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The 12 Spies

The Bible in Art: The 12 Spies     

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Verses for Consideration: Numbers 14:1-20

1 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

 

10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

13 Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face,that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 16 ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.

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The Israelites had just received a disturbing report from 10 of the 12 spies. They concluded that the people who lived there were so formidable that the Israelites would never conquer the land. The grumbling grew louder as the night progressed. There was even talk of killing Moses and Aaron and returning to slavery in Egypt.

Then God’s glory illuminated the night sky. “I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them,” he threatened. Then he promised Moses, “I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

Were you surprised that Moses didn’t agree with the Lord? Instead of being a leader of Israel, Moses could have been the father of his own great nation.

Besides that, the Israelites were ready to kill him.

But Moses interceded for his people: “If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, ‘The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert'” (verses 15,16).

Then Moses remembered what the Lord had revealed about himself, that he was “slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.” Moses pleaded that God would act in accordance with his great love and forgive the people.

We Christians also have someone who intercedes for us. “Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Jesus also reminds his Father that, in spite of our constant rebellion, we are forgiven because he died for us on hell’s cross. His resurrection from the dead guarantees our forgiveness.

No matter what you’ve done, you are forgiven in Jesus. Rejoice in the Lord’s unfathomable love.

Prayer: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Amen.

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Title: The Spies Escape (1881)

Artist: Lord Leighton Frederic