The trip from Kadesh Barnea to Lebo-Hamath is approximately two hundred fifty miles.1 Forty days would have been a reasonable amount of time for the spies to travel through the area and accomplish the tasks they were given. If you’ve spent some time studying the Scriptures, your attention might have piqued at the occurrence of forty days.
• The Lord sent rain upon the earth in the great flood for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:12).
• For forty days, Goliath came out against Saul’s army, defying and provoking them, until David showed up and killed him with a stone from his slingshot (1 Sam. 17:16).
• Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights while in the wilderness before being tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:2).
Do you see a common theme among the instances above, including the spies’ journey?
Most often in Scripture, forty days is associated with a time of testing. The Lord tested Noah’s endurance in the flood; the spies tested the quality of the land; Goliath tested Israel’s faith in the Lord to deliver her enemies into her hands; Satan tested Jesus, who proved faithful, in the wilderness before His public earthly ministry.
While the Lord does not tempt us (Jas. 1:13), He certainly allows us to be tested. In Luke 22:31-32, we see Jesus telling Peter that Satan had asked to sift Peter like wheat. The Book of James tells us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3, ESV, emphasis mine). Testing isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t an easy thing either.
If you are tired from the testing, may I encourage you, friend? Jesus knows. He knows what you’re going through. He knows because He has been there. It might not be the exact same circumstances, but He is not unaware or lacking empathy. Go to Him. Just as Jesus prayed for Peter (Luke 22:32), the Spirit will intercede for you (Rom. 8:26).
The spies told Moses and Aaron that the land was all God promised it would be, but with one caveat—the people living there. I can almost hear the spies now, We’ve got some good news and some bad news. Which would you like to hear first?
Caleb was unfazed by what he saw in Canaan because he knew the Lord had promised to give the land to them. In his mind, it was already theirs! He had faith in God’s ability to come through for them no matter what. The problem with the spies’ “bad report” (Num. 13:32, ESV) was that they compared the strength of the people in Canaan with their own strength. It wasn’t by their strength they were taken out of Egypt. It wasn’t by their strength the Red Sea parted before them. It wasn’t by their strength they produced manna or quail.
The people of God can still struggle with sliding back into self-reliance. In Galatians 3 Paul rebuked the church for operating in her own strength (the flesh) instead of continuing in the Spirit. He reminded them it is by faith in what Christ has purchased for us on the cross that we continue to be perfected by Him. It is not achieved by trying harder and keeping all the rules.
The promised land can represent all sorts of things in the believer’s life. Most importantly, it symbolizes eternal life in Christ. By our strength, we can’t measure up. We can’t get there. We fall miserably short of God’s standard of holiness. But by believing in Christ we get there. We get Him. Not only does Jesus cover our sin and imperfections with His blood and perfect life, He gives us the Holy Spirit who works in and through us to make us more like Him.
Maybe the promised land for you (in addition to eternal life in Christ) is freedom from a habit, sin, or thought pattern that refuses to die. You are desperate to be free, but it seems like it’s impossible. With you, it is. With God, it’s not.
Here’s what I’ve experienced in my thirty years of walking with Jesus: The Lord loves using the small, weak, and insignificant to humble the large, strong, and self-important.
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me remember that Your grace is sufficient for me and that Your power is made perfect in weakness. With You God, all things are possible. Amen.
1. “II Report: Numbers 13:25-28,” NIV Standard Lesson Commentary (Colorado Springs: Standard Publishing, 2019).
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