The full history is found in Deuteronomy 1, but the detail that I want to explore in this editorial is found in Numbers 13:33. "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."
Here we find what Donald C. Posterski labeled as "the grasshopper syndrome" on which I would like to elaborate a little.
The Bible reveals that intimidation is not a new force in the world. There are many members in our church who want to hide their identification with Adventism under the pressure of some denominational intimidation.
Peter the apostle under normal circumstances made great claims of allegiance to Jesus but he folded under pressure. His desire to support Jesus was noble, but the situation of the fateful night around the campfire pushed him into denying he was even associated with his Lord (Luke 22:54-62).
There is a graphic account of the same phenomenon in Numbers 13. The people involved are the twelve Hebrew spies who were sent on a reconnaissance mission and instructed to bring back a report on life in the land of Canaan.
The plan was God's idea. "The Lord said to Moses, 'senwhelmed. They were captured by their circumstances without remembering that God was with them. Their self-image went limp. Their confidence crumbled. The best they could do was identify with grasshoppers. They not only imagined themselves as small and inadequate, they thought the giants saw them as weaklings too. The opposition was too strong. The only alternative was to retreat and back away. some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites'" (Num. 13:1). The twelve leaders did as they were told. They followed the map as they explored the land. They took notes. They made their estimates. They cut down large clusters of fresh grapes and for good measure they brought along some pomegranates too. The mission took them a total of forty days, and then they returned to the desert where Moses and the Israelites were waiting for their report (Num. 13:21-26).
After Moses and Aaron and others welcomed their men back, they sampled the fruit and the debriefing began.
Initially, the majority report had only one dissenter and he was not about to remain silent. Caleb forcefully broke into the proceedings: "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we certainly can do it" (Num. 13:30).
Caleb's minority perspective did not carry much weight with the others. Although he was able to convince Joshua to join his cause, the Israelites voted to go with the majority. The prospect of staying in the desert or facing defeat led to grumbling and despair. The whole assembly turned to Moses and rebelled against God. The growing consensus was to go back to Egypt rather than ahead to Canaan (Num. 14:1 -4). The consequences proved to be severe. God's plan was put on hold and the whole nation stayed marooned in the desert for another forty years.
The majority of the spies were simply overwhelmed. They were captured by their circumstances without remembering that God was with them. Their self-image went limp. Their confidence crumbled. The best they could do was identify with grasshoppers. They not only imagined themselves as small and inadequate, they thought the giants saw them as weaklings too. The opposition was too strong. The only alternative was to retreat and back away.
Dear elders, there are forces today operating in the world that are triggering shades of the grasshopper syndrome in many of God's people. Many members feel weak and reticent about making Adventism visible in our society. They say they love God and His church, but feel intimidated. They feel the pressure to be silent. Adventists may be faithful as church attendees, worshiping in the pew on Sabbath morning, studying the Bible, praying, going on weekend retreats. But during the week at their work place, these same members are silent about their church involvement and professed faith in the Advent message.
What separated Caleb and Joshua from the other spies? An assessment of why ten of the twelve leaders were intimidated when they spied out the land of Canaan is revealing. The problem did not lie with the spies' suitability for their assignment. As persons, they had credibility with their peers. They were solid citizens. They were considered to be worthy spiritual representatives of their tribes. Moses was a competent leader. He would not have chosen them if he was not confident they could handle the assignment.
Caleb and Joshua held on to God's vision for the future because they held on to God. The intimidated ten lost sight of what the future could be because they became spiritually self-sufficient. They made their calculations without God in the equation. And regardless of their gifts and ingenuity, they were not strong on their own to achieve what God had designed for them.
The dynamics remain the same today in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Embracing self-sufficiency is still a major move toward spiritual ineffectiveness among us. The people God can use are not those who claim to be strong and invincible.
Caleb and Joshua, on the other hand, were used by God because they knew their limits and kept their confidence in God's resources. They had eyes to see what God wanted to achieve. Their message to the people was "With God, we can do it." Their confidence in God was stronger than the prevailing social pressure around them. They were ready to go and stand up to the giants in the land.
Dear elder, always remember that the power to do a great work is not in yourselves but in God who elected and sent you. So when some big idea must be implemented in your congregation, don't be intimidated. Don't be afraid of identifying yourself with God's people. Don't make room for the "grasshopper syndrome" to find a place among your congregation.