Obtaining the Promise

By Michael Smith

Reading from Numbers, 13:1-3, 21-30

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2”Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites; from each of their ancestral tribes you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.” 3So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the Lord, all of them leading men among the Israelites.

21 So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, near Lebo-hamath. 22They went up into the Negeb, and came to Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the Anakites, were there. (Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23And they came to the Wadi Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them. They also brought some pomegranates and figs. 24That place was called the Wadi Eshcol, because of the cluster that the Israelites cut down from there.

25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”


The Lord instructs Moses to send out a squad of spies, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, to conduct surveillance in the territory of Canaan, the land promised by God to Abraham and his descendants forever. These scouts return after forty days with good news and bad news. The good news is that the area is indeed a “land flowing with milk and honey,” and as proof present pomegranates, figs, and a cluster of grapes. The bad news is that the region is occupied by powerful people in fortified cities, striking fear into the hearts of almost all the reconnaissance team. Only Caleb of the tribe of Judah has confidence that God’s people will prevail.

Today, I am wondering what fears are preventing us from obtaining God’s promises. It is not that our worries are unfounded, but that they distract us from seeing beyond to what God is doing and hoping to accomplish for us and through us. There is a line from a poem by Karle Wilson Baker that says, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” I believe this is where Caleb obtained his bravery. Caleb is a good model for us to emulate as we journey through this unfamiliar land of coronavirus, uncertain economy, and racism-dismantling, on to what the Almighty has in store for us just ahead in the kingdom of God.

The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith served as Bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma. He and his wife, the Rev. Lisa White Smith, are the parents of three grown children and grandparents of nine.

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