From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 14

Ten of the scouts had failed their test and come back with fear in their hearts that they fed by their outlandish reports of the strength of the Canaanites. The nation of Israel listened to the negative reports and the fear spread fast into their emotions.

Emotions are a necessary part of the human psychological makeup. The psyche or the center of thought, feeling, and motivation consciously and unconsciously directs the body’s reactions to its social and physical environment.

Israel would have had to be motivated by trust and obedience for their God, Yahweh, to overcome the panic that absorbed their thoughts. They forgot everything that Yahweh had done for them and allowed the terror to consume them. Their hands were cold, their breathing was rapid, and their hearts felt like they would beat out of their chests. Perspiration ran down their foreheads and their mouths were dry. Their muscles were trembling or tightening so that they could hardly stand and when they tried to point at Moses in an accusing manner the muscles in their arms refused to work. They smelled each other’s fear and made the fear their own. The sound of wailing and grumbling engulfed the camp. Their reaction to fear was flight. They had no intention of fighting. They were so afraid that their wives and children would become plunder that they decided the best solution was to pick a new leader and return immediately to bondage in Egypt.

Moses and Aaron called an emergency session. They felt that they had failed in their attempt to get Israel ready for the Promised Land and so they fell on their faces in front of the nation.

Joshua and Caleb had seen the size and strength of the people of Canaan too and the reaction and lack of faith in the other ten scouts and the nation as a whole brought an entirely different reaction in them. They ripped their clothes in grief and addressed the assembly with a sense of purpose motivated by trust and obedience for their God, Yahweh. Their solution to the fear that possessed Israel was to take immediate measures to defeat the source of the nation’s fear. They knew it was important for Israel to have a singular sense of purpose that would increase their focus on Yahweh and possessing the Promised Land. That was the only way their efforts would be productive. They told the chosen people that they had walked through and scouted the land and found it to be all that Yahweh said it was – a land flowing with milk and honey. Yahweh had promised to give the land to Israel and Joshua and Caleb told the nation that their God would keep his word if they didn’t rebel against him. Yahweh doesn’t give the spirit of fear to his people. He wants us to have the spirit of power, and love, and of a sound mind.[1] Joshua and Caleb reminded Yahweh’s chosen people that they never had to fear other human beings because they belonged to Yahweh. His life is eternal and his strength carries his people even through the shadow of death[2] into the eternal light of his presence.

Nevertheless, Israel wasn’t listening. They were slaves to their emotions now. Yahweh had rescued them from slavery in Egypt but they didn’t know how to be free. It is important for all of us to learn self-control. When our emotions control us turmoil takes over our lives. Yahweh wants us to have sound minds – minds that are rescued from the chaos of fear and are safe and secure in the love of Yahweh where our rational, logic, and emotions can be shielded from the illogical, crazy thoughts that enslave us when we are concentrating on circumstances instead of our God. For the most part the minds of the chosen people weren’t guarded by what Yahweh had been telling them or doing for them. They weren’t allowing the truths about Yahweh to work in their minds and safeguard their emotions.

Tests are meant to show the test taker of what he or she is capable. If one fails a driving test he or she isn’t allowed to drive until further instruction and success in a subsequent test proves they are qualified. Israel, as a whole, failed their test and proved they weren’t ready for the Promised Land.

Israel was threatening to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb and Moses was afraid of Yahweh’s chosen people. Nevertheless, his reverence for Yahweh was greater than his fear of the menacing mob. His devotion to his God encouraged him and suddenly everyone saw the bright glory of Yahweh appear at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Moses heard him express displeasure in Israel’s disloyalty. He let Moses know that the people were equipped to trust him but had decided not to.

We must all remember that trust and belief aren’t automatic responses. We either choose to believe Yahweh and focus our thoughts and emotions on all of his marvelous deeds – past, present, and future – or we make a decision to focus on the circumstances of our lives that results in chaos.

Israel, as a whole, refused to trust Yahweh. They turned a blind eye to all his wonderful signs. Yahweh said he was fed up with their rebellious attitudes and would send a plague to destroy them. Wesley said that Yahweh’s decision to destroy them was not an absolute determination. It was a warning, like that of Nineveh’s destruction, with a condition implied, that asked for a speedy repentance, or powerful intercession.[3] Yahweh told Moses that he would make him a nation bigger and better than Israel ever was. Moses’ family, which had been maligned by Miriam and Aaron, would have been the nucleus of the nation Yahweh suggested he would make out of Moses.

Moses reacted like a man who had put his trust in Yahweh and his plan. He was adamant that Yahweh should not do anything to mar his reputation. Yahweh had demonstrated his strength in Egypt and told the Egyptians that he is the great I AM, reality behind all reality – the beginning and the end, and the eternal Creator and sustainer of all that is. He had established the fact that he Israel was his chosen nation and his presence was with the people of Israel. They had heard that Yahweh’s cloud hovered over his people and led them be day with the pillar of fire protecting and leading them at night. Moses said that if the people were to die all at once the nations would say that Yahweh couldn’t get them into the Promised Land so he slaughtered them out in the wilderness. Moses remembered that Yahweh had said that he was slow to anger and huge in loyal love that forgave iniquity and sin but never whitewashed it. He knew that the fallout of sin affected the descendants of the sinner even to the fourth generation. He implored Yahweh to enlarge the power of his mercy and grace and forgive the people of Israel for their wrongheaded choice. Moses showed that he trusted Yahweh’s great love for his people when he reminded him that he had been forgiving them ever since they left Egypt. When we remind Yahweh of something, it isn’t because he has forgotten; but it is because we need to remind ourselves of what Yahweh has done in the past to strengthen our own faith. Moses reinforced his conviction that Yahweh is love – that he forgives and imparts his great love to his damaged people.

Yahweh honored Moses’ words and forgave Israel yet again. Nevertheless, he told Moses that none of the rebels would see the Promised Land. They had treated their God, Yahweh, with contempt repeatedly even though they had constantly been confronted with his glory.

Caleb, on the other hand, was a different story. Caleb passionately followed Yahweh so Yahweh promised to take him into the Promised Land and give him and his descendants their portion.

However, because the people of Israel were focused on the information that the Amalekites and Canaanites were so well established in the valleys, Yahweh told them for the time being to change course and head back into the wilderness that followed the route to the Red Sea. He told Moses and Aaron to tell his people that the corpses of the evil infested people of Israel – everyone twenty years old and older – would be strewn all over the wilderness. He made an exception with Caleb and Joshua because they were faithful to him. However he told Moses and Aaron to tell the people that he was fed up with their bellyaching and grousing attitudes and the rest of them would never see the Promised Land. The children that they had been so afraid would be plunder would be the ones to enjoy the land their parents rejected. Yahweh told Israel that the children that they didn’t trust their God to care for would have to live in the wilderness as shepherds for forty years as the result of their disloyalty to him, their God. When the last one who had demonstrated their treachery lay dead in the wilderness their children would take the Promised Land. They had scouted out the land for forty days and their punishment would be a year for every day. They would have forty years of education in the wilderness.

When Moses told the People of Israel what Yahweh said they regretted their attitude, but, instead of accepting the decision of their God, they tried to manipulate him. They started out for the high hill country early the next morning assuming that since they had changed their minds they could go up and attack the land Yahweh promised them – the land they had rejected. They said, “We sinned, but now we’re ready to go.”

The nation had failed their test and needed further preparation before it was ready to go into the land Yahweh had promised. Moses told them that they were going against their God again and he wouldn’t be with them. Yahweh is not our genie. He is our God. He is all wise and all powerful. He knows what we need and we must learn to cooperate with him[4]. Israel was used to “gods” who the people tried to manipulate and fool. They hadn’t learned that Yahweh isn’t a little manmade god with magic that people can manipulate. Our God, Yahweh created us. We didn’t create him. He is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Israel’s actions demonstrated the chaos in their psyches that failed to acknowledge the facts about their selves and their God, Yahweh. They thought of themselves as capable of making the right decision and of Yahweh as weak and incapable of making the right decision. They thought they could tell Yahweh what to do. They failed to listen to what he said and follow him. They wanted to lead him into battle and expected him to use his power to protect them.

Moses warned Israel that Yahweh wasn’t with them. They had rejected him and couldn’t just pretend that they hadn’t. The nation, as a whole, had been ignoring Yahweh and his spokesman, Moses. Their pride took over and they ignored him yet again.

They haughtily climbed to the high hill country leaving Moses and the symbols of Yahweh’s presence behind. They left without the bugle call that Yahweh had instructed Moses to have the priests blow when Israel went to war against an aggressor. The priests were to blow a long blast on the bugle so that he, their God, would notice and deliver them from their enemies. However, when Israel went to possess the Promised Land without Moses they also left their God, Yahweh, behind. The Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in the hill country came out of the hills and attacked and beat them, a rout all the way down to Hormah a city of a Canaanite king in the south.


Summary of chapter 14

The men Moses sent to scout out the land returned to circulate false rumors about the land causing the entire community to grumble against Moses. All these men died because of the false rumors of the land. The nation as a whole was confronted by Yahweh and a lot of them died because of their mutiny when they decided to take the Promised Land without him. After forty years only Joshua and Caleb were left alive of the men who went to scout out the land.

Yahweh was educating Israel. He was treating them as dear children. The trouble they were in was training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Israel preferred an irresponsible God. They forgot that they respected their own parents for training and not spoiling them and refused to embrace Yahweh’s training so they could truly live. Yahweh was doing what was best for them, training them to live his holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely. Those who are well-trained by Yahweh are those who are mature in their relationship with Yahweh.[5]


Prayer: Lord, Israel asked you to dance with her. They did not hear you sing, “No, dance with me.” They had their ears full of their own thoughts and couldn’t hear your voice. You want us to dance in step with you and follow your lead. It is so easy for us to skip away from you, calling behind as we go, “Come along and I’ll show you want I’m doing for you.” Help me to always remember that you are the great I AM and I am the work of your hands. You are the independent one and I am forever dependent on you. I will dance in harmony with you. I will run under your yoke and remember that you are not only carrying the load but choosing the direction we go.



Things to think about

  1. What do you think about fear feeding fear? What can you do about fear?
  2. What can you and I do to have dominion over our emotions? Are emotions important?
  3. What should control our emotions?
  4. How can we overcome fear?
  5. Is there ever any reason to be afraid?
  6. What can we do to shield our rational, logic, and emotions from chaos?
  7. Why was Yahweh testing his people? Does he test you and me today?



[1] II Timothy 1;7; Psalm 27:1

[2] Psalm 23;4


[4] Romans 8:28

[5] Hebrews 12:11


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