Summary: The challenge we face in every crisis through which we pass, is whether we will view it through the "eyes of faith" or through the "eyes of the flesh."

The Challenges Of Crises

Text: Num.14: 1-10

Intro: Most of us are familiar with the biblical account of Israel’s wilderness wanderings. It is an account from which much can be learned about God’s loving care for His people, as well as the frailties of human nature.

Among the many spiritual problems of the children of Israel was their tendency toward stubborn self-will and unbelief. As a matter of fact, God referred to Israel’s wilderness wanderings as “the provocation” in Psalm 95: 7-11. The term speaks for itself; but in short, this was a time when the Israelites heard the voice of God, saw the miracles of God, and experienced God’s personal care, yet continually provoked God’s anger through stubbornness and unbelief.

But lest we become haughty in our attitude this morning, let us be reminded of how many times we have faced crises in our lives with a less than sterling demonstration of faith. God’s people haven’t changed much over the centuries. We still find ourselves battling with stubbornness and unbelief from time to time. However, the sad part of our fleshly responses to the crises of life is that we lose the blessings that God had in store for us in those situations.

As we look at Israel’s response to this particular crisis, may we learn from their mistakes. Crises are a challenge from God to exercise confidence in Him.

Theme: The challenges of Israel’s crisis are seen in:


A. They Were To Gather Intelligence Via A Search.

Num.13: 17 “And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:

18 And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many;

19 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;

20 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. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.”

B. The Intelligence Was To Be Used To Develop Battle Strategy.

1. The search was not to see if they could take the land, for God had already promised victory.

Num.13: 1 “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.”

2. Apparently, God had yielded to an earlier request to search the land to develop a plan of attack.

Deut.1: 22 “And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.”

NOTE: [1] Gathering intelligence in order to develop a plan of attack was the smart thing to do. The fact that God had promised to give them the land did not mean that they were to be totally passive in taking possession of that land. God expects us to use our brain, while at the same time exercising complete reliance on Him.

British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein was once visited in his studio by the eminent author and fellow Briton, George Bernard Shaw. The visitor noticed a huge block of stone standing in one corner and asked what it was for.

“I don’t know yet. I’m still making plans.”

Shaw was astounded. “You mean you plan your work. Why, I change my mind several times a day!”

“That’s all very well with a four-ounce manuscript,” replied the sculptor, “but not with a four-ton block.”

Today in the Word, April 5, 1993.

[2] What was the challenge that faced these twelve spies, as they searched out the land? The challenge was to view everything they saw in the light of what God had promised. They were being challenged to see everything from God’s point of view. God knew the giants were there all along. God knew the cities were walled all along. God knew that the inhabitants were a strong people all along. Still He said, “I’ll give you this land.”

[3] In every crisis through which we pass, we must decide whether to view it through the eyes of faith or the eyes of our flesh.

Faith in God makes great optimists. Over in Burma, Judson was lying in a foul jail with 32 lbs. of chains on his ankles, his feet bound to a bamboo pole. A fellow prisoner said, “Dr. Judson, what about the prospect of the conversion of the heathen?” with a sneer on his face.

His instant reply was, “The prospects are just as bright as the promises of God.”

The Presbyterian Advance.


A. They Verified What God Had Said.

Num.13: 26 “And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.

27 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.”

B. They Verbalized The Tactical Snags.

Num.13: 28 “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.

29 The Malekites 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.


32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.

33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

NOTE: [1] Ten of the spies saw Israel as outsized and overwhelmed. God saw them as overcomers. You see folks; faith has a language, and that language always agrees with what God has promised.

[2] I want to point out that the ten spies who brought up an evil report against the Promised Land did not sin by noticing the obstacles or opposition they would face in the land. They sinned by believing what they saw instead of what God had said.

[3] These ten spies had no trouble believing God was right about the traits of the land, but they thought He was wrong about the taking of the land. However, remember that these guys were strictly walking by sight. They could see that the land was good, just like God said. But they could not yet see the victory that had been promised; therefore they would not believe it.

[4] In searching out the land, the spies faced the challenge of living in the reality of God’s Word, or living in the reality of the world around them.

Doubt sees the obstacles;

Faith sees the way.

Doubt sees the darkest night;

Faith sees the day.

Doubt dreads to take a step;

Faith soars on high.

Doubt questions, “Who believes?”

Faith answers, “I!”

Gregory Dawson


A. The Majority Said, “We Can’t.”

1. The majority of the spies were looking only at circumstances.

Num.13: 31 “But the men that went up with him (Caleb) said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.”

NOTE: The observation of the 10 spies that the people of the land were stronger than they, was without a doubt the truth. It was that fact however, that made their faith toward God, and dependency on Him, absolutely necessary. Let us be careful to remember here that the point was not who was stronger, but whether they would believe what God had said. God had promised them the land. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way” (Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor. Philippians 2:12-18).

2. The majority of the people believed this was a major catastrophe.

Num.14: 1 “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.

2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!”

NOTE: [1] Basically, these people were saying that it would have been better for them to have died in Egypt or the desert than to come all this way, only to be disappointed. But it was their faithlessness that had caused their disappointment.

[2] The children of Israel believed the Promised Land was unconquerable. The truth however, was that they couldn’t enter the land because of their unbelief. The writer of Hebrews came to this conclusion when he wrote, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3: 19). Rather than face their sin, they blamed God and His servants, Moses and Aaron.

B. The Minority Said, “We Can.”

1. Joshua and Caleb spoke out of faith and reliance upon God.

Num.13: 30 “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”

Num.14: 6 “And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:

7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.

8 If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.”

2. Joshua and Caleb believed that acting contrary to God’s Word was tantamount to rebellion.

Num.14: 9 “Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.”

NOTE: [1] God had told the Israelites they were to go in and possess the land—that He was giving them the land of promise. Joshua and Caleb’s argument was that to reject God’s word to them was an act of rebellion. The same idea is brought out by Paul, when he said, “…whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom.14: 23b). Likewise, the writer of Hebrews says, “…without faith it is impossible to please him (God)…” (Hebrews 11: 6a).

[2] There is another principle found in this verse that can be easily missed. Notice that Joshua and Caleb said of the people of the land, “…for they are bread for us…” (Num.14: 9b). In the strictest sense, those words simply meant that the people of the land would be consumed, or beaten, by Israel—they would be swallowed up. In a spiritual sense however, bread is considered to be the staff of life. Just as food gives us strength, the crises of life will strengthen us in our Christian walk, because it encourages dependence upon God. Your problems may seem to be burdens, but God means for them to be bread, which strengthens you.

[3] The children of Israel experienced a challenge as they listened to the controversy between the spies: Were they going to believe the majority, or were they going to believe God? The crises of life often present us with the same challenge. Just because the majority says its suicide to trust God, doesn’t make it so. Like someone once said, “If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing” (Grit).


A. The Unbelieving Congregation Suffered.

Num.14: 22 “Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;

23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:


32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.


34 After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.”

B. The Unbelieving Spies Died For Their Slander.

Num.14: 36 “And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land,

37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord.”

NOTE: [1] One thing brought out in these verses is that we must be careful of fleshly and faithless complaining. Doing so can actually lead others into sin.

[2] Isn’t it sad that God had to wait 40 years to give His people what He’d promised them? That whole faithless generation had to die off before Israel could enter the Promised Land.

Theme: The challenges of this particular crisis are seen in: