13 Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ 14 And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes.
22 “…‘Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.’
23 “The plan pleased me well; so I took twelve of your men, one man from each tribe.
– Deuteronomy 1:13-15 & 22-23
Judges, Spies and the Difference it all Makes
When Moses faced a trial – a lack of resources, a strained body and mind, and a stubborn and rebellious people who complained about his leadership but still turned to him for direction – he sought the counsel of his father-in-law, Jethro, who didn’t tell him to leave the Israelites to die in the wilderness, nor did he downplay the seriousness of the problem, but instead instructed him in management matters, teaching him how to utilize the people that he had under his leadership already in order to better balance out the responsibilities he now faced.
Moses’ actions evidence his faith in God’s Word, which was given to both him and the Israelites. We read:
“…‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. 7 Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. 8 See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them'” (Deut 1:6b-8)
But Israel sent out spies. And they did so because they did not believe. Did the Israelites look for a pocket of time in which they could stall, try to create excuses for not going into the land, and remain in their comfortable camps that Moses had just given a great deal of security and rest to by his appointment of judges?
It would seem that what is given here is not the contrast so much between the actions of Moses and Israel, but the contrast of belief with unbelief, with their works following thereafter. When Moses faced this trial he persevered in faith, turning to his spiritual brother for encouragement, aid, etc; when Israel faced the possibility of trial, she sent out spies.
Moses was spiritually minded; Israel was carnally minded.
The parallel between Moses setting up judges and the Israelites sending out spies shows us a few things.
1. Moses and Israel were given the same promise from God.
2. Both were tested to trust in God’s Word or to turn away from God’s Word.
3. Moses faced the trial head on, by God’s grace; Israel feared what lay ahead of them, thereby giving evidence of their unbelief.
Our responses can say a lot about our profession of faith. Because Moses already had faith he sought godly counsel; because the Israelites already lacked faith they sought to avoid moving any further.
We find a parallel, I think, to what is taught us here in the Lord Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the Sower and the Seed, where we read:
13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
– Mark 4:13-20
Israel, I think, can be easily identified as either the wayside, stony ground, or thorny ones, and Moses can easily be identified as the last. Is this, then, a call for us to believe more so that we can do more? Not at all; it is an observation of what Scripture teaches all throughout. Trials reveal whether or not a man’s profession of faith is genuine. Moses’ faith displayed itself in his perseverance; Israel’s unbelief displayed itself in her desire to avoid trials, her fearfulness, and her desire to remain, to settle where she was and stop, assuming that she ever was, looking for that city whose builder and maker is God. Is there a typological correspondence between Moses as believer and Israel as professing-yet-unbelieving with Christians and professing-yet-unbelieving-Christians?
Perhaps. What do you say?