, give them victory over their enemies, and drive out the nations before them, but His Presence would no longer be visible, as before. No more pillar of cloud or fire. The daily provision of bread from heaven would cease. Things would be different the moment the Children of Israel would enter the Promised Land. The daily, visible Presence of God would be gone. They would be visibly alone.

When entering the Promised Land, the Children of Israel needed a level of faith that remained steadfast despite not seeing God. In this faith, Israel would go forward taking possession of the land and believing that God was with them, even though His Presence was not visible.

Today, the nation of Israel is poised ready to take possession, unsure of how to proceed, aware that they will be condemned and despised by the nations should they continue repossessing the Land of Israel. With the international community closely watching and making various threats, Israel is forced to send men, to negotiate an acceptable path to peace. Consequently, Israel hesitates to advance toward possessing their inheritance. The Children of Israel have been here before.

Today, it would seem that the Jewish people need to activate a level of faith, similar to that of their forefathers centuries ago. In order for them to go forward, the Jewish people must believe that God is with them, and though He is unseen yet, He fights their battles, driving out their enemies before them. Therefore Israel can go forward in faith.

Just as God has carried His people Israel through the centuries of dispersion among the nations, and has brought them back from the lands of their exile to repossess the Promised Land, so too, He brought their ancestors from the land of Egypt "... all the way that you went until you came to this place." (Deuteronomy 1:31).

Today, the nation of Israel is ready to take possession. The nations, however, are standing in the way.

Sending men to negotiate a more internationally acceptable path is more likely to result in prohibitive restrictions for the Jewish people, with the further carving up of the land of their inheritance, and giving it to other people to whom it does not belong.

Going forward in faith, however, means resettling the land, constructing new towns and villages, rebuilding the ancient ruins, and the Temple, and taking possession of their inheritance. Going forward in faith means returning to the Lord, and walking in His ways. Whilst the international community will not approve, going forward in faith must be based on God's commands, otherwise it is simply sending men.

Which is better: listening to international voices claiming the way to peace, or heeding the Word of God, and going forward in obedience, trusting Him?

Mark Warren