Numbers 14:36-37a, “And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land—the men who brought up a bad report of the land— died by plague before the Lord.” ESV
This is not the warm fuzzy verse to start your day. It’s an important one, however.
Of the 12 spies sent into Canaan, ten returned with a very negative, overly emotional report that turned the entire nation againt God. The statement above gives us a quick synopsis of what happed to those ten. First, however, understand what they did:
- They “made all the congregation to grumble” against the Lord. The word “grumble” in Hebrew means to stop, stay permanently, to be obstinate. The verbal expression of that condition is to complain. This is important to know because the people were not just afraid or lacking some faith. They had an agressive position of stubborness. Their sinful state had positioned them to never enter Canaan. They had no intention at all of ever following hard after God.
- They brought a “bad report about the land.” The Hebrew used here literally means to slander. It reveals that what was spoken by the spies was not a logical assessment of what they had found. This was an emotional, determined negative report trying to make the land look really bad. In fact, the idea is that, as they were giving this report, they were undermining God’s plan for their nation. “Slander” is an agressive sinful assault on a person’s character. This was an intentional report meant to bring dishonor to God.
As I consider this, I can’t help but think that the Israelites failed to care for their souls. Could it be that bitterness, anger, and rage had captured them so deeply that they were incapable of following God no matter how obvious He proved His love for them? Could it be that their distrust of God had grown so deep over the years and through the generations that they were unwilling to change their view of God?
What a powerful reminder that no matter what it takes, we must do the deep honest cleansing work that God wants and needs to work in us. We can never go where God is leading if we are not healthy in our soul.
Let me conclude with a few thoughts from this sobering passage:
- The stakes are high for leaders. The plague that wiped out the 10 negative spies came quickly and decisively.
- Negativity is more than just a view, but rather, a dangerous sin often rooted in unresolved issues that have infected the soul.
- Leading others away from God’s best plan is a dangerous exercise.
Infecting others with disbelief is a losing proposition.