Fear or faith for the future?
Moses had a hard time, to put it mildly, leading the Israelites for forty years through the desert as they made their way to Canaan, the land God had promised to them. Many times they rebelled and hankered after the life that they had had in Egypt, strangely forgetting all the misery, suffering and hardship they had endured there. Their recollection of the luscious fruit and vegetables they had enjoyed seems to have blocked from their memory the more traumatic things. But however uncongenial they might have found the desert to be, and however much they grew bored and dissatisfied with the daily manna, actually entering Canaan would have its problems too. Since God had promised them that land, they could be absolutely assured of their eventual possession of it. But it was a hostile land, occupied by peoples none too welcoming and, in some cases, positively formidable. God knew that, on approaching the border, they would need some special encouragement. He therefore instructed Moses to send ten people to reconnoitre the territory and bring back a report of it. These spies returned saying how fruitful the land was but also how fearsome some of the inhabitants were. One of them, Caleb, confidently declared that they “should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it”. But others were afraid. “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are”. But those same spies had also brought back grapes, pomegranates and figs, samples of the abundant fruitfulness of the land which lived up to the reputation of “flowing with milk and honey”. Fear overruled faith as the people weighed up the two sides of the report. It was not that there was no encouragement for them. But they missed the encouragement (Caleb’s positive words and the fruit-sample) because they looked at the obstacle (the powerful tribes).
If we are honest, perhaps we would admit that, had we been in their shoes we might have reacted in a similar way. After all, what consolation is a bowl of fruit when it looks as if you’re about to be massacred? Had we reacted as they did we would, however, have been as wrong as they were. The promise of God, backed by the positive report and samples of the produce of the land ought to have served as an encouragement because they represented and symbolised the future that God had in store for his people. The Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites all symbolised the present, a present that God was well able to handle. But they ought to have seen in that fruit, the symbol of the promised future, that victory was at hand, a victory that would enable their future to be realised.
”Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.
[II Corinthians 4:16-18]
Warmest greetings in Christ,
Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus