Day 12

Scouting Out Canaan

from the reading plan

Numbers 13:1-33, Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17, Matthew 8:23-27

I grew up in a family absolutely obsessed with college football. We had season tickets to Alabama football games for years, and most of my extended family on my mother’s side actually lives in Tuscaloosa, where the University of Alabama is located. Our family is also notoriously a bit superstitious (or as Michael Scott from The Office would say, “a little stitious”). If Alabama wins the first game of the season and you have a new shirt, congratulations! You’re wearing that shirt every Saturday for the next three months. But if the team loses…throw that shirt in the garbage because you’re never wearing it again. Someone leaves the room to go to the bathroom and Alabama scores a touchdown during a particularly close game? Better get really comfortable in that bathroom because you can’t come out until the game’s over.

These quirky superstitions are all in good fun (if you come to watch a football game at my home in New York, I promise I won’t lock you in the bathroom), but there is some part of us that is probably being a little serious. Why? Because we want to believe that we can control the outcome of the game.

That’s where my family’s football obsession connects to this story in Numbers. The Israelites had been told since before they left Egypt that God was going to bring them into the promised land. God’s promise to them was that He would bring them out of their suffering and into a land flowing with milk and honey. But when these twelve men came back from scouting the land that God had promised to them, they were uncertain. Moses had told them to be courageous, but they returned doubtful that God would be able to come through on His promise. They thought the game was in their hands, but they had on their unlucky shirts.

The problem with this picture is that the Israelites were relying on their own strength to fulfill the promises of God. When God promised to bring the Israelites into the promised land, He promised that He would do it. It would be His might, His power, and His strength that fulfilled the promise. The Israelites had to keep up their end of the bargain—remaining faithful to God and following His commandments—but they were not responsible for winning the war that would lead to the fulfillment of God’s promise. All they had to do was trust in God.

When we try to fight our battles in our own strength, we end up like the spies Moses sent out to scout the land or the disciples in the boat during the storm: discouraged, doubtful, and afraid. But when we rely on God to provide the victory, we stand courageous in the face of trial. Our battles are no match for the strength of the almighty God who has promised that His presence goes with us always.

Written by Ellen Taylor

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