Numbers 13:1-2, 17-20, & 26-33
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
As a child growing up in a highly structured environment, I was always drawn and attracted to people who were free-spirited. One of the things that most intrigued me about them was their penchant for spontaneity. They would say come on let’s go. I would say where are we going? They would reply, wherever we end up. Much like the scene in Alice in Wonderland, when Alice comes to a junction in the road that leads in different directions, she asks the Cheshire Cat, "Cheshire-Puss...would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to go to," said the Cat. "I don't much care where," replied Alice. "Then it doesn't matter which way you go."
I on the other hand am much more like former Senator Dwight W. Morrow. One day Senator Morrow searched in vain to find his railroad ticket as he was on a train leaving New York City. "I must find that ticket," he muttered. The conductor, who stood waiting beside him, said, "Don't worry about it, Mr. Morrow. We know you had a ticket. Just mail it to the railroad when you find it." "That's not what's troubling me," replied Morrow, "I need to find it to know where I'm going."
As I get older, I find that I am much more like Senator Morrow in that I need to know where I am going. When I was younger with not many responsibilities and the years ahead of me were greater than the years behind me I could afford to go in any direction. When it doesn’t matter where you end up, then it doesn’t matter which way you go. If on the other hand, we have a specific destination in mind then we will also select a preferred path that we believe will take us to our chosen destination. People who can see where they want to end up can also see how to get there. In fact, statistics support the notion that people who have identified a destination are more likely to be successful, primarily because they know where they are going. When you know where you are going you are more inclined to concentrate your resources and energy on reaching your destination. Probably the most important reason for having a destination in mind in whatever we do is because it helps us to stay focused even when things around us pose a distraction. Journeys are filled with distractions, but when we can hone in on our destination with laser like precision we can refocus and block out all of the things that attempt to distract us and take us off course.
While it is important to have a destination, it is equally important that we are able to see our destination. One of the challenges to seeing any destination is that destinations tend to be far off. Therefore it takes vision, the ability to see the place that we will eventually reach. Vision is so important that the Bible says in Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint.” In another translation it says, “The people run wild,” and yet, in another translation it says, “The people perish.” In essence, when people do not have a vision they will do whatever they want and ultimately the lack of focus will lead to their undoing and demise.
Before God paired Adam with Eve, God gave Adam a vision. Before God employed Moses as the leader of the Nation of Israel, God gave Moses a vision. Before God installed Isaiah and Jeremiah to the office of Prophet, God gave them a vision. Vision is the unfolding and revealing of God’s destination for His people. And so, God instructed Moses to send one leader from every family or tribe to explore the place that God wanted to take the people. The call to explore was a call to see, search out, and examine God’s destination for them. The idea that God wants to take us somewhere is not an easy concept for some to wrap their minds around. It is a challenging idea to grasp because we have been taught that we are the masters of our own domain and that we must chart our own course. However, this text clearly points out that God sets and establishes the destination for His people. God has a destination for individuals, families, groups, nations, and churches. Our job is to see and discover God’s destination for us. In order to do this we have to be willing to explore. We have to be willing to go where it is that God is showing and leading us. It is interesting that God called for leaders of families. I believe God did this because leaders cannot lead until they have a destination. If we do not know where we are going, how will we ever know if we have reached where we are supposed to be? Where is God’s destination for you and me? Where does God want to take us individually and collectively? Have we taken the time to see and explore God’s vision for us and our lives?
After Moses received his instructions from God, Moses then charged the leaders to carryout God’s instructions. Moses told them, “See what the land is like.” In other words, as you go watch and observe as God reveals and collect information about the place God is taking us. In order for the leaders to discover God’s destination for them they had to pay attention to what God was revealing to them. The knowledge that God has a destination for us doesn’t do us any good unless we can see the destination. God has to move us from the abstract to the concrete. To help us concretize God’s vision for us God provides glimpses of the destination where He is leading us. These glimpses are meant to inform us about the place. They provide information about what will await and the potential challenges we will face so that we can be prepared when we encounter them. God also wants us to become aware of the benefits He has in store for us. Without benefits what is the point? If what we are moving toward is not better than where we are, why do it? We can stay where we are and be miserable. In essence, the glimpses God gives us are the details that reveal more about where God is leading us. Vision without details is just a dream. Everyone needs a dream, but they also need some details to go along with that dream if they hope to make it a reality. And so God has to provide the details to help us see ourselves there. People are more inclined to move into a house they see themselves living in, a job they see themselves working at, or a relationship they see themselves being in. Details help us to take a vested interest because we can better see our place and how being there will benefit us. When you cannot see yourself someplace it’s like working without a blueprint, you have no idea what to do or what you are supposed to be doing. Vision is God’s blueprint. It is God providing a picture of what the finished product will look like after all of the pieces have been assembled. Have we been paying attention as God has been revealing the details about His destination for us, or are we operating without a blueprint? Do we see ourselves there?
Upon returning from their expedition, the leaders gave conflicting reports. Twelve went out and only two thought reaching the destination was doable. This much we know, any time you get two or more people together the possibility for disagreement exists. In fact, the more people you get together the possibility for disagreement increases. However, disagreements and differences can be overcome. The real question is whose report will we believe? The ten that went out relied on sight and when they came back they reported what they saw. The problem with relying on sight is that sight only sees what is within its scope. Sight sees all the issues, problems, obstacles, and reasons why not to do something or it cannot be accomplished. When you go to the eye doctor they do a sight test. They test to determine our sight range, what is the farthest distance away from us we can see clearly. Even for the person with 20/20 vision, they will tell you that after a certain point objects begin to look blurry. This simply reminds us that sight has limitations. Therefore, when we rely on sight what we are really doing is trusting information that is limited in scope and range. That is one of the reasons the Bible tells us that we are to walk by faith and not by sight.
The two who advocated for claiming what God had revealed caught the vision. Vision is caught and in the catching of the vision or realizing what God has for us and where God is taking us people become inspired. In fact, that is how we will know that we have caught the vision, when in spite of the issues, the problems, and the obstacles that exist we see the potential and the possibilities. Whereas sight sees what is, vision sees what can be. Sight says it’s nice, but it is going to be hard, difficult and I don’t know if we can make it. Vision says if God revealed it to me then God will make the provisions for me. Sight says yeah God may have shown it to me, but it’s not for me. Vision says whatever God reveals to me it is for me, and I have to move toward it so that I can get it. The question is whose report will we believe? Will we believe those who rely on human sight or will we trust God’s divine vision?
Let us make no mistake vision is not blind. Vision sees the obstacles in its path, but it also recognizes that obstacles are things to be overcome and not roadblocks that stop us in our tracks. At an earlier point in my life, when I sensed God calling me to prepare to enter the ministry, I went to my then boss and informed him that I was contemplating going back to school. He told me I didn’t need a degree and that I would be better off doing what I was doing. He had sight, but God gave me a vision for my life and here I am today.
The bottom line is that God is the developer for our lives, families, communities and church. Developers design and then present their vision with the hope of attracting investors. God is looking for investors. He is looking for people who see them self there, and people who are willing to put the time and energy into acquiring what God has set aside for them. God is looking for people who will catch His vision for them and their lives.
Have you and I caught God’s vision? Have we been paying attention as God has been unfolding and revealing the details about the destination where God wants to take us and has prepared for us? Or have we become comfortable where we are? Have we allowed the things we have seen to extinguish the hope of realizing the fullness of what God has for us? The good news is that if we have missed the vision there is still time to catch God’s vision, we have to want it and we have to believe that God is bigger than anything we could ever face.