How do you profitably study a familiar passage? How do you make sure that you do not miss important insights because you always see the text as you have always looked at it? We assume because we can re-tell the story that we know all it says. That is rarely, if ever, true. But our tendency is to “check-out” when we examine a familiar text.
Few Old Testament texts are more familiar than the spying of the land. Yes, we know twelve men were sent to scout out the land. We know Joshua and Caleb urged the nation to take the land by God’s power. We know ten others discouraged the hearts of the people. We know the people spent forty years watching a generation of soldiers die in the wilderness for their disobedience.
Do you already know that these twelve were leaders from each of the tribes? Have you already observed that there were two leaders from the tribe of Joseph since none from Levi would have been counted among the soldiers? Here we see what happens when recognized leaders fail to urge God’s people to do what God is calling them to do.
The ten led the nation in disobedience by nurturing fear. They highlighted the difficulties they anticipated. They focused on the walled cities and the giants they had seen. They compared themselves unfavorably. But their greatest failure was not seeing God’s role in this challenge.
How do you lead? Are you empowered by God’s commission? Are you terrified by the enemy’s walled cities? Jesus’ promise was he will build his church and the gates of hell cannot prevent that. He is taking back the territory over which Satan has claimed squatter’s rights.
Seeing ourselves in this kind of passage protects us from missing it. It also reminds us of our responsibilities. God wants each of us to fill the “best supporting actor” role since Jesus has the lead!
John Kenneth King