BONUS POST: 2019 is not a leap year,
but we have an entry for February 29 that we wanted to share.
FEBRUARY 29 READING: Numbers 13–14
Before Israel was assigned to conquer Canaan, Canaan was a collection of different city-states. These city-states morphed into Egyptian provinces after 1504–1492 B.C. when Pharaoh Thutmose I established unstable control in Palestine. These provinces were better organized and defended on the west side of the Jordan, which is probably why the Israelites began their conquest on the eastern bank. Different ethnicities, such as Hittites, Hivites, Horites, Jebuzites, Girgashites, Perizzites, and others, lived in the land (Num. 13:29) and are often in the Bible lumped together as “Canaanites.”
Moses gave a command to the spies to determine how the land can be conquered. The spies encounter Nephilim (giants, perhaps even some strange mix of fallen angels and men). There is some mystery here, but what is certain is that the land was inhabited by entrenched strongmen that had to be driven out. Ten men trembled and in their quaking forgot their assignment was not “if,” but “how.” Jehovah is not asking us to investigate “if” we should send missionaries to North Korea or Saudi Arabia or Libya—He is asking us to figure out “how.”
When God makes this request, the people cry like babies preferring to return to slavery over making Jehovah famous among all peoples. First, Miriam and Aaron resist Gentile inclusion and attack Moses (12:1–2), then the people at large falter when told to glorify Jehovah among all the nations of Canaan’s land and complain against Moses (14:1–2). There has ever been too much crying and complaining when God’s people are told to magnify Him among all peoples. By the way, the ten who refused God’s mission died of plague (v. 37).
Our reading in Numbers emphasizes these points:
1. We are not asked how difficult missions is. We are not asked to do this work only if the opposition is weak and no sinister human/demonic hybrid forces are arranged against us. We are asked to investigate how to do missions in difficult places.
2. We were designed to overcome. Caleb (I imagine, eyes bulging, veins popping) yelled out: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (13:30, emphasis added). In more measured and statesman-like terms, Joshua said: “If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land… Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of this land, for they are our bread” (14:8–10, emphasis added).
3. Any worry about being victims and our children suffering (v. 3) is ridiculous. God says that our children will be victors (v. 31), entering and knowing the land that we despised. If we blame our disobedience on pretending to do the best for our children, our children will rise up one day and call us cowards.
4. Missions includes prophetic intercession (v. 15) and the understanding that the nations watch everything that God does to His people—both acts of anger and mercy. All that God sends our way—blessings or banes—is a message (and invitation) to the unreached peoples of our time.
Most wonderful of all is the combination of God’s mercy and missions. When God’s people falter, He mercifully forgives them, yet stays true to His own mandate. Jehovah was angry His people refused to glorify Him among the peoples of Canaan, and He responded to Moses’ intervention by saying: “I have pardoned, according to your word, but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filed with the glory of the Lord” (vv. 20–21, emphasis added). This is the message of Numbers and the mandate of the church: the Urdu of Norway shall see and be conquered by the glory of God—as will all the earth.