LESSONS FROM THE TWELVE SPIES
By David J. Riggs
A. I have a Bible quiz for you. Who are these men: Shammau,
Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi,
1. If you know who these are, congratulations, you are among
a handful of persons who remember those remote characters
in the Bible.
B. Do you know these men: Joshua and Caleb?
1. Yes, they were outstanding leaders in the nation of Israel.
C. The ten men mentioned earlier are the other spies recorded in
Num. 13 and 14.
1. Their names soon forgotten, but their evil deeds live on.
I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND.
A. The children of Israel were encamped in the Wilderness of
Paran, not far from the land of Canaan.
1. God told Moses to send a leader from every tribe to spy out
the land. Num. 13:2; 14:6-8
B. After 40 days the spies returned and said that Canaan was a
wonderful land that flows with milk and honey, but ten of the
spies expressed these words of rebellion - Num. 13:31-33.
1. Joshua and Caleb were of a different spirit. Num. 13:30
2. Nonetheless, the majority prevailed and Israel wandered in
the wilderness forty years while that whole generation died.
3. This account from Numbers 13 & 14 should be very familiar
to most readers.
a. Paul wrote - 1 Cor. 10:11.
b. Thus, our question is what can we learn from this
incident of the 12 spies?
II. THERE WERE TWO ATTITUDES AND ACTIONS AMONG THE SPIES.
A. The attitude and actions of the ten spies was altogether evil.
Let's look closely and see if we can determine their problems.
1. Inferiority Complex or Self-depreciation. Num. 13:33
a. They saw themselves as tiny, little grasshoppers who
would be crushed by big giants.
b. Some Christians are so afraid of failure that they become
reserved, overly cautious, and uninvolved.
(1) They follow a policy of guarded living, holding
back time, talents, and money from God's service.
Their motto is: "To keep from failing -- don't try!"
c. On the other hand, those who are willing to risk making
mistakes and failures.
d. These are the ones who ultimately achieve great things
for the Lord.
e. Our motto should be - Phil. 4:13.
2. Fear. Joshua indicated they were afraid. Num. 14:9
a. Fear naturally follows doubt and self-depreciation.
b. Fear can paralyze us from doing what we ought to do.
c. The strong work hard at overcoming fear. 2 Tim. 1:7;
3. A Pessimistic, Negative Spirit.
a. Negativism had set in as they tried to evaluate their
b. Negativism is one of the devil's most powerful tools.
(1) The devil couldn't stand the thought of Israel
trusting God and moving forward by faith to
receive the land as God had promised.
(2) A man approached an Atheist one day and asked
for a donation for foreign preaching. The Atheist
turned him down, but the man continued his plea
and the Atheist again said, "No." Finally, the
determined one said, "Won't you give at least $10
to save a soul from going to hell?" The Atheist
shouted, "No, there's not enough people going to
hell as it is!" We pose a question for personal
application: "Do your interest and actions
regarding foreign preaching demonstrate that you
have about the same negative attitude as the
4. Emotional Tactics.
a. The ten spies were masters at using emotional scare
tactics to arouse the people. Num. 14:1-2
b. The evil report of the ten spies sparked terror in the
hearts of thousands.
c. When emotionalism takes over, good, sound Biblical
reasoning is thrown out.
d. Joshua and Caleb tried to give their evaluation of the
trip, but all the congregation sought to stone them with
e. Emotionalism closes one's mind to truth and proper
5. Unbelief. The word "unbelief" sums up the whole of their
problem. Heb. 3:17-19
a. Doubt caused them to question their ability to take the
b. The Israelites had already seen God's mighty power in
the ten plagues and the crossing of the red sea.
(1) An Atheistic teacher was trying to belittle the
Bible to a class of college students by saying that
the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites was
no miracle at all because they crossed at a place
where the water was only six inches deep. A
young man in the back of the class raised his hand,
and said, "Praise God for the great miracle." The
teacher said, "What miracle?" The young man
said, "God drowned the whole Egyptian army in
only six inches of water!"
(2) The Israelites should have trusted and relied on the
power of God.
(a) Forty years later, in their first battle, the
Israelites did not lose a single soldier. Num.
c. We, too, have God on our side. All we need to do is call
on Him. Rom. 8:31,37; Phil. 4:13; Psalm 20:7
a. The preceding attitudes contributed to the spirit of
rebellion against God. Num. 14:3-4
b. There they are, on the threshold of the promised land,
but they want to return to the land of slavery!
7. Severe Punishment.
a. Unbelief and disobedience bring severe punishment.
b. Those evil spies were not given forty years but were
destroyed immediately. Num. 14:36-37
B. THE ATTITUDE AND ACTION OF THE TWO GOOD SPIES.
a. They had confidence that God was with them, and were
determined to do His will. Num. 14:9
a. They stepped in and tried to reason and encourage the
people, even when they were about to stone them. Num.
b. It's amazing that later it was these giants that Caleb
chose to defeat. Joshua 14:12
c. God later encouraged Joshua. Joshua 1:9
d. Today, we need to bravely face the giants in our lives
(suffering, hardship, or whatever).
(1) We need to stop complaining and bemoaning the
hardships we have, and bravely face them.
(2) A famous writer said, "When I was a boy, I
thought life was rough because I had no shoes,
until I met a boy who had no feet."
(3) A lady said, "I thought life was rough because I
had no new shoes or purse, until I met a woman
who had no credit cards."
3. A Positive, Optimistic Spirit. Num. 13:30
a. All of us need to be willing and able.
b. There was once a farmer who had two mules. One was
named "willing" and the other was named "able." The
story goes that willing was willing, but was not able. On
the other hand, able was able, but was not willing. Able
thought willing should have been more able, but how
could he, when he was not able, but was willing? Willing
thought able should have been more willing, but how
could he, when he was not willing, but was able? All
would have been great, if only willing would have been
more willing, and able more able; but, neither willing
nor able were both willing and able, and as you might
well expect, the farmer didn't get much done.
4. An influence for Good.
a. They didn't have much of an influence at the time of the
rebellion, but in later years they did.
b. Even today, Joshua and Caleb have a powerful influence
for good on us.
c. Today, we need good leaders as they were.
(1) We need good leaders who do not let emotions
(2) We need good leaders who are not opinionated,
but rely on God and His Word.
5. Faith. Num. 13:30; 14:7-8
a. Their most important asset was their deep-rooted faith
b. We, too, need an unwavering faith in God.
c. Dramatic and significant is the story of the Pilgrims,
our forefathers. On December 21, 1620, the Mayflower
dropped anchor in Plymouth Bay, with Captain
Christopher Jones at her helm. It had been a grueling
voyage, taking the sixty-six days to make the perilous
crossing. There had been disease, anxiety, and childbirth
among the 102 courageous passengers. Furthermore,
they arrived on the New England shore during a hard
winter which ultimately claimed half of their number.
However, when Spring came, and the captain of the
Mayflower offered free passage to anyone desiring to
return, not a single person accepted. The faith of the
survivors, who had signed the famous "Compact"
beginning with the words, "In the name of God, Amen
and Amen," was taking on visible meaning. They had
come to a wilderness to carve out a better way of life.
Faith prompted the voyage; faith sustained them, and
their religious convictions constrained them to raise
their voices in praise to God. Their hardship, sacrifice,
devotion, concept of government, and vigorous religion
all remind us of those Bible worthies who sought a
country whose builder and maker is God.
a. The fact that they "wholly followed the Lord" is
mentioned several times in the Scriptures. Num. 32:11-
12; Deut. 1:36; Joshua 14:8-14
7. Rewards of the faithful.
a. God abundantly blessed Joshua and Caleb.
b. We, too, need to do as they did. Psalm 19:11; 2 Pet.
A. Remember, God is the final judge.
1. He is the One who will either reward or punish.
2. Let us learn His will and do it.
B. There remains a happy Canaan land for us, the promised land of
1. Shall we follow in the steps of ten spies or Joshua and
2. Shall we serve God in spite of danger, persecution, or
3. Shall we serve God in spite of the fact that His way is not
the most popular?
4. Shall we serve God in spite of relatives and friends who
choose the opposite direction?
5. Shall we serve God when others are having fun in sin and
6. If we "wholly follow the Lord," we will reach the promised
land, and we will be an influence for good both now and