It was on this day that the scouts returned with their evil report. Ten of twelve notable men were convinced that the conquest of Canaan was impossible; only Joshua and Caleb were ready to go into the land. Upon hearing the report, the Exodus generation, responded with cries and murmuring in their tents, spreading fear and doubt throughout the camp to the point that people accused God of hating them. And as a consequence, that generation was condemned to wander in the wilderness for another 38 years.
Considering that they admitted the land was flowing with milk and honey, but also revealed that it contained fortified cities and was inhabited by giants – all true statements – why was their report considered to be evil? In other words, they didn’t seem to say anything that was false; there were giants in the land and there were fortified cities standing in their way. Decades later, when their descendants crossed over into the land, those giants and fortified cities were still there. So again, why was it called an evil report?
In Numbers 13:32, the Bible says that the ten spies “slandered the land,” but more importantly, the Bible makes it clear that they instilled fear in the people of God. In fact, it might be that those ten men intended to instill fear in God’s people so that they would refuse to follow through with what God had instructed them to do. Bringing them to the land was the very reason God delivered them from Egypt but, upon hearing the report, the people said:
“Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.’” (Deuteronomy 1:28)
Here is the lesson for us: we can accurately report the facts about a situation but do it entirely the wrong way. In other words, if the presentation of the facts is designed to instill fear in God’s people with the result being they are persuaded to abandon their purpose, that is an evil report. Obviously the ten spies were fearful and, consequently, presented the facts in such a way that the people were infected by their fear. The spies’ lack of courage robbed the people of their courage – “our brethren have discouraged our hearts” – and that led to abdication of their purpose.
With all of the terrible news that’s surrounds us, today, it would be easy to instill fear in one another simply by reporting accurately on what’s going on. Therefore, as His people, we must be careful not to repeat the mistake of the ten spies; if we are filled with fear and doubt, we can potentially infect someone else with that same fear and doubt. An epidemic of fear has the ability to immobilize God’s people, provoking them to retreat and hide, instead of fulfilling our purpose. We are a city set upon a hill which cannot be hidden and we have been called to provide light in the midst of all the darkness. Therefore we must encourage one another, which implies that we must first possess the courage to do what He has called us to do. Like Joshua and Caleb, we must strengthen our brethren by instilling confidence and faith in them to believe the One who knows all, who sees all and who has everything within His power.
In a time when every day is filled with discouraging news, we must be the people who look beyond the headlines to discern His purpose for this generation. We must be those who proclaim, “We are well able to overcome it.”