The 10 Spies-Numbers 13:16-33, 14:1-45

Theme: Be responsible

          Caleb had never been more excited in his life.

          Take that back. There was one other day he had been this excited—the day Pharaoh had finally let the Israelite slaves leave Egypt. About two million of them had followed Moses out into the wilderness. God had promised to bring them to a land of their own, the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

          And now they were here.


          They still had to enter in.

          Caleb couldn’t wait to see this very special land God had promised. What would it be like? Would there be lakes and rivers, mountains, lush grass and flowers, cool breezes, plenty of food, beautiful houses?

          Surely it was the most wonderful place in the world, for God had promised it to them.

          There was only one problem. People already lived here. The Israelites would have to get rid of them first.

          They lined up for their first glimpse of the Promised Land. They trembled with excitement.

          Moses stood before them and raised his hands. “Quiet, everyone. God has told me to send twelve spies into the land, one from every tribe, to see what the land is like before the rest of us go in.”

          Caleb’s heart sank. That could take days, weeks. He didn’t want to wait that long. He wanted to go now.

          Moses said, “The following men will go: Shammua from the tribe of Reuben, Shaphat from the tribe of Simeon, Caleb from the tribe of Judah…”

          That’s me! Caleb thought. He was going to see the Promised Land after all!

          Moses gathered the twelve chosen men around him and said, “Go see what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. Is the land good or bad? Do they live in tents or walled cities? Is the land fertile or can nothing grow? Are there trees in it or not? Bring back some fruit from the land so we can see what it’s like. Be courageous. God will be with you.”

          Off Caleb went with the others. For forty days they explored the Promised Land. They saw wonderful things—lush fruit, fertile fields, and trees, but there were also strong cities with walls around them teeming with fierce-looking men, men who were evil and worshiped idols. Scariest was the giants—men so big that one swipe of their meaty arms would knock them over.

          But Caleb knew God had promised them this land. God would help them conquer it.

          When the twelve men returned after forty days, they brought an enormous cluster of grapes that took two men to carry on a pole. The Israelites eagerly met them. They oohed and aahed when they saw the size of the grapes and the pomegranates and figs.

          One after another, the men shared what they had seen.

          “Indeed, it is a land flowing with milk and honey, but the people living in the cities are strong, the cities are large with walls around them, and there are giants in the land.”

          The people were terrified. They murmured among themselves.

          Caleb said, “Don’t be afraid. Listen, we must go up and take possession of the land. God will help us conquer it.”

          But the other men said, “He’s wrong. We can’t fight against those people. We were like grasshoppers compared to them. We will all be killed.”

          The people wailed and wept. All night long they cried and complained. “If only we had died in Egypt or in the wilderness. That would have been better than having our wives and children killed by giants. Why did the Lord bring us here? Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

          Caleb couldn’t believe it. Didn’t they remember what Egypt was like? They had been slaves, for goodness’ sake. They had worked hard for their Egyptian taskmasters making bricks, building pyramids and buildings in the hot sun. Their lives had been miserable.

          The people said, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.”

          No! Caleb tore his clothes and fell on the ground.

          Moses and Aaron were as troubled as Caleb.

          Joshua, one of the other spies, said, “The land we scouted was really good.”

          Caleb added, “The Lord will bring us into this land flowing with milk and honey. He will give it to us. Don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people, for we will win.”

          Joshua said, “Their protection has been removed from them. The Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid.”

          But the people shouted at them and picked up stones to kill them.

          Then the glory of the Lord came down and spoke to Moses. God was very angry with the people and wanted to strike them all dead with a plague. But Moses pleaded for God to forgive them.

          “All right,” God said. “I will forgive them, but none of these people who are twenty years or older will enter into the Promised Land. Instead, they will wander in the wilderness for another forty years, one year for each of the forty days they scouted the land. Their dead bodies will fall in the wilderness. The only two who will see the land are Caleb and Joshua because they believed Me and followed Me completely.”

          When Moses reported this to the people, they wailed and wept. They couldn’t enter the Promised Land? Ever? They had to return to the awful wilderness for forty years? They would all die there? It was the worst possible punishment.

          The next morning they took matters into their own hands.

          “Let’s go to the Promised Land anyway. We were wrong.”

          But Moses warned them, “Don’t go, for the Lord is not with you. You will all be killed by our enemies.”

          But some of them went anyway. The Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that part of the hill country came down and attacked them.

          And what happened to Caleb and Joshua?

          They wandered in the wilderness for forty years like everyone else. When everyone who had been twenty years or older, including Moses, had died, Joshua became the new leader and led them into the Promised Land. He and Caleb believed God, wiped their enemies off the face of the earth, and possessed the land of Israel God had promised them.


1. Why do you like Caleb and Joshua?

          They trusted God.

          They gave a good report.

          They believed God would help them conquer the land.

2. Who are you more like—Caleb and Joshua or the other ten spies?

          Do you encourage others and trust God, or do you always complain and worry?

3. Caleb and Joshua were responsible.

 What does it mean to be responsible?
To know and do what God and others expect you to do.

4. How were Caleb and Joshua responsible? What did God expect them to do?

          To scout out the land and bring back a good report.

           To have faith that God would help them conquer the land.

5. How can you be responsible? What are you expected to do? Here are some examples. Tell if these kids acted responsibly.

a. Every Saturday morning Julie was responsible for cleaning her room before she could play. But Julie hated to clean her room. In fact, cleaning was her least favorite thing in the world. After all, why should she clean it? It would only get dirty again. So instead of cleaning, she went over to her friend’s house to play.

Was Julie responsible? No. What should she have done? Cleaned her room first like she was supposed to and then gone to play.

b. Jacob squirmed when his teacher told them to pass in their homework. He had not done his homework. He had forgotten to do it because he had too much fun playing video games.

          “Jacob, where is your homework?” the teacher said.

          “I didn’t do it,” he said. “I was really busy.”

Was Jacob being responsible? No. What should he have done? His homework.

c. Chloe had been taking piano lessons for six months. Her piano teacher told her she needed to practice twenty minutes every day. Twenty minutes seemed like forever. Her brother played outside and had fun. She wanted to play outside too. But Mom had told her that if she wanted to be a good piano player, she would have to practice. So she did, even when she didn’t feel like it. Was Chloe responsible?

Yes, she did what she was expected to do.

d. When Kathy was six years old, her parents went on vacation for a week, and a babysitter stayed with her. It was Kathy’s responsibility to feed her pet finches, but she forgot, and that week her birds both died. Was Kathy responsible?

No, it was her responsibility to feed the birds.

 How about you? Are you responsible? Do you do what others expect you to do, or do you give excuses and complain?

God wants you to be responsible.

Beth Livingston

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