When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” – Joshua 2:22-24
“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” That is what the Apostle Paul said. That is what the two faithful spies say as well. Adolph Harstad writes:
The account of these two agents is far different from the withering report of the ten disbelieving spies from among the dozen sent to reconnoiter Canaan thirty-eight years earlier. Those past and these present spies saw the same basic conditions in Canaan. The difference is that these two young men give their analysis from a stance of trust in God’s promises. From their perspective of faith in the LORD, their account is like the earlier minority report of Joshua and Caleb and the antithesis of the “bad report” given by the majority of ten.
It is easy to manipulate bare facts to make them line up with one’s outlook. If the two spies had not accepted the LORD’s assurance of triumph in the upcoming war against Canaan, they could have presented before Joshua a bleak and discouraging picture of slim changes for taking the land. They could have emphasized Jericho’s strong city walls, the vigilant king, citizens bent on protecting their city, a surging river, and the fact that they narrowly escaped being captured by the king’s soldiers. The chances of finding victory, according to that faithless interpretation, would have been like finding a needle in a flax stack. But the two emissaries see the bare facts in the light of Yahweh’s promises. In faith they conclude, “Indeed, the LORD has given into our hand the whole land.” They have not slighted any facts, not evening the frightening ones: “They reported to him all the things that had happened to them.” The obstacles and formidable challenges, however, do not blind them from seeing the truth that the LORD keeps all His promises.
Faith in God’s promises makes all the difference in the way we report on the condition of our lives. Without Scripture-based trust that the LORD controls all things for the good of His people, it is easy to give a negative report like that of the ten spies in Numbers 13. The realities surrounding God’s people today may include some of the same evils faced by ancient Israel. The catalogs of sins practiced by Israel’s neighbors but forbidden to Israel in Leviticus 18 and 20, for example, include idolatry; various kinds of sexual immorality including homosexuality; ad child sacrifice. Christians today face increasing intolerance and persecution. There are terrorist attacks; the possibility of nuclear holocaust; economic uncertainty; loss of employment; problems of health; pollution; moral decay all around; the deterioration of schools; experiments in cloning humans; the specter of abortion, euthanasia, and the culture of death. Within the church there are scandals; disregard for the sacred Scriptures; acceptance of false doctrines; abandonment of salutary worship practices; the appointment of unfit persons to church offices; and widespread unfaithfulness, even apostasy.
Yet while resting on God’s promises we can be both realistic and hopeful – even joyful. We can report that we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37). Even the cataclysms that will accompany the end of the world are signs of hope for the believer. In the middle of events that will cause people to faint from terror, believers can stand up, lift up their heads and proclaim this message: Contrary to all appearances, our redemption though Jesus Christ draws near! See Luke 21:25-28
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 11
Q. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.