Another campground. Another place of defeat. Twelve spies sent out to explore the Promised Land, while the rest of Israel camped in Kadesh Barnea…a place where their belief in God was severely tested. Ten of the returning twelve spies spoke fear and failure into God’s people, instead of good news about the land they were supposed to conquer as God’s chosen people. Fear filled the people’s eyes as they heard these faithless voices declare: “The land we explored devours those living in it! All the people we saw there are huge! We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them!” Because of their bad report, Kadesh is forever known as a place where fear dominated faith, and unbelief reigned supreme.
The exaggerated and distorted accounts from the unbelieving spies quickly spread throughout the camp binding the people’s hearts with fear and doubt. It begs the question, why is it easier to doubt in the face of the unknown, rather than remember the power God displayed through former trials? It was obvious that these faithless people, who called themselves grasshoppers compared to the giants, had forgotten “whose” they were.
Israel had a choice to believe in the goodness and provision of God or to doubt He was able to deliver them. We have the same choice today. Faith is always a decision and it takes an intentional effort to believe in God. Israel chose not to believe and voiced their fear with, “If only we had died in Egypt or in this desert? Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
But in the midst of that chaos stood two men of faith, Caleb and Joshua. Along with the leaders, Moses and Aaron, these two spies tore their clothes to indicate their hearts were torn by grief over the lack of trust displayed by God’s people. The believing spies then declared their faith in the Mighty God of Israel by saying of those giants in the land, “We will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them!”
To believe when the majority is doubting takes courage and energy. We read in Numbers 14 that the people were ready to stone the believing spies because of their declaration to take the land. Suddenly, God broke through the skies asking Moses how long His people would treat Him with contempt and refuse to believe in Him…in spite of all the miraculous signs He had performed among them. He was ready to send a plague and destroy them all on the spot. But Moses stood in the gap again reminding God (not that He needed reminding) that other nations would think He wasn’t able to bring His people into the Promised Land after all.
The Lord forgave His people, but He still punished their unbelief by banning them from the land of promise. Only Joshua and Caleb, along with the children under 20 years of age, were allowed to enter. The two believing spies who had a different spirit and followed the Lord wholeheartedly were rewarded for their faith…while the unbelieving were severely punished.
God said that He heard the complaints of the unbelieving spies and wicked community of Israel. He told them, “I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall.” Unbelief was voiced…and God did what they said. They died because they spoke out their destiny through their lack of faith in the God who had never failed or forsaken them. They died according to the words of their own mouths. Fear and unbelief yielded death to the promise.
Israel’s unbelief at Kadesh is a warning to us today. Be careful of voicing unbelief. Think twice before speaking negative words over your situations. How many times have we uttered, “That’s impossible…or I’ll never be able to do that,” instead of declaring what we believe and know to be true. All things are possible with God! Speaking unbelief won’t bring us the promise. Speaking what we believe will. There’s power in what we verbalize. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” It might be possible we’re killing our dreams by declaring our fears about them.
Let’s agree to move away from the land of Kadesh (fear and unbelief). Let’s agree to feed our faith by speaking out what we believe, and not what we fear. The Bible tells us we eat the fruit of what we say. We kill what we don’t feed. What are your words feeding today? Are you speaking words of faith or doubt? As believers, we are not to go back to the land of slavery and oppression that is represented by Egypt. We are to move away from the places of bitterness like Marah. We are not to dwell beneath our privileges as children of the King as is represented by LoDebar. We are to deliberately vacate the places where unbelief dominates our thinking represented by Kadesh. As believers, we should speak the life-giving truths of God’s Word, because the fact is…God still will do the things that He hears us say. Listen to what’s coming out of your mouth today. Are you feeding fear…or faith?