Are you familiar with the story of the twelve spies sent out by Moses to go into the land of Canaan and secretly explore the land promised to their forefathers?
In Numbers 13:16-20, Moses instructed them what to look for:
“Is the promised land fruitful? Is it going to be easy to conquer?”
The spies brought back a large cluster of grapes symbolizing the fruitfulness of the land. They had both good news and bad news to share:
“The land is fruitful but the people there are strong and well defended.”
When Caleb recommended they go in to conquer the land anyway, most of the other men disagreed, saying the land “devours its inhabitants” and even referred to themselves as grasshoppers in comparison to the people there. Out of the 12 spies, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones who encouraged the Israelites that, with God’s help, they could succeed and conquer the land.
Joshua stood at the head of the armies of Israel through a series of supernatural and remarkable victories in battle (Joshua chapters 8 to 12). Joshua led the conquest of much of the land. However, within the biblical inheritance of the nation of Israel, there remained portions that were not conquered under his leadership.
The northern port city of Akko, where our congregation is located, was one of those areas. Some of Israel’s enemies were called the Sea Peoples; later known as the Philistines. They came from different areas across the sea and settled along the Mediterranean coast, as well as along the rivers, which flowed into the sea. In Akko, a low hill or “tell” rises on the location of the original city. Archaeologists have noted that the type of buildings there are unlike others in ancient Canaan/Israel. The type of architecture uncovered at the site is like that of buildings in Corsica and areas around the Aegean Sea. History shows that these Sea People were strong and not easily defeated. With this knowledge, we understand something about the type of people that the Israelites were facing in battle when attempting to conquer Akko. Later, in Judges 4:1-24, we read that when Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, He handed them over to their enemies. The battle mentioned here takes place in an area along the Kishon River called Kiryat Haroshet in northern Israel.
While all of this is very interesting, you may wonder how it applies to us. Like Joshua, we also want to conquer. We want to overcome enemy strongholds in our lives, our families and beyond, to take possession of what God has promised.
The way I see it is that when we obey God, we remain in His will. However, when we disobey God or when we distance ourselves from Him, the enemy gains a foothold, rises up, and we stray from God’s purposes.
In this case, we often find ourselves going around in circles, not gaining possession of that which was promised. We must remain focused on Him; drawing close, ready to serve or to go as He commands. There are times when God may allow the enemy to operate in our lives, in order to wake us up to repent and to get back on track. This is what happened to Israel (2 Chronicles 12:2), and Paul makes reference to it as well (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Our faith journey through life will sometimes be a longer and more painful process than we had hoped. It will involve some setbacks and even temporary defeats. But take heart, for God sees the big picture and He has promised “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). His plans in and through us will be accomplished.