In this week’s Torah portion (Numbers 13:1-15:41), we read about YHVH sending out the 12 spies in order to spy out the land for the children of Israel. These men were chosen by YHVH because they were leaders among the tribes of Israel. They were the men filled with wisdom and understanding. They had seen the miracles of YHVH and how He had led them out of Egypt. They had also, presumably, lived as slaves in Egypt and fully understood the harsh life they had left behind when YHVH “delivered them on wings of eagles to Himself.”
However, despite all these things, 10 of these 12 men brought back an evil report. Most of us have heard this report described as a “bad” report. However, it was much more than that. It was truly an “evil” report because it directly went against YHVH’s promises and YHVH Himself!
This evil report not only questioned the promises YHVH had made to them, it cast into doubt YHVH Himself and His ability to accomplish these promises. They had seen the waters of the Red Sea part. They had seen Pharaoh and his army destroyed in the waters. They had seen the plagues that had devastated the Egyptians. And they had also experienced the miraculous covering and shield that protected them from these plagues. How then, could they doubt?
What shocked me this year as I read this portion, was how the 10 evil spies reported back to the people.
And they reported to Moses and said, “We went to the land where you sent us. And truly, it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But the people who dwell in the land are strong and the cities are walled, and very great. And we saw the descendants of Anak there too. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negev. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.” Numbers 13:27-29
They are affirming the promises of YHVH as they report that the land does indeed flow with milk and honey and as they hold up the plentiful fruit of the land! Yet, the next words that come out of their mouths are “BUT the people that live there are too great for us to overcome.”
There were two men, however, who stood firmly against this evil report and instead proclaimed YHVH’s faithfulness to His people and to His promises! Joshua and Kaleb were those men. In the face of opposition from man, they clung fast to YHVH.
Kaleb silenced the people before Moses and said “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are certainly able to overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel an evil report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” Numbers 13:30-33
There is a lesson here for us. Sometimes YHVH gives us promises, but out of fear or uncertainty we can choose to not see them…even when they are staring us straight in the face. The 10 evil spies spoke their fear when they declared “we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
No two people see things exactly the same way. Put more than one person into a situation and you’ll never hear the exact same retelling of the story. However, one person’s perspective of the situation should never sway us from the things YHVH has shown to us. The evil report can come in many different forms. It can come in the form of an ungodly person trying to sway us away from God. It can come in the form of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or it can even come in the form of one of YHVH’s chosen leaders – as in the case of the 10 evil spies.
No person, no matter how “godly” or “anointed,” should ever trump the voice of YHVH in our lives. It’s up to us whose voice we listen to; the voice of man or the voice of YHVH.
So the choice is up to you. Will you choose to believe and hold fast to the promises of YHVH or will you choose to hear the evil report?