Think about the Second World War - the time directly prior to the invasion of Europe by the Allied forces, with many divisions of our troops massed and ready. Imagine a situation where a group of highly trained soldiers, the equivalent of our modern special forces operatives, is put together from different units – the best of the best – for a specific mission. These men are infiltrated behind enemy lines and tasked to assess the strength of the enemy and the general conditions relevant to a successful invasion. Imagine if these men complete their mission and are successfully exfiltrated, only to disagree on what they had seen. To make matters worse, suppose the majority agrees that the enemy emplacements are too firmly established, that the enemy’s military strength is simply too great compared to the Allied forces, and that any attempt at invasion would be disastrous with the loss of a great many of our troops.
Yet suppose just one or two members of the recon unit strongly disagree with what the majority says, that based on what they have seen, the minority claim the enemy could indeed be overthrown and an invasion would be successful. If this had truly happened and word had leaked to the Allied forces of this disagreement and the great doubts of the majority of the team who had witnessed the situation on the ground, how do you think the Allied army would have felt? No doubt almost every soldier would be discouraged and doubtful and many would understandably be fearful. What if the spreading rumors of the majority report became more and more exaggerated till the whole army lost all confidence and virtually mutinied – many refusing to begin the invasion when ordered?
Now this outcome is extremely unlikely to have happened, of course, because the Allies would have had a great deal of “prior intel” – other information and experience indicated a high probability of success – before ever preparing to mount the invasion. But this is exactly what the biblical account says occurred when Israel sent twelve picked soldiers to spy out the Promised Land before Israel went into Canaan (Numbers 13:1-33). Returning, the majority of the twelve-man team said the task was impossible. Only Joshua and Caleb, in their minority report, said the invasion was possible.
The Israelites followed their natural human tendency to believe the majority, to side with the doubts, to be cautious, to be afraid, and not to believe the minority report no matter the character and experience of those reporting. But there is also an additional factor which shows why the Israelites were so culpable in their fear and failure to go into the Promised Land: they had massive amounts of prior intel. All Israel had seen God’s power at work in Egypt and in overcoming a number of combative kingdoms en route between Egypt and Canaan. That is why Joshua and Caleb could confidently assert: “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us” (Numbers 14:8).
Very often, Christian life is like that. We must choose between the majority report of the world in which we live – with the natural tendency of the human mind to doubt and fear – and the minority report of God’s word. The good news is that the longer we continue in the Way, the more we experience God’s power in our lives and the more “prior intel” we have for making the right decisions in life and in confidently taking hold of the promises we have been given.