- A single cluster of grapes so heavy they have to carry it on a pole between them — so rich is the harvest of the land God promises the Israelites that their returning spies must hoist the single cluster onto their shoulders.
- But even though — upon the spies return — the Israelites are shown the heavy bounty, they grumble, and their fear escalates into a call for the stoning of those who still dare believe God’s promise.
The story — and the complaint
“And they…cut down from there (the Promised Land) a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they (the spies) carried it on a pole between two of them…and showed them (the Israelites) the fruit of the land. And they told him (Moses), ‘We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very strong.’… So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy out, is a land that devours its inhabitants…’ (Numbers 13: 23, 26, 27, 32)
And all the people of Israel grumbled…’Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?…Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to one another, ‘Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’ (Numbers 14: 2, 3)
…And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb…tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, ‘The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land…Only do not rebel against the LORD…Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.’ (Numbers 14: 6, 7, 9)
Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones.” (Numbers 14:10)
God’s answer — and our own hearts
And then we read God’s answer to them: “…the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise Me?” (Numbers 14:11)
They don’t believe His promises, and God declares that their lack of belief is the same as despising Him. He says their unbelief is rebellion — a contempt for God’s redemption from slavery, a contempt for God Himself. As I re-look at the painting and think about the story, I’m shocked at their grumbling. These are the people who’d seen the Red Sea part and Pharaoh’s army decimated. I’m appalled at their foolish sin and unwarranted unbelief.
Then I remember all my own grumbling.
And I pray that God would slay my own monster of unbelief.
Strive with all diligence to keep out that monster unbelief…The sin is needless, foolish, and unwarranted…Away then with this lying traitor unbelief, for his only errand is to cut the bonds of communion and make us mourn an absent Savior. Bunyan tells us that unbelief has “as many lives as a cat:” if so, let us kill one life now, and continue the work till the whole nine are gone. Down with thee, thou traitor, my heart abhors thee. (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening)
Father, work in us the kind of faith Joshua and Caleb possessed. We want to possess undaunted belief in your goodness, even when circumstances seem daunting. We want to believe (and act) as those who know You are present and over-rule for Your people!
Lord, slay that monster unbelief.