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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: F.E. Marsh :: Readings 401-450 (The Death - Three)

F.E. Marsh :: 428. The Report of the Spies

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NUMBERS 13:17-20, 23-33

THERE are certain words and expressions we may take as hubs around which the spokes of thought are found.

  1. The “Get you up” of commission (Numbers 13:17). Moses bids the spies go search the land and see what kind of a land it was, and what kind of inhabitants dwelt in it. It is well to know the strength and character of the enemy we have to conquer. As with Israel, so with us, when the Lord bids us to go in a given direction, it matters not how great the difficulties, or how formidable the foe, we shall have grace to surmount the one and to overcome the other. With every “Go” of command, He gives us the “Lo” of His presence (Matthew 28:19-20).
  2. The “be ye of good courage” of fortitude (Numbers 13:20). True courage is the outcome of the fear of God. He who fears God need fear no foe. He who has looked into the face of God can look into the face of any man. True courage has consistency as its forerunner (Joshua 1:6-7). Ken says,
    • “Stand but your ground, your ghostly foes will fly-
    • Hell trembles at a heaven-directed eye;
    • Choose rather to defend than to assail-
    • Self-confidence will in the conflict fail:
    • When you are challenged, you may dangers meet-
    • True courage is a fixed, not sudden heat;
    • Is always humble, lives in self-distrust,
    • And will itself into no danger thrust.
    • Devote yourself to God, and you will find
    • God fights the battles of a will resign’d.
    • Love Jesus! love will no base fear endure;
    • Love Jesus! and of conquest rest secure.”
  3. The “nevertheless” of unbelief (Numbers 13:28). Unbelief always magnifies difficulties and makes them far larger than they are. “There is always a ‘nevertheless’ where man is concerned, and when unbelief is at work. The unbelieving spies saw the difficulties-great cities, high walls, tall giants. All these things they saw; but they did not see Jehovah at all. They looked at the things that were seen, rather than at the things which were unseen. Their eye was not fixed upon Him who is invisible. Doubtless, the cities were great; but God was greater. The walls were high; but God was higher. The giants were strong; but God was stronger.”
  4. The “well able” of faith (Numbers 13:30). The man of faith who looks to God, and remembers what He is able to do, exclaims, “We are well able to overcome.” C. H. M. well remarks, “Faith looks the difficulties straight in the face. It is not ignorant-not indifferent-not reckless; but-what! IT BRINGS IN THE LIVING GOD. It looks to Him; it leans on Him; it draws from Him. Here lies the grand secret of its power. It cherishes the calm and deep conviction that there never was a wall too high for the Almighty God-never a city too great-never a giant too strong. Faith is the only thing that puts God in His proper place; and, as a consequence, is the only thing that lifts the soul completely above the influences of surrounding circumstances, be they what they may.”
  5. The “not able” of despair (Numbers 13:31). What a contrast this to the “well able” of Caleb! “Stronger than we” is the exclamation of despair, as the enemy is compared with the self-occupied ones; but surely the foe is not stronger than He! Ah! It makes all the difference whether it be “He” or “We.” There is only the difference of one letter, but to take away the “W” and put “H” in its place, means the displacement of self, and the destruction of despair. If the warfare depends upon us there will be defeat, but since it depends upon the Lord there must be victory, if we trust Him. Despair is born of self-occupation and through viewing self’s resources. There is only one way to get rid of self, and that is, to put Him in front of it, then self reads Himself. Or to put it in another way, the way to displace “I” is to put “Chr” in front of it and “st” behind it, then “I” is lost in Christ-
    CHR-I-ST (Gal 2:20).
  6. The “evil report” of half-heartedness (Numbers 13:32). Half-heartedness is a worm that will kill any plant of grace. The reason why so many fail is, because there is a lack of thoroughness. Half-heartedness is the forerunner of defeat. Half-heartedness magnifies difficulties, hesitates in danger, discourages timid ones, breeds unbelief, lacks hack-bone, cripples devotion, and thinks much of itself.
  7. The “we saw” of short-sightedness (Numbers 13:33). The evil-reporters saw the great ones of earth, but they did not see the Great One of heaven. If tbey had looked at the great ones from God’s point of view, they would have seen that they were but as “grasshoppers” in His sight (Isaiah 40:22). Instead of this, the spies say that they are “as grasshoppers.” If we look at difficulties and dangers through the medium of earth’s spectacles we shall be discouraged, and a discouraged man is a defeated one; but if we stand on the mountain top of fellowship with God, earth’s great ones will be pigmies.
427. The Prince of Peace ← Prior Section
429. The Rich Young Ruler Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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