The Mother of All Epic Failures (Deuteronomy 1:19-25)

Describing something as an “epic fail” is a pop culture phrase often used.  The Urban Dictionary defines the phrase as communicative of “a mistake of such monumental proportions that it requires its own term in order to successfully point out the unfathomable shortcomings of an individual or group.”

Truly the mother of all “epic fails” was the situation described in today’s (and tomorrow’s) passage – the failure of Israel at Kadesh Barnea. The Scriptures repeatedly look back to this moment in Israel’s history as the pinnacle event of unbelief.

They had recently crossed a forbidding desert in a 100-mile waterless experience that must have been grueling. But God’s miraculous supply was with them – as it had been with the parting of the Red Sea, the cloud of God’s presence by day and pillar of fire by night, the water from the rock, and the manna and quail from the sky. One would think this would be enough to have confidence that if God has done this much, surely any other obstacles are not such a big deal.

So then, at the door of entry to the Promised Land – at a place called Kadesh Barnea – a group of 12 spies was sent to scout out the land before them. One from each tribe was chosen. God approved this endeavor as a wise move to learn about this unseen land toward the goal of possessing it according to his promise.

All the spies saw the same thing – “a good land” – which is a phrase used 10 times in Deuteronomy. They all reported that indeed the land was as advertised – a good and prosperous land; and they brought proof in the fruit carried back. We are borrowing from the passage for tomorrow to make a point today, but you know the full story of the ultimate lack of belief based upon the further reports of the giants in the land.

We all like to imagine ourselves as among those who, in that situation, would have been numbered with those who believed – surely not among the grumblers and merchants of fear and unbelief. Man, if we saw the Rea Sea waters stand up, witnessed bread falling daily from the sky, and had a daily experience of a visible presence of God to follow … surely we would be counted among the conquest hawks rather than the shirking doves! Really? Well, we don’t know. But we can probably all sadly recall too many times when we’ve not believed, but have rather halted at the very door of opportunity and faith. The fact is that none of us can ever look back and point to any time that God was not faithful in the past. So why should we fear anything about the future?

Lord give us a revival of our faith!

Deuteronomy 1:19-25

The spies sent into the Promised Land

19 Then, as the Lord our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful wilderness that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea. 20 Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. 21 See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

22 Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”

23 The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. 24 They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshkol and explored it. 25 Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, “It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.”

kadesh barnea

The area of Kadesh Barnea

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

4 thoughts on “The Mother of All Epic Failures (Deuteronomy 1:19-25)

  1. Randy,
    You commented that, “God approved this endeavor as a wise move to learn about the land toward the goal of possessing it according to his promise.” I was just wondering how you infer that. It seems like even sending out the spies would be an act of a lack of faith… God told them to do and possess the land, but they want to check it out first. I don’t think it’s a bad idea – even today we need to be cautious and wise about a decision or a new venture and check things out before committing… I was just wondering if you had another passage or a translation of the Hebrew that led you to infer God’s approval.

    • Actually, I probably understated it. Here is the specific historical account from Numbers 13 – The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. So, it did not speak negatively of their faith at this point. It rather should have bolstered it, but, they looked at the wrong things and believed the wrong things. It is sort of like how the Cowboys right now are like the Israelites. Their scouts come back from Washington and say, “But they’ve got RG3 and this other rookie, and this and that” …… rather than focusing on how they have God on their side, and hence the Lord lets the Redskins win until they repent and fix their faith deficit issues … just sayin.

  2. Ah – I remember that passage now – it just threw me that it wasn’t here…. but I really don’t think the football analogy applies because all parts of the compared situations must correlate… and they have divergent conclusions! However, I do see similarities between the Cowboys and the Israelites – especially at this stage of the game – whining, grumbling, wanting to go back to Egypt… hey, now there is a place the Cowboys could go – they might win there… just sayin’! 😉

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