Updated: Jan 27, 2020
“Overcoming Life’s Giants” Part One - Numbers 13:27-37
“Don’t Believe What You Hear.”
Terry Harman, D.Min, PhD - www.thetabernacleman.com
The Grapes of Canaan, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
Introduction : This is part one of a two-part series dealing with life’s giants. When a stoner becomes a hero, the news will spread across the country. The young man of our story today possessed slinging skills that were second to none!
The politically elite, military commanders as well as the common foot soldier . . . all believed the odds were against this young man. After all, he had no military experience. Never had he felt the weight of a sword in his hand as it drew blood from an opponent on the battlefield. He’d never stood toe to toe with his enemy in that soul-searching moment where he was required to take a life. He was the underdog, a misfit, without a chance of winning.
All eyes were upon him. Would his heart grow faint as he listed to the hecklers surrounded him? Would he run in fear or would he stand up to the challenge? That day, even his brother laughed at him. The king made fun of his youth and his enemy called him names and taunted him with religious insults. All he had to cling to was his father’s instructions. No one knows for sure where he acquired his military skills. We do not know if his father taught him . . . or if work on the back-hill country of Bethlehem honed these skills. But this we know . . . on this day he defeated his giant . . .!
“The women sang one to another in their play, and said:
Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
(1 Samuel 18:7)
It is not uncommon for each of us to feel the giant before us is too great to conquer. “This enemy is too powerful, too cunning, too skilled and more prepared than I will ever be.” If we are not careful, we will allow our emotions to magnify the problem that stands before us and convince us the battle is over before it even begins.
The book of Numbers (Hebrew – Bemidbar) records the story of the twelve spies, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. While Israel camped quietly in the wilderness, the twelve scouts acted as forward observers. Their assignment? Gather Intel, take notice of the fruit of the land and identify the territory that might be suitable for the people of God to inhabit.
The story is found in Numbers 13:1-33. Ten of the twelve spies that were sent that day to scout out the land, were defeated early on by their first glimpse of what they perceived as giants far off in the distance. After forty days the ten brought back a negative report.
Only two, Joshua and Caleb believed that God had promised Abraham that there would be a “Promised Land” overflowing with milk and honey. The ten fixated on the problem of the land. The two focused on the promise of the land. Caleb “stilled” the people as the ten spies spun their story and stirred up the people.
The Hebrew word haw-saw' rendered “stilled” in English, is a polite way of saying that Caleb told the crowd to hush up, be quiet or still your tongues as the crowd rallied against Moses. Caleb’s report was the total opposite of the negative report given to Moses.
Question: was Moses blameless in this scenario? If God gave the promise of the land to Abraham, was Moses just being an overly cautious leader when he sent the scouting party into the territory or was there a hint of doubt in Moses’ mind that the Promised Land could be inherited? Just a thought.
Sometimes we find it easier to believe the lie instead of the truth. Why is it so easy to for us to gravitate to the negative report and completely overlook the good report? Our daily news is filled with one tragedy after the next. One deadly shooting after the next. Seldom does the evening news highlight a good story. It appears the negative, the bad, the tragic are more newsworthy than a good report. It would be easy to give up hope and believe it will never get any better.
Unfortunately, the news reporter is not the only purveyor of negativity. The tendency to focus on the impossibilities of life often are transferred from one generation to the next. As parents, the gift we can pass on to our children is to help them to recognize or “see” that the “giants” that lay in wait before us are actually vulnerable when confronted with the God-given abilities that reside in each and every servant of the Lord. What if shepherd-boy David, the son of Jesse had believed the report of King Saul’s army? What would have happened if he allowed the discouraging words of his brother to bring him down? Here’s what may have happened if David believed the report of how dangerous and mighty the famed warrior Goliath from Gath was. The shepherd-boy David, son of Jesse, may have never become David, King of Israel, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).
The challenges, problems and the insurmountable impossibilities we face, could be an opportunity in disguise, through which we may be elevated to the next level in our leadership, service or spiritual growth. Unfortunately, Caleb’s report was drowned out by the by the majority who accompanied him on the scouting party into the land of Canaan.
The 1917 JPS version of Numbers 13:32 translates the Hebrew word dib·bat as “evil report.” Not only was this is a “bad report” but the verse goes on to say “they spread” or whispered this negativity among the crowd to convince others of their version of the report and possibly defamed the character and integrity of Joshua and Caleb’s by disputing the positive findings of the intelligence gathering exposition.
In order to convince the crowd of how intimidating the inhabitants of Canaan were, the ten spies compared the size of these giants by referencing the size of the people to the Nephilim - han·ne·fi·lim, a giant-like people before the flood and “the sons of Anak” - a·nak, “who come from the Nephilim,” a giant-like people after the flood. The Israelite community believed the majority’s report. Spreading the bad report had severe consequences for the ten spies.
Interestingly, in Numbers 13:38, the ten spies report the root of their problem, “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”
The ten spies compared their physical stature with that of what they “saw” in the “giants. From a distance they determined that the inhabitants of the land could not be conquered. The spies forgot The Promise of the Lord and instead relied upon their own physical measurements and calculations and went one step further by assuming the giants were of the same opinion – giants are unbeatable! The land is uninhabitable by God’s people. We cannot seize The Promise.
Joshua and Caleb were not struck down by the plague but remained alive (Numbers 14:38). The lives of Joshua and Caleb’s were not only preserved but their reputation of integrity went before them. Caleb was rewarded by the Lord and received a promise that he and his descendants would inherit the land and Joshua was given the honor of leading the people into the Promised Land. A positive report can usher in the promise. Don’t always believe the negative report you hear!
English Explanation of Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:3:5
The spies have no portion in the world to come, as it says, “And those men that spread such calumnies about the land, died by the plague before the lord” (Numbers 14:37): “[they] died” in this world, “by the plague” in the world to come. The spies, who brought back to Moses and the Children of Israel an evil report about the Land of Israel, do not have a place in the world to come. Due to their extreme lack of faith in God, they are not only killed in this world but lose hope for the future. The final three sections of our Mishnah contain disputes between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer. In each case Rabbi Akiva takes a more strict opinion, one which leaves less hope for the future.
'במגפה לפני ה, “by a pestilence before the Lord.” The punishment was commensurate to their sin. They had sinned by abusing their power of speech with their tongues; this is why their death resulted from a plague which first attacked their tongues lengthening them until their navels. Then worms crawled out of their navels through their tongues (So the Torah added the words: “before the Lord
[EVEN THOSE MEN DIED …] BY THE PLAGUE BEFORE THE LORD — by that death which was fitting for them — measure for measure. They had sinned with their tongue, therefore their tongue grew long extending right down to their navels, and worms came from their tongue and entered their navels. This is the reason why it states, they died by “the” plague, and not בְּמַגֵּפָה by “a” plague; this, too, is the meaning of the words “before the Lord” (they died by the plague which was before the Lord) — by that plague which was fitting for them according to the methods of the Holy One, blessed be He, Who metes out “measure for measure” (Sotah 35a).