Twelve men had returned from an inspection of their new home in the hill country of Canaan. It was time to present their report to the extended family and sell the idea of possessing Canaan quickly. However, the men were divided.
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.”
[Joshua and Caleb] spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. (Numbers 13:30-31; 14:7-10)
Hebrews 3-4 draws on this incident (via Psalm 95) as a prime example of unbelief leading to disobedience, with the result that Israel failed to enter into the rest of the promises of God. It could be written like an equation:
Unbelief —> Disobedience —> Loss of Blessing
It is important to understand where the roots of unbelief lie.
The spies were divided into two groups. They all recognized that the land was good. But the ten focused on the outward strength of the people and their fortifications. They compared themselves to the giants who roamed the land and saw themselves like grasshoppers about to be squished.
Joshua and Caleb pointed to two different factors: a promise and a prophetic insight. The Lord promised to be with Israel and bring them into the land. The battle would be won in the natural because their protection had already been removed. Faith saw beyond the natural barriers to something that God had already done to facilitate the fulfillment of His promise about possessing Canaan.
Interestingly, Joshua and Caleb are never reprimanded for not selling the deal. They did not fail. They communicated spiritual truth clearly. The problem lay with the people because they chose to focus on the physical rather than believe the spiritual.
The evidence of the truth of this is in the conquest. Israel defeated the Canaanites because God miraculously collapsed city walls and routed armies. All Israel had to do was to courageously face the enemy, and then God acted. This is our way of faith too.