Deuteronomy 1:30
The LORD your God, who goes before you, will fight for you, just as you saw Him do for you in Egypt
Sermons
The Unbelief in Sending and in Hearkening to the SpiesR.M. Edgar Deuteronomy 1:19-33
Irrecoverableness of Wasted OpportunityD. Davies Deuteronomy 1:19-46
The Mission of the SpiesJ. Orr Deuteronomy 1:22-32


We see from two instances in this chapter how God's plans leave wide room for the independent action of the human mind. Moses got the suggestion of appointing judges from Jethro; the idea of sending spies to reconnoiter the Holy Land originated with the people. The source from which it came made the motive of it doubtful, but as in itself a measure of prudence, Moses was well pleased with it, and, with God's permission, adopted it. We have here -

I. A POLICY OF CAUTION. Caution is in itself a virtue. It is never wise to rush into undertakings without well-planned measures. The more knowledge we have to guide us in entering upon difficult duty the better. The sending out of these spies was fitted to procure for the Israelites valuable information as to the nature of the land, the best mode of attack, the state of feeling among the inhabitants, etc. The Church would do well to improve upon the hint thus given, and have men out on the field, to keep a sharp watch on the fortifications and movements of the enemy, and bring back intelligence which may encourage, guide, or otherwise help those whose time and thought are devoted to the actual warfare.

II. AN UNEXPECTED RESULT OF THAT POLICY. The spies, with two exceptions, brought back a most disheartening and ill-advised report. We see here the danger of a policy of caution, when that springs from over-fearfulness or an original indisposition to advance. When caution is divorced from courage, and gets the upper hand, its natural tendency is to neutralize enthusiasm, to concentrate attention on difficulties, to play into the hands of those who don't want to do anything, and to furnish them with excuses and arguments for delay. It was so here. The real secret of the desire of the people to have spies sent out was their lurking disbelief and fear. The spies themselves shared in this fear. With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, they seem to have had an eye for little else than difficulties. They admitted the goodliness of the land, and brought with them a splendid sample of its fruit (ver. 25). But in every other respect their report was calculated to dispirit, It is a sad thing for the Church when those who ought to animate and encourage her begin themselves to show the craven spirit. Yet over-cautious people are apt, often unwittingly, to do the very work of these spies, by magnifying difficulties, looking only to discouragements, and standing in the way of plans and efforts which would do great good.

III. A REBELLION OF THE PEOPLE. That rebellion was the result of downright unbelief (ver. 32), and illustrates its work (cf. Hebrews 3:19). We see in it how unbelief:

1. Looks only to the seen. They thought only of the size of the people and the strength of the cities (ver. 28). The help of their invisible King was to them as if it were not. They had not the slightest hold upon the reality of it.

2. Looks only the discouragements of duty. There was a bright side as well as a dark one to the report brought to them, but nothing would make them look at the bright one. The same two sides - a bright and hopeful side, and a side of difficulty - exist in every situation, and it is a test of character which we are most given to dwell upon.

3. Misreads the providence of God. What greater perversion of God's kind dealings could human nature be guilty of than that in ver. 27?

4. Is blind to the lessons of the past. They had just been delivered from Egypt, had seen mighty miracles, had been brought across the Red Sea, had been strengthened to conquer the Amalekites, etc.; but all is already forgotten.

5. Issues in flat refusal to do God's will. That is the upshot of unbelief, wherever it exists. The report of the spies, confirmed by the grapes of Eschol, suggests that there is very much in the world which makes it worth conquering for Christ (genius, art, beautiful natural characteristics, etc.). - J.O.







Our brethren have discouraged our heart.
To be discouraged is to lose one's energy and vitality. When a man is discouraged he is of no use; his power has gone out of him. Courage is a large and noble quality, and necessary in all the relations of life. It is not merely shown in the boldness which confronts danger and is self-possessed in peril. It also is needed to face other difficulties promptly, to do one's duty cheerfully when the hope of success is small; to stand alone for the truth and right; not to be discouraged by disappointment, nor by the censures and reproofs of the hostile, nor by the indifference of the unsympathising. In short, courage is the quality which is opposed to all discouragement. No wonder people admire courage. It is indispensable to nobleness of life. How much courage some men and women display in taking on themselves new responsibilities, in going promptly to perform untried and difficult duties, in keeping up the struggle of life amid many discouragements. Courage is a virtue needed by women no less than by men. How many poor women there are who work on to support their families, rising early and going late to bed, and eating the bread of care. They keep their children tidy and neat, keep them at school, exhaust every contrivance to maintain themselves, try every possible means of overcoming the daily difficulties of life, and so hold on, year after year, when strong men might have been discouraged and have given up. I think as much heroism is shown every day in such ways as by the soldiers who hold an important position in a battle against overwhelming odds. There is no more important work in this world, no greater duty, than to help others to keep up their courage. He is our best friend whoso words of cheerful confidence give more life to our heart, and he is our enemy who by his words of doubt and his spirit of fear saps this ardour, and takes from us our courage. And yet how many there are whoso habit it is to look at the dark and discouraging side of life. They dwell on the faults and follies of men; they retail every petty scandal they hear; they exaggerate the amount of evil in the world; they suggest a low and selfish motive as the root of good actions; they quench the ardour of generous enthusiasm by a cold scepticism. Whenever we have talked with such persons we have been inclined to say, "Our brethren have discouraged our heart."

(J. F. Clarke.)

Here is a man like a cloud, and a cloud without any silver lining. He gets between you and the sun. He makes everything dark. He puts the worst constructions, and attributes the worst motives, and takes the darkest view. You do not like to meet the murksome man. You do not wish to be overcast. Perhaps today you are hopeful. You have difficulties, but by God's blessing you can work out. Your church is struggling, but you think you see a brighter day. You have some sorry apples in your basket, but you have gotten the big ones on top. You have a skeleton or two in your closet, but they are out of sight. The sun is shining today up on the high places and valleys of your landscape. And here comes that human cloud, with his shadow creeping on before him. You avoid him. You take the other side of the street. Because you know in ten minutes he would get all the small apples on the top of your basket. He would have all the skeletons out of your closet, because he likes their company. You escape him, because you do not want him to cool your iron, for it is hot and you have made up your mind to strike it. Such a man may be a Christian; but he has a great besetting sin, which he must watch and pray against. Let him add this petition to his litany: From all blue devils; from all dismal dejection; from all bilious despondency; from all funereal gloom, and from all unchristian hopelessness — good Lord, deliver us.

(R. S. Barrett.)

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