Moses sent a dozen men to spy out the land of Canaan. They all brought back a favorable report of the produce of the land. Ten of them, however, went from there to unfavorable reports. They called Canaan a land that ate its inhabitants. (See “A Carnivorous Land” in the February 2004 issue.) Then they made a statement about the people of the land.
And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Num 13:33)
Note the unusual phrasing in the latter part of the verse. Most people would say, as we often hear the verse misquoted, “and we were as grasshoppers in their sight,” and leave it at that. These ten men reveal much more in the way they stated their objection.
The spies first tell Moses and the people of Israel how they though of themselves. “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers.” These are the most valiant men Moses could muster? “Yes, Moses, we went out to spy out the land. But you really should have sent someone bigger/better/braver, because we are really just cowards at heart.” Why didn’t they say so in the first place? Then maybe Moses could have picked somebody else.
Before I get on my high horse, I need to look at myself. Am I, are we, any better than the spies? Have we ever been tempted, for instance, to say, “that person won’t listen to me talk about Jesus so I just won’t bring up the subject?” Do we limit our own ability “in our own eyes” and use that as an excuse?
Paul says we are not grasshoppers. We should not think of ourselves as grasshoppers. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:13) In another place he says that in tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword “we are superconquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom 8:37) If we can conquer these things, if we can do all things, then who are we to tell God that we are grasshoppers in our own eyes? He will just laugh and tell us that we are looking through the wrong eyes. If we look through his eyes we are giants, and even the biggest, baddest, tallest dude is less than a grasshopper.
What is more psychologically revealing about the spies is how they continued the thought. Because we were as grasshoppers in our limited view, “and so we were in their sight.” Sometimes how we see ourselves influences either how others perceive us or how we think others perceive us. The people of Canaan may not have even noticed the spies. They were, after all, spies. They were not to make their presence obvious. Because the people did not notice them, they projected their own self-image on the land’s inhabitants and assumed that they weren’t noticed because they were “as grasshoppers.” It couldn’t be that they did their job so well that they weren’t noticed. Their low self-image mandated a negative reaction by the inhabitants rather than their own superior ability.
Because of their faulty perception they presented a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Self-fulfilling prophecies are often, well, self-fulfilling. There is a big difference between “let me tell you about the greatest thing to happen to me” and “you wouldn’t want to hear about Jesus, would you?” When we project our own feelings of inadequacy on others, is it any wonder they react the way that we expect? These spies, and the people who followed them, could never have conquered the land, because they felt they couldn’t conquer.
Joshua and Caleb, in contrast, felt bigger than the giants because they had the creator of giants on their side. As a result, Caleb had no trouble in conquering them, even forty years later. By ourselves, we are as grasshoppers. With God, we are as giants. Let’s make sure we are giants “in our own eyes.”