In the thirteenth chapter of Numbers, we find an account of great sadness. The children of Israel were sending in twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan before they went in to conquer it. That account parallels the challenges that we dads face in raising our families in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ten of those men failed the test before them, and sadly many dads are failing as well. Let’s look at this section of Scripture together and see how we can avoid the pitfalls to which these men fell prey.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men . . .” (Numbers 13:1-2a). Here we find that the Lord is telling Moses to go spy out the land. Moses chose a man from each of the tribes. These were leaders in the Israelite community, men of position who were likely destined to become rulers when the elders in each tribe passed away. Likely, they were young enough to be able to endure the physically challenging mission with sufficient maturity to handle situations they might face. These men were the “creme of the crop.”
The spies were embarking on a dangerous journey that would test them to determine whether they were actual leaders or mere figureheads. When a man marries, he instantly finds himself in a position of leadership. However, that doesn’t mean he knows how to lead just as owning a car doesn’t mean a person knows how to drive. As the months and years pass, it becomes obvious whether Dad is a true leader or one who is just filling the position. There isn’t any official training that Dad receives to teach him how to lead his family. The more he has been in the Word and applied what he has read, though, the better prepared he will be to lead his family. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). This will be the basis for wise decisions.
Moses’ directions for the men were that they would, “see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. . .” (Numbers 13:18-20).
On returning from their mission, the leaders appeared to be successful in their assignment. There were no casualties, and they brought back a cluster of grapes for everyone to observe the fruit of the land. The excitement would have been tremendous as everyone gathered to hear the report after being gone forty days. “And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan” (Numbers 13:27-30).
We aren’t told who was giving this fearful account to the people, although we do know from the passage it wasn’t Caleb or Joshua. Likely, it was collective and affirmed to be true from all ten of the twelve. Yes, they confirmed what the Lord told them—that it was a land flowing with milk and honey. However, they were giving a negative report that would fuel terror in all the people. Here were hand-picked “leaders” who were fearful and undermining Moses’ leadership along with God’s direction. Moses’ important direction to the spies before they left was that they should be “. . . of good courage.” Yet, they had succumbed to fear.
Have you noticed that it takes COURAGE to be a good leader? It seems to me that it is easy to become fearful as we face challenges. Others can be quick to criticize the decisions we make, and that can cause us uncertainty and concern. Even without criticism, when so many others are making popular choices as they follow the “broad worldly path,” it can make the direction we are heading feel questionable. How will our chil