Friday after Invocavit
Scripture: Numbers 13:1-25 (NKJV)
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”
3 So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel. 4 Now these were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; 5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; 6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; 7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; 8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun; 9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; 10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi; 11 from the tribe of Joseph, that is, from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi; 12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; 13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael; 14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi; 15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.
16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.
17 Then Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, 18 and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; 19 whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; 20 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.” Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.
21 So they went up and spied out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, near the entrance of Hamath. 22 And they went up through the South and came to Hebron; Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs. 24 The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the men of Israel cut down there. 25 And they returned from spying out the land after forty days.
The use of spies is common practice throughout history, and Deuteronomy 1:20–23 indicates that this directive of the Lord was in response to the people’s request. Thus the very sending of the spies was an expression of God’s grace toward His people who lack adequate faith. We can make all kind of speculation about why the Israelites were concerned or cautious about entering the land that God had promised them, but it is far more important to see ourselves and our own lack of faith in their behavior than to speculate about their reasons for the sin of doubting the Word and will of the Lord our God.
The record of the spy mission describes a land that seems to fulfill the Lord’s promise of an abundant land flowing with milk and honey, for the single grape cluster is so massive it requires two men to carry it between them on a pole. The Lord is faithful even when we are faithless, He is gracious even when we are rebellious, He is loving even when we are angry. Often we insist on spying out, investigating, testing the faithfulness of God in our lives, though the overwhelming evidence is that He is always more faithful than we deserve.
The Israelites had experienced the delivery from Egyptian slavery, the merciful protection of the column of fire and smoke as well as the crossing of the Red Sea, plus the bread from Heaven before this incident—but they still had their doubts about God’s faithfulness. We on the other hand have experienced delivery from slavery to sin and devil in Baptism, the merciful forgiveness of Absolution, plus the true bread of life in Communion—but we still doubt God’s faithfulness.
May the Holy Spirit strengthen our faith this Lenten Season. Amen.