Please do not be like these men!
By Don Ruhl
While the Shang dynasty was making its mark in China, while Pharaoh Amenhotep II was making his mark in Egypt (Pharaoh of the Exodus), Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel were making their mark on Israel.
What? You have not heard of those men?
Who Were Shammua and His Brethren?
They were leaders in Israel, men who stood out among the Israelites, because they cared for their people, had compassion for their people, and had skill to lead their people to their goal.
They had established themselves in the eyes of their tribes, demonstrating success in getting things done. When Moses gave them a new job, he knew he could count on them to do it. As leaders, he knew they had influence.
They did something that Moses never did as a leader in Israel, although he had privileges that no one else on Earth had. Shammua and his brethren experienced something every Israelite wanted.
Also, they obeyed Moses and the Lord. Moses told them to do something and they did it.
Yet, for some reason we do not know these men by name.
A valley was even renamed because of something they discovered there. What they did in that valley we often picture in a large way, and the name of the valley reflects what they took from there.
Shammua and his brethren were like Judas of whom we say, What might have been. Judas did many good things during his three and a half years with Jesus. Shammua and his brethren did many good things. Then they ruined their good, which is why you do not know these men by name. They should have become famous. Instead they became infamous.
Do not imitate these men. Do not think like Shammua and nine his brethren. Think like two other of his brethren whose names I did not read earlier.
Do you know who Shammua and his brethren were? Joshua and Caleb traveled with Shammua and the other nine into the land of Canaan. Why do we know the names of Joshua and Caleb, but we do not know the names of Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel?
Let us find out.
The Thinking of Shammua and His Brethren
Numbers 13 shows that Shammua and his brethren were leaders in their tribes, who went into the land of Canaan, which Moses never did.
They obeyed Moses and the Lord by going through the land of Canaan, bringing back some of its fruit, carrying one cluster of grapes on a pole between two men, and so renaming the valley where they got it, the Valley of Eshcol, or the Valley of Cluster, yet, they ruined any good that they might have done for Israel and they ruined any good that they might have done for themselves when they said this, “Then they told him, and said: ‘We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan’” (Num 13.27–29).
They negated their own report with that word, “Nevertheless.”
Caleb quieted and encouraged the people, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Num 13.30).
However, the ten contradicted him, “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’ And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight’” (Num 13.31–33).
Caleb saw something that the ten did not see. He encouraged Israel to go immediately and take possession of the land, declaring, not only that they could overcome it, but that they were well able to overcome the land.
We will see later why he thought that way.
However, the people were more inclined to listen to the ten rather than the two. If you do not think we are the same way, see how the news affects you.
The ten spies focused on the size of the Canaanites, who evidently were quiet large, perhaps Goliath (three inches short of 10 feet) was their descendent. Thirty-eight years later Moses reminded Israel of the size of one of the kings in the land, “For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants. Indeed his bedstead was an iron bedstead. (Is it not in Rabbah of the people of Ammon?) Nine cubits is its length and four cubits its width, according to the standard cubit” (Deu 3.11).
This man’s bed was at least 13.5 feet long and 6 feet wide, and since he weighed hundreds of pounds, he had a bed of iron.
Numbers 32 will show you just how bad their reporting was. Almost four decades later when two and a half tribes wanted to stay on the east side of the Jordan, Moses rebuked them, referring back to the bad report of the ten spies, calling it sin (Num 32.7–15).
Do not be guilty of discouraging your brethren to do the right thing. Do not be guilty of sounding like we are defeated before we even begin.
The ten reported accurately of the land, but they gave a bad report of the nations. They believed the Canaanites were stronger than Israel. The ten spies concluded that Israel was: out-gunned, out-financed, out-manned, and out-sized.
Were the Canaanites greater than the Egyptians? How did Israel manage to escape the Egyptians, both in Egypt and at the Red Sea, and how did Israel survive the two years from the escape to the sending of the ten spies?
Forgetting history diminishes faith. Remembering history increases faith.
The ten spies looked at the power and size of the world and it was impressive. They looked at themselves, small of stature and former slaves, and they were not impressed.
They failed to look at the Lord, and what He had already done! How could they forget the ten plagues? How could they forget the Red Sea crossing and Egypt’s destruction? How could they forget the manna that God dropped out of the sky for them every morning?
They may have reasoned: That was then, this is now. God did those things then, but that does not mean He will do them now. Why does humanity think that what God did yesterday, He cannot do today? He may not do it miraculously, but He will still do it providentially.
By their leadership and by their greater numbers, Shammua and his brethren outnumbered the faithful 10 to 2, and influenced Israel not to live by faith nor by history.
Therefore, the Israelites complained about the leadership. You know it has to be the fault of leadership, or so the masses think (Num 14.1–4, 10a).
For their sins of faithlessness, fear, and frightening Israel, the Lord took the lives of The Ten Spies, “Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD” (Num 14.36–37).
Do you believe the Lord is in charge or do you believe that the world is just too strong for the church to overcome it?
Do you believe the message of First John 5? Our brethren over the centuries lived by this verse and they were victorious! “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1Jo 5.4).
Can we also live victoriously through that faith? Or are our problems greater than theirs and greater than the faith?
The Faith of the Two
Numbers 13 shows that Caleb knew that they could take the land, “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it’” (Num 13.30).
Why did Caleb believe they were well able to overcome it? Did he just have high self-esteem? National-esteem? No, from what the text says next, you will see that it was not self-esteem or national-esteem, it was God-esteem.
Where does your faith rest?
Numbers 14 shows that even after the people complained and did not believe in the Lord’s ability, Joshua and Caleb still tried to persuade the people, “But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, “a land which flows with milk and honey.” Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them’” (Num 14.6–9).
They knew it depended upon the Lord, not their ability, strength, or size, but on whether the Lord delighted in them.
Therefore, they urged the people not to rebel against the Lord, and not to fear the Canaanites. They revealed that the Canaanites’s protection had been taken away and they reminded the Israelites that the Lord was with them.
Could not the God who poured out the plagues upon Egypt pour out the same or greater plagues on the Canaanites? Why were the Egyptians no match for the Lord, but the Lord was no match for the Canaanites? Did not the previous two years teach the Israelites anything? Do we learn anything from their history?
They Still Did Not Get It
The Israelites then decided that they could take the land, but Moses warned them that they would not succeed (Num 14.39–45).
Man does the opposite of what the Lord commands, believes the opposite of what He announces, and values the opposite of what He prizes.
Yes, the Lord forgave them, but He had already changed their course. However, they decided to go when the Lord said no.
Moses warned them that they would not succeed, and they did not.
Let us not have the spirit of the ten! If the world fights against the church, who do you think will win? Is the Lord with us even as He was with Israel? Does the Lord delight in us? What has He done for us in Jesus Christ? Or do you believe that the Father has pulled back and left us on our own? Do you have the spirit of Joshua and Caleb? Has not the Lord Jesus promised that He would be with us to the end?
Do you believe that with all your heart? Do you encourage your brethren to so believe? Or do you have a defeatist attitude? Are you defeated even before you begin? Rededicate yourself and start following Him fully.