When Israel first sent spies into the Promised Land, they came back and told the people that the land was very, very good, just as good as God told them and better than they could have even imagined. But there was one problem with it - it was full of giants.
Literal giants. Men who stood a foot and a half taller than any of the men of Israel. Men over 7 feet tall, with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Men whose shadows alone would set Israel in darkness. Yes, Israel, the land is good, but it's full of giants.
This report sent terror through the hearts of the people, so much terror that they decided they couldn't possibly defeat the people of the land...and they didn't even want to try. No one in all Israel was going to risk his life against this massive force of giants; no one thought himself a giant-slayer. (Except, of course, for Caleb and Joshua, two of the spies who were confident in God's ability to deliver them into the land.)
Their terror was counted against them as sin, for they let their fear stop them from doing what God had commanded them to do. And they spent an entire generation in the wilderness, until all of the men guided by fear had died and a new generation had risen up.
There's a little part of us that reads this whole thing and thinks it's probably exaggerated. There aren't really giants; they don't exist. The spies must have meant that the people were stronger than they were. Or better armed. Or something. But they certainly weren't giants. It's got to be one of those fantastical things that we don't think we're supposed to take seriously from the Bible, one of those little things that makes a point rather than reports a fact.
But here's the thing - when we get to Deuteronomy, we see exactly the same report. There really were giants in the land.
The sin was not that the spies convinced everyone that there were giants in the land; the sin was that the people let the giants stop them.
We can understand why. Most of us, we read the report about the Promised Land, and we don't really blame Israel. We don't want to fight giants, either. Good decision, we think, turning back into the wilderness. Even if it's barren and hard and temporary, anything's better than giants.
In fact, that's still how most of us live. When we find out about the battles that others are facing in this broken world, our first response is often, "That's not so bad. That can't really be what it is. You're probably exaggerating the whole thing." And we dismiss what our brothers and sisters are going through, what they're dealing with.
Then, when we find out that their giants are real, when we finally understand the magnitude of the situation, when it's confirmed that there are giants in the land, then our best advice is to turn around. Run away. Go back. Spend more time in a hard place because the good place...well, it has giants. Nobody wants to fight giants. Anything's better than that.
Even a life not-well-lived.
We need to be a people who are better at slaying giants. We need to be a people brave enough to confront them. We need the confidence of Caleb and Joshua, not because giants aren't real or because we incorrectly estimate their power, but because we have a God who has made a promise to us, and we need to believe in His power and His promise more than anything else. We have to stop saying, with Israel, "But giants..." and instead, say with Caleb and Joshua,