We want for the Israelites to walk through the Wilderness of Paran with a skip in their step. But it wasn’t long before they fell into their old ways. The Bible mentions three consecutive outbreaks of complaining. Numbers 11:1 says, “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord…” This rash of murmuring angered God and he broke out with fire and many were consumed. Not much later, a great moaning arose about the food. Numbers 11:4 says, “The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!’” This also infuriated the Lord. He gave them the quail they craved, but while the food was still in their teeth he struck them with a plague and many died.
The third breakout was caused by Moses’ siblings, Mariam and Aaron. Numbers 12:1 says, “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.” Moses, a Jew, married a woman from Cush, an area in Ethiopia where people had black skin. Moses’ African wife created a family feud. In response to the ruckus, God struck Mariam’s skin with leprosy. She would have died had not Moses interceded in prayer. That’s when the Bible says they arrived at Kadesh Barnea, the doorstep to the promised land. What a way to end a trip.
Here we are at Numbers 13, a moment pregnant with possibility. Hundreds of years before God had promised Abraham land for his descendants (Genesis 13:14-15). Here they stood on the receiving end. They were chosen to experience the fulfillment of this ancient promise.
Nothing like this had ever happened in human history – a community of freed slaves inheriting land to become a great nation. What did it feel like to be on the brink of this huge breakthrough?
There should have been a sense of excitement, celebration, and holy expectancy. Expectancy is what you feel on a roller coaster as it climbs to make the first plunge. Our kids have on this on Christmas morning, waiting atop the steps for the call. We have it when we open the door and see our Amazon package. Unfortunately, at this historic moment, Israel had zero expectancy. Instead, a dark cloud hovered. The Bible makes no grand statement about their arrival. Instead of a celebration, there are lots of questions. What are the people like? Is the soil any good? Do they have any trees? What about the fruit? What are the towns like? Shouldn’t we send some spies?
Instead of a dark cloud, Israel could have had the air of expectancy. Expectancy is another word for faith. Faith is the conviction something good is going to happen because God loves me and is in control of my life. Expectancy prepares us to receive and celebrate the good things God is about to do. It is a must have to please the Lord (Hebrews 11:6). Without it everything in life is just brown. The opposite of expectancy is despair. This is what my gas station friend felt when I asked about his day. He said, “Different day. Same old sh__.” Murmuring pours water on the fire of expectancy. Here was God giving the Israelites the gift of an incredible opportunity, but their response was ho-hum.
Do you want to journey through life this way? In Numbers 13 we find the name of one who shines brightly in the dreariness. The Bible tells us he had a different spirit. How can you and I have a different spirit?