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Year 1, Week 17, Day 2

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Numbers 12-13.

Today’s reading pertains to some challenges within the Israel camp as they are journeying in the wilderness of Paran. Numbers 12 records a conflict that arose between Moses and two siblings: Miriam and Aaron. Moses’ character is impugned because of his marriage and perhaps, more importantly, his authority as the LORD’s spokesman is questioned: “And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Numbers 12:2). Numbers 13 notes that the LORD ordered spies to be sent into the Promised Land, who report back that while the land is all that God said it was, the people there pose a problem: “However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.” (Numbers 13:28). Thus, the majority of the spies reject the LORD’s orders: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” (Numbers 13:31b).

What struck me in today’s reading was the LORD revealing  important matters concerning His Word: “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” (Psalm 119:89-90). The Word of the LORD is vital for life and everything about life. The LORD has provided Moses as a special spokesman: “Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:7-8). Miriam and Aaron were put out that Moses was unique to the LORD. They attack Moses and Moses doesn’t respond to them. But the LORD does! Miriam is disciplined: “Miriam was leprous, like snow.” (Numbers 12:10a). Aaron confesses their wrong-doing: “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned.” (Numbers 12:11). Ironically, Moses’ special relationship with the LORD is demonstrated as the LORD heals Miriam, after a short stint outside of camp, as Moses intercedes: “O God, please heal her—please.” (Numbers 12:13). In this particular episode, the attack on Moses was something of an attack on the LORD and how He gives His Word.

Numbers 13 opens with a Word from the LORD: “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” (Numbers 13:1-2). What is stated in these opening verses sets the stage for what unfolds in this chapter. The LORD has declared that He has given the Land to Israel. The purpose of the spies was not to obtain military reconnaissance for determining if they could reasonably take possession of the land or not. The purpose for sending out spies was to verify that the land was a the LORD said it would be: "I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:17). The report begins on a good note: “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” (Numbers 13:27). But the report concludes in unbelief: “However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.” (Numbers 13:28). The majority conclusion of the spies was tragic: "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” (Numbers 13:31). This conclusion is not merely the confession of fear-filled people; it is strong defiance toward the LORD who said of the land, “I am giving to the people of Israel.

But Caleb, one of the spies, confessed belief: “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30). Did Caleb not see what the other spies saw? Caleb saw the same things, but saw them in light of what the LORD had promised. It wasn’t about who saw what, but about who remembered what the LORD had said: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today.” (Exodus 14:13a). Only a few years earlier had the LORD displayed what He can do with the like of Pharaoh. Sadly, Israel did not see the LORD; they only saw themselves and the big people in the land: “And there we saw the Nephilim…and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (Numbers 13:33). The LORD loves belief in His Word. The LORD honors those who trust in His Word: "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b). While it will be another forty years, the land of Hebron, explicitly mentioned as part of what the spies took note of (Numbers 13:22); would become the specific land given to Caleb: “Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 13:13-14).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe