I have just finished preparing my Sunday morning Bible message on Numbers 13. What a tragic story the incident is. At God's command Moses sent leaders from the 12 tribes in to check out the Land that God had promised to give them.
When they return 10 out of 12 leaders persuade the people that it would be foolish foolish of them to follow God. They lie about the Land, they spin, they shout loud and the people follow them. It is a tragic picture of leadership gone bad. The result of this specific incident on this specific day was judgement on the people, 40 years wandering the desert and all except Joshua and Caleb dying without receiving the inheritance. All as the result of bad leadership.
Here is the thing. These people are clearly put before us as respected leaders in the people of God. They were looked up to. It was only when the rubber hit the road and they actually had to live by faith that they were seen not to be leaders of conspicuous faith, but leaders who conspicuously lacked faith. Up till this point they had acted a good act. This incident demonstrates that their hearts weren't for the Lord at all.
The heart of being a godly leader is to be obsessed and thrilled with God. To so have him before our eyes that he fills our gaze and utterly satisfies us with his presence. Our leadership is meant to come out of the overflow of that. If we are going to lead other people to be more and more in love with him, more and more enjoying him, more and more eager to closely follow him, then we have to be falling more and more in love with him.
Numbers 13 scares me because it shows it is possible to play the part of a respected leader, maybe for years, and yet not know God. And for it only get revealed when actual faith is demanded. At which point such leaders run for the hills and try to take the people with them.
I belong to a Baptist church. Baptist churches often vote on matters of vision and direction. Trying to think the average Baptist church back into Numbers 13 is a sobering exercise. Faced with 10 respected leaders telling them that taking the Land was unwise (and uncomfortable and, basically, not doable) vs only 2 telling them that God wanted them to do it, the weight of numbers is likely to lead many churches with this structure to go the apparently easy - but faithless - route.
It sounded so sensible, so reasoned. But it was something they never had a mandate to say. God did not send leaders into the Land to decide whether they fancied it or not, but to decide how to enact what he had told them to do. There was no leeway to decide to not do what he told them, but they did it anyway.
Praying for any leaders reading this, that you might fall on the stone of Numbers 13 and be broken by the need to exercise faith today in real matters of risk for the Lord and the extension of his kingdom